For months, the Marlins have hovered around the group of teams in the National League Wild Card mix. They will have a better idea of where they stand this weekend after facing the team that boasts Major League Baseball's best record.
The Cubs, comfortably ahead of the pack in the NL Central, begin a four-game series at Marlins Park on Thursday at 7:10 p.m. ET.
A pair of left-handers, who spent substantial time in the American League, will take the mound on Thursday. Cubs veteran Jon Lester (9-3, 2.06 ERA) has been one of the top performers in the National League with a WHIP of 0.99. In his career against the Marlins, Lester is 0-2 with a 6.00 ERA in three starts.
The Cubs head to Miami dressed appropriately -- it was another theme trip in which players and staff were required to wear shorts and short-sleeved jackets -- but feeling a little stung after the Cardinals completed a three-game sweep at Wrigley Field.
"You have to go to Miami, go down to the beach, lay down, get a little tan and then go play," catcher Miguel Montero said. "It's a good thing we have a pretty good lead [in the standings], but we can't take it for granted -- we want to keep it there."
Miami southpaw Wei-Yin Chen (4-2, 5.22 ERA) is going through a rough stretch over his last three starts. He's allowed 15 homers in 14 starts, including seven in his last three outings. Chen was chased after 2 1/3 innings and six runs in his June 18 no-decision against the Rockies.
Three things you need to know
• Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo is from South Florida, raised in Parkland in Broward County. In 24 career games against the Marlins, he is hitting .238 in 80 at-bats, with three homers and 14 RBIs.
• Because of the quick turnaround Wednesday afternoon following a Tuesday night game, the Marlins right fielder Giancarlo Stanton was held out of the lineup. The slugger has had his troubles at the plate this season, hitting just .211. In 28 career games against the Cubs, he's belted 10 home runs with 20 RBIs.
• The Cubs' trip to Miami will be a homecoming for rookie Albert Almora Jr., who attended Mater Academy Charter School in Hialeah, Fla. He's hoping his father, who has been battling prostate cancer, can attend the game. Almora Jr., 22, expected a lot of family members but said he'll just stick to business.
"It's just another workplace, nothing crazy," he said. "I'm going to go and do the same job I do here."