Running down the rosters: Miami Marlins

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The hopes are high with LeBron James having one of the greatest statistical seasons in NBA history and the Dolphins potentially landing Peyton Manning or Matt Flynn as their new quarterback. Also, the baseball team has a new name, a new stadium and a new star shortstop. Let’s see if that does the Marlins any good.

Rotation
Josh Johnson – R
Mark Buehrle – L
Anibal Sanchez – R
Ricky Nolasco – R
Carlos Zambrano – R

Bullpen
Heath Bell – R
Edward Mujica – R
Michael Dunn – L
Ryan Webb – R
Randy Choate – L
Steve Cishek – R
Wade LeBlanc – L

Restricted list: Juan Oviedo (R)
SP next in line: Brad Hand (L), LeBlanc, Alex Sanabia (R), Sean West (L)
RP next in line: Jose Ceda (R), Chris Hatcher (R), Chad Gaudin (R), Sandy Rosario (R)

Along with their $106 million outlay for Jose Reyes, the Marlins spent $58 million on Buehrle and $27 million on Bell, adding stability to a staff that has lacked it for several years. Buehrle won’t contend for a Cy Young, but he’ll be at least a bit above average over the course of 200 innings. Bell’s best years are probably behind him, but he figures to be a quality closer for at least a couple of more years.

The Marlins have plenty of upside elsewhere. Johnson would be a legitimate Cy Young contender if he could stay healthy. Sanchez has posted an ERA in the mid-3.00s each of the last two years. If  those two combine to make 60 starts and either Nolasco or Zambrano can rebound (probably too much to expect both to do so), then the Marlins would be definite threats for the wild card.

Lineup
SS Jose Reyes – S
CF Emilio Bonifacio – S
3B Hanley Ramirez – R
RF Mike Stanton – R
LF Logan Morrison – L
1B Gaby Sanchez – R
C John Buck – R
2B Omar Infante – R

Bench
C Brett Hayes – R
1B-3B Greg Dobbs – L
INF Donnie Murphy – R
OF Scott Cousins – L
OF Aaron Rowand – R

Next in line: C Clint Sammons (R), 3B Matt Dominguez (R), INF Nick Green (R), INF Gil Velazquez (R), OF Austin Kearns (R), OF Chris Coghlan (L), OF Bryan Petersen (L), OF Kevin Mattison (L)

Obviously, much depends on Hanley here. In him, Reyes and Stanton, the Marlins may well possess three of the NL’s top 10 position players. Day one went off without a hitch, but it still remains to be seen whether he’ll make an issue of the move to third base. A pouting Ramirez figures to be an unproductive Ramirez, but if Ozzie Guillen can get through to him — and who better to make the attempt — then the lineup could be dynamite.

What is disappointing is that the Marlins didn’t make much of an attempt to upgrade their bench over the winter. But Bonifacio’s versatility does help there. If Reyes or Infante gets hurt (and the Marlins don’t want to move Hanley back to short), Bonifacio can move back to the infield, opening up center for whichever outfielder is playing better. The Marlins do have plenty of competition for those outfield bench spots: one figures to go to a lefty (Cousins, Coghlan or Petersen) and the other to a righty (Rowand or Kearns).

In the Marlins’ case, I’m skeptical that the whole will be the equal to the sum of its parts. There’s some terrific talent here, and it wouldn’t be stunning to see the team win 95+ games and maybe even overtake the Phillies in the NL East. It also wouldn’t be much of a surprise to see Hanley force his way off the team and Johnson spend the bulk of the year on the DL, leading to a fourth-place finish. My guess is that they sneak into the postseason via the wild card, but I’m far from confident.

Red Sox look to punch their ticket to the World Series tonight

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Thanks to some amazing defense, some big hits and — to continue to beat this horse, a bad call by Joe West — the Red Sox have a 3-1 lead in the ALCS and look to clinch the AL Pennant tonight down in Houston.

If you believe in momentum, you’d have to say it’s on Boston’s side. If you believe that momentum is the next day’s starting pitcher, however, you’d have to say things favor Houston more than the standing of the series would suggest. All of which makes me wish Game 5 was starting right now, because it figures to be a tense and exciting affair.

ALCS Game 5

Red Sox vs. Astros
Ballpark: Minute Maid Park
Time: 8:09 PM Eastern
TV: TBS
Pitchers: David Price vs. Justin Verlander
Breakdown:

If someone told you that you had to win one baseball game against the Martians to save the human race, you could do far worse than calling on Justin Verlander to be your starting pitcher. Among the pitchers still in the postseason, he’d almost certainly be your choice right now.

Does Verlander himself appreciate the situation? This is what he said about that yesterday:

“I mean, these are all must-win games at this point. Every time you take the mound I don’t think there’s any difference whether it’s 2-2 or 3-1.”

Look, we’re asking him to beat the Martians here, not win the National Math Bee, so let’s let that go. The point is that after all of these years he’s still one of the most dominant pitchers in the game and after the exhausting, see-saw battle of Game 4, he stands the best chance of giving Houston what it needs: a quick, quiet and drama-free win.

Not that the Red Sox are likely to roll over for that. They didn’t the first time they faced Verlander in this series. They Astros won, yes, and Verlander limited them to two runs on two hits. But he also issued four walks and wasn’t his sharpest overall. Boston didn’t capitalize on his mistakes as best they could, but he’s not invincible.

For Boston it’s David Price. He allowed four runs on five hits and four walks over four and two-thirds innings in Game 2, not factoring in the decision. That’s not great, but given the talk leading up to that game being all about how Price is a postseason flop, the fact that the Sox won it in the end had to bouy him at least a little. As does the fact that, here, tonight, it’s not 100% on his shoulders. Sure, the Sox want to close this out, but with a 3-1 lead there is less pressure on Price than on his former teammate Verlander. Worth noting, though: Price is on short rest and warmed up in the bullpen last night in case he was needed to bail out Craig Kimbrel. He may not go deep into this game.