Some 1,400 miles separate Wrigley Field and Marlins Park. In a short season shaped by the COVID-19 pandemic, they were separated by more than that – regional schedules, division boarders.
“We’ve kind of been in our own little bubble and worried about our day-in and day-out,” Cubs second baseman Jason Kipnis said.
In a normal season, the Cubs and Marlins would have already played seven times, with one series in Chicago and one in Miami. But this season is far from normal, and the two teams will face each other for the first time on Wednesday, in a best-of-three Wild Card series at Wrigley Field.
The matchup sets up a contrast between a team that has played in the postseason in five of the past six years and a team making its first playoff appearance since 2003.
Maybe not having fans in the stands will ease the pressure on a young Marlins team. Or maybe even without the crowds, the Cubs will muster the extra spark that’s carried them to the NLCS in three of the last five years. Their bats were already heating up this weekend at Guaranteed Rate Field, with the postseason around the corner.
“We’ll study them more and get to know them,” Cubs manager David Ross said Sunday.