MIAMI -- What was once viewed as an extreme longshot is now a real possibility.
The Miami Marlins, after beating the Cincinnati Reds for a second straight game on Saturday, are 46-41 with only Sunday's series finale remaining before the All-Star break.
Baseball Prospectus ranks the Marlins as the third-most-likely playoff wild-card. True, only two wild-card teams make the postseason, and those spots are currently held by the New York Mets and the Los Angeles Dodgers.
But the Marlins, given a 21-percent playoff chance, are in the hunt.
When only the wild-card chances are considered, the Dodgers are at 48.8 percent, the Mets are 46.1 percent, and the Marlins are 17.7 percent.
The Reds (32-56) are given a 0.0 percent chance of making the playoffs.
On Sunday, Miami will hand the ball to right-hander Tom Koehler (6-7. 4.40 ERA) against Cincinnati left-hander Cody Reed (0-3, 9.00 ERA).
Koehler is 0-1 with a 0.00 ERA in 10 career innings against Cincinnati. Reed, a rookie, has never faced Miami and will make only his fifth career appearance.
So are the Marlins legit contenders?
Here are five things that kind of need to happen for Miami to have a shot:
--The Marlins need to find a competent fifth starter, probably via trade. The Marlins have tried Jarred Cosart, Justin Nicolino and Paul Clemens in that spot, with very little success. Nicolino has been demoted to the minors twice this year.
--Second baseman Dee Gordon, due back on July 29 from an 80-game suspension for using performance-enhancing drugs, needs to return to form. Gordon won a Gold Glove and became the first player since Jackie Robinson in 1949 to win the NL batting and steals titles in the same year. If Gordon can be close to that guy again, it would give Miami a huge boost.
--Right fielder Giancarlo Stanton needs to have a consistent and productive second half. He slumped through most of the first half. But when he is right, he might be the most fearsome slugger in the game.
--The Marlins have to do a better job of beating the bad teams. They have struggled mightily against the woeful Atlanta Braves, going 4-8, and that cannot continue to happen.
--Finally, the Marlins have to have some good luck on injuries. They have been relatively healthy so far. First baseman Justin Bour should be back from a sore ankle about the time the All-Star break ends. Beyond that, the team has been much healthier than some of the teams they are chasing, most notably the injury-plagued Mets.
If that trend continues for Miami, and they get some of those other aforementioned things to happen, there could be playoff baseball for the first time in the brief history of Marlins Park, which opened in 2012.