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Cubs’ pedigree will serve them well in NL wild-card round vs. Marlins

Starting pitching will be the key matchup to watch when the Cubs and Marlins face off.

The playoffs have become old hat for the Cubs, which should give them an advantage over the young Marlins.
The playoffs have become old hat for the Cubs, which should give them an advantage over the young Marlins.
Nam Y. Huh/AP

Playoff pedigree is overrated — at least most of the time.

But the veteran Cubs drawing the young Marlins in the National League wild-card round shouldn’t be overlooked, especially with the Marlins having several players making their playoff debut.

The Marlins were the second-worst team in the majors in 2019, losing 105 games, and while their turnaround is good for baseball, a trip to the wild-card round is a big jump from being at the bottom of the league for the last six seasons.

The Cubs, who have made the playoffs in five of the last six seasons, aren’t satisfied with a trip to the wild-card round and have their sights set a little higher.

‘‘We’re very grateful to be in the playoffs, but our expectation is to win the World Series,’’ first baseman Anthony Rizzo said.

Here’s how the Cubs and the Marlins match up:

Managers

It had been a struggle for Don Mattingly with the Marlins since he took over the rebuilding club. This season, however, he helped guide his team through the first COVID outbreak and held things together.

David Ross has done a solid job in his first season at the helm for the Cubs, helping lead them to their first NL Central title since 2017. Players have praised Ross’ ability to lead and communicate throughout a unique season and some difficult situations.

Mattingly hasn’t managed in the postseason since 2015 with the Dodgers, but his previous managerial experience will be an advantage. Ross being the decision-maker in October is going to take some time to get used to.

Edge: Marlins.

Offense

The Cubs’ offense struggled mightily throughout the season, and it was tough to get two hitters rolling at the same time, let alone an entire team. Ian Happ (131 OPS+) and Jason Heyward (129 OPS+) led the way, as the team’s usual sluggers never really found their stride.

While the Marlins are young, their lineup features veteran hitters such as Miguel Rojas, Starling Marte and Jesus Aguilar. The Marlins have shown an ability to use their speed to create offense, ranking second in the majors in stolen bases.

Both teams finished the season near the bottom of the league in runs scored. Willson Contreras’ arm should be able to neutralize the Marlins’ running game, and despite the Cubs being inept offensively until this past weekend, the potential they showed — especially with what appears to be a healthy and fired-up Kris Bryant — might be what the doctor ordered.

Edge: Cubs.

Starting pitching

Pitching will define this series, and both teams feature some outstanding arms at the top of the rotation. Yu Darvish likely will finish among the top two in NL Cy Young voting in a few weeks, and it will be well-deserved. He has pitched some of the best baseball of his career in 2020. Kyle Hendricks was asked to take the next step and be a workhorse and thrived, retaining his signature consistency in the process.

Sandy Alcantara and Sixto Sanchez have been two of the biggest reasons for the Marlins’ success. Alcantara, who was an All-Star in 2019, carried his success over into this season and has become the ace of the Marlins’ staff. Sanchez has been one of the top prospects in baseball for several years and didn’t miss a beat in his first big-league season, showing his electric stuff and using it effectively.

If the series goes to Game 3, the Marlins might have an advantage. But Hendricks and Darvish have been one of the best duos in the majors, and it’s hard to see that stopping in this series.

Edge: Cubs.

Prediction

If the Cubs take the Marlins for granted, they will lose this series. But Ross has kept his team ready all season, and after missing the playoffs in 2019, the Cubs have unfinished business.

Russell Dorsey’s prediction: Cubs in 2.