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Don Mattingly has Marlins right in thick of playoff race

Miami Marlins manager Don Mattingly blows a bubble

Miami Marlins manager Don Mattingly blows a bubble in the dugout before the team's baseball game against the Cincinnati Reds, Thursday, Aug. 18, 2016, in Cincinnati. Credit: AP / Gary Landers

In 1995, his final season as a player, Don Mattingly led the Yankees to 26 wins in their final 32 games and the American League’s first-ever wild-card berth.

Now the manager of the Miami Marlins, Mattingly is hoping for a similar push from his young team. But he’s not greedy.

“I’ll take 25 out of 32,” Mattingly said Monday night before the opener of a four-game series against the Mets at Citi Field.

Mattingly is curious to see how the Marlins fare in the crowded NL wild-card race. Miami went into Monday night 1½ games out of a playoff spot.

“You know what? Now it’s just a game at a time,” Mattingly said. “It’s really not even about a series so much as it is win a game. We’re down to 32 games. We’ve fought to get to this spot. No matter how we’ve been playing, good or bad, it really doesn’t even matter. It doesn’t matter how good a player’s been doing, what his stats are, how he’s been doing in the past, because the only thing that matters is tonight’s game and then us moving forward. I’m looking forward to it, to be honest with you. I like where we’re at. I like our team. Our guys have been resilient all year long.”

The Marlins have had to be. They are heading into the season’s final month without $325-million slugger Giancarlo Stanton, who is out with a groin injury. Stanton is working hard to return for the final week, even if it’s just as a pinch hitter.

The incomparable Ichiro Suzuki is taking Stanton’s place in rightfield. It was Ichiro who picked up Miami’s first hit against Rafael Montero Monday night when he slapped a single to left with two outs in the fourth.

It was Ichiro who doubled with two outs off Addison Reed in the eighth inning of a scoreless game and scored on a double by 28-year-old rookie Xavier Scruggs.

Miami is also without injured first baseman Justin Bour and infielder Derek Dietrich, so Scruggs started at first.

“I like our club and our makeup,” Mattingly said. “We’ll see where we go this last month. It’s going to be a fun month for us. We’re going to learn a lot about our team, I think. These guys are going to learn a lot about each other and learn a lot about themselves when you have to play in these type of games every day.”

The Marlins got six shutout innings from ace Jose Fernandez, but didn’t score against Montero even though he walked six in five innings. The Marlins went into the night second in the NL in batting average but just 11th in runs. Mattingly, though, isn’t blaming that on the injuries.

“Even before those guys got hurt,” he said, “it wasn’t exactly a juggernaut.”

The Marlins will start the last week of the regular season with a home series against the Mets. Both teams are hoping to still be in it at that point.

“Drama!” Mattingly said. “Let’s get there.”

Said Stanton: “September’s going to tell us everything.”


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