MIAMI -- The Marlins certainly have heated up in the six weeks leading into the All-Star break, but the youthful club clearly could use a breather.
For many players, the first half has been a mental and physical grind.
The season started off miserably, with the club going 14-41 in April and May. Since then, it is 21-16 heading into Sunday's series finale against the Nationals at Marlins Park.
Injuries and inexperience tested the resolve of the squad during the first two months. But since Giancarlo Stanton and Logan Morrison returned from the disabled list in June, the offense has dramatically improved. The pitching staff also got a boost when Jacob Turner was promoted from Triple-A New Orleans, and Nathan Eovaldi and Henderson Alvarez came off the disabled list.
"The All-Star break is always good for guys," manager Mike Redmond said. "We've been grinding out there pretty well. I think it's always a time to reflect, regroup, take a deep breath and figure out what we all have to do to make this team successful."
Miami doesn't have a power-packed lineup, which magnifies the importance of Stanton, who blasted the game-tying home run in the ninth inning on Saturday. The Marlins went on to win, 2-1, in 10 innings.
Morrison, recovered from right knee surgery, missed the first two months.
The team will have a workout at Marlins Park on Thursday, and will open the second half on Friday at Milwaukee. But for the next three days, players are free to relax.
"It really just comes down to finishing strong, and sticking with our approach, the way we have the last month and a half," Redmond said.
Without playoff expectations, the Marlins will seek to continually improve in the second half around core players they anticipate having in 2014 and beyond.
"I'm excited," Redmond said. "These guys are playing hard. They're running balls out. It's fun to see them have some success, because they deserve it."