Mattingly's Marlins could clinch berth at Yankee Stadium

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FILE - In this Sunday, Feb. 16, 2020, file photo, Miami Marlins manager Don Mattingly watches his team during spring training baseball practice in Jupiter, Fla. Don Mattingly returns this weekend to Yankee Stadium, where his best years as a player always ended when the regular season did. Now Mattingly is enjoying perhaps his best year as a manager, and his surprising Miami Marlins could be playoff-bound for the first time since 2003.(AP Photo/Jeff Roberson, File)

MIAMI – Don Mattingly returns this weekend to Yankee Stadium, where his best years as a player always ended when the regular season did.

Now Mattingly is enjoying perhaps his best year as a manager, leading the Miami Marlins as they try to extend their improbable season into next week.

His young team is staggering toward the finish line, with four consecutive losses heading into Thursday night's game in Atlanta. But the Marlins still control their own destiny, and will head to New York for a three-game series hoping to clinch their first postseason berth since 2003.

“Nobody picked this club to be able to do anything this season, but we believed in ourselves,” Mattingly said. “It’s easy to be proud of these guys, the way they have dealt with everything.”

It would be rich irony for Mattingly’s team to clinch a postseason spot in Yankee Stadium, where he was an MVP, a batting champion and a six-time All-Star — but made the playoffs only in the final season of his 14-year career.

Mattingly was an overachiever, and so are the Marlins. Their season nearly derailed at the start because of a coronavirus outbreak that sidelined more than half the team, and even at full strength, they're hardly world beaters.

The Marlins' run differential is third worst in the NL, and their past 20 games include losses by scores of 29-9, 11-0, 15-0 and 11-1. Among their 170 roster moves, the Marlins have called up 12 pitchers to make their major league debuts.

Even so, Mattingly has managed to keep Miami in contention, a rarefied achievement for a franchise that has lost more games in the past decade than any other team.