MIAMI -- This time a year ago, the Marlins were mired in the cellar of the National League East standings, 27 games out of first place with the worst record (44-72) in the NL. What a difference a year can make.
The Marlins began a nine-game homestand Monday night at Marlins Park only three games below .500 (57-60). They are 6 1/2 games behind the NL East-leading Nationals and still in the playoff discussion. That has manager Mike Redmond feeling much better than he did 12 months ago.
"For us to be where we are right now is exciting," Redmond said Monday before the Marlins' series-opening game against the visiting St. Louis Cardinals. "The longer you can play meaningful games, the better, not just for morale but for experience. When you have a lot of young guys on your team like we do, for us to be sitting here in August talking about the playoffs and talking about playing big games and every game counts is huge. And for the guys who went through what we did last year, I said we'd be better for it, and now to be talking about making a playoff run is another step in that development for our young guys."
Redmond is cautious, however, about looking past what is immediately in front of his team, and is relying on veterans such as Jarrod Saltalamacchia and recently acquired Brad Penny to keep things in perspective in the clubhouse.
"You always get in trouble if you start looking too far down the road, but you really do have to take it one game at a time and one series at a time. This is when we rely on our older guys," Redmond said.
The Marlins return home following a 3-3 road trip to Pittsburgh and Cincinnati, but they are 4-6 at home since the All-Star break. Redmond is hoping they can regain the home edge they had the first two months of the season when they had the best home record in the NL.
"This is a time right now when we should be the most relaxed, because we still have a chance [at the playoffs]," Redmond said. "We should be having the most fun that we've ever had. We're better when we play relaxed and loose."
Following the three-game series against St. Louis, the Marlins face the D-backs and Rangers, two teams that are out of the playoff picture. A successful homestand would put the Marlins above .500 and keep them in the playoff hunt.
"You see a lot more parity this year than in the recent past," Redmond said of the postseason races. "I think you saw that at the Trade Deadline, where even though it seemed like there was a flurry of activity, there's a lot of teams holding onto their guys and staying pat and trying to make a run. Overall, I'm still extremely pleased with the effort that we've put in and the way they grind."
Steve Dorsey is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.