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Giancarlo Stanton may return to the Marlins lineup on Friday

[Jaws theme plays]

Miami Marlins v Colorado Rockies Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images

There was a time when the Miami Marlins were considered a hot wild-card sleeper, taking advantage of a plummeting Mets squad in the standings. Then, about a month ago, this double-whammy of a paragraph appeared in a story on ESPN.

The Miami Marlins said Sunday that slugger Giancarlo Stanton is likely done for the season with a left groin injury, opening the door for Alex Rodriguez to possibly help his hometown team make the playoffs.

With an .821 OPS and a team-leading 25 HR (despite playing in only 108 games), the subtraction of the Marlins’ biggest dent-maker certainly threw some water on their playoff hopes. Their starting pitching hadn’t been off the charts and their offensive attack seemed to revolve around “stay in the game until Giancarlo can do something.” Without their slugger, the playoff picture looked a bit more grim.

Miami never brought in A-Rod, and since being in second place in the NL East at 62-56 the day of that ESPN story, they have fallen to 73-73, putting them right in the messy thickness of the NL wild-card race, as opposed to being the scrappy club leading it. Odds are not in their favor, but there is a bit of 250-pound good news.

"We're close to getting Giancarlo back," [Marlins manager Don] Mattingly said. "We're hoping he can play Friday. We were missing that for about 45 days and that hurt us."

Even Don Mattingly sounds excited. That’s hard to do.

Yes, Stanton’s body healed itself at a staggering pace, and he had actually came back on September 6 in a purely pinch hitting role. But now he could be starting in right field when the Marlins open a weekend series against the Phillies, a team against which Stanton has slugged .485 with 19 HR in his career. Having been able to perform his duties in BP without wincing or groaning, the Fish are ready to give Stanton a shot in the field, especially a field like Citizens Bank Park, where the outfield is less spacious.

With more and more players returning from the DL, this could be the start of the Marlins’ miracle run with 16 games to play.