The midway point of the regular season is usually far too early for a team to begin pondering the playoff implications of a particular stretch of the schedule.

But there’s no time like the present for the Miami Marlins — who haven’t made the playoffs in a full season since 2003 — to begin asserting themselves as a wild-card contender.

The Marlins will look to inch closer to .500 Saturday afternoon when they visit the New York Mets in the third contest of a four-game series.

Left-hander Braxton Garrett (1-3, 4.25 ERA) is slated to take the mound for the Marlins against right-hander Carlos Carrasco (9-4, 4.64).

The Marlins evened the series Friday night, when Pablo Lopez and a quartet of relievers combined on a five-hitter and Bryan De La Cruz hit three doubles in a 5-2 win.

The win was the seventh in the past nine games for the Marlins, who improved to 40-42 and remained four games behind the Philadelphia Phillies in the race for the third and final National League wild card spot.

But it was just the third win in nine games this year against the NL East-leading Mets for the Marlins, who are 17-26 against teams currently occupying a playoff spot.

“I feel like this club’s starting to come together as far as understanding who we are and what kind of club we could be,” said Marlins manager Don Mattingly, who was named the NL’s manager of the year in 2020 after directing Miami to the expanded playoffs in the pandemic-shortened season.

“Putting ourselves in this wild-card race and creeping back in it, where we can see that every game is important, every game’s going to push us closer to that pennant race baseball that we want to be playing — I think that we’ve put ourselves in a good position.”

The Mets’ positioning atop the NL East continues to grow more precarious. New York, which led the division by 10 1/2 games on June 1, will enter Saturday with a 2 1/2-game lead over the surging Atlanta Braves, who have gone 27-8 since June 1.

The Mets stranded 10 runners Friday and scored three runs or fewer for the ninth time in the past 18 games. New York is 9-9 in that span.

“We just couldn’t score any runs,” Mets manager Buck Showalter said. “Great job of setting the table. Just couldn’t get that big blow to put us over the hump.”

Garrett didn’t factor into the decision in his most recent start Monday, when he allowed one run over a career-high 7 1/3 innings in the Marlins’ 3-2, 10-inning win over the Washington Nationals. Carrasco earned the win last Sunday after surrendering one run over 5 2/3 innings as the Mets beat the Texas Rangers, 4-1.

Garrett is 0-1 with a 3.00 ERA in two career starts against the Mets. Carrasco is 3-0 with a 2.51 ERA in six starts against the Marlins.

–Field Level Media