Among the 17 new players who joined the Miami Marlins this week for their four-games-in-three-days series in Baltimore — mainly prospects, waiver-wire pickups and journeymen — were a few Manager Don Mattingly had never met. He said some quick hellos, watched the newcomers help spark an improbable sweep of the Orioles, then sometimes had trouble recalling their names.

“Who else pitched?” Mattingly said after one game, trying to run through his bullpen moves. “I really don’t know.”

A surreal season for the Marlins only felt more so as they packed up and departed Baltimore late Thursday night. At 6-1 following their sweep, matching the best seven-game start in franchise history, they held the best record in the majors by winning percentage.

“I’m going to have to write a book after this,” Mattingly said on a video conference call with reporters after Thursday night’s finale. “You get tested, and you persevere.”

The Marlins arrived in Baltimore on Tuesday at the end of a week-long nightmare, which began with a novel coronavirus outbreak that infected 18 players and two coaches and forced the team’s remaining traveling party to self-isolate in a Philadelphia hotel for eight days and nights.

There were 13 Marlins players left in Philadelphia at that point, and they took to calling themselves “the Trece” — Spanish for “thirteen.” Closer Brandon Kintzler said he kept his arm in shape by pushing his mattress against a wall, setting up chairs to serve as “hitters” and firing pitches for half an hour per day.

“I don’t know if the guys are hungry or angry, but we’re not thinking about anything,” catcher Francisco Cervelli said. “Play hard and don’t make excuses.”

Of the 17 players who joined the Marlins this week, seven had not been invited to spring training in February or the three-week summer camp in July. Another four were prospects who had yet to make their big league debuts.

Perhaps the most intriguing of the newcomers is infielder Eddy Alvarez, a 30-year-old rookie who was a silver medalist in the 5,000-meter short-track speedskating relay at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. His big league debut Wednesday completed a journey that included six years in the minor leagues.

“I got to skate in front of 25,000 people in an arena,” Alvarez said on a video conference call with reporters. “That kind of prepared me for [this]. I had similar jitters stepping into the Opening Ceremonies [in Sochi] as I was to hear the announcer say it was my major league debut.”

The Marlins’ sweep of the Orioles included two shutouts, two one-run wins and an 8-7 victory in the finale Thursday that featured four blown leads and a harrowing ninth inning when Kintzler nearly blew a fifth.

Coming off a National League-worst 105 losses in 2019, the Marlins would have been unlikely candidates to be leading the NL East two weeks into the season under any circumstances — but especially after everything they have been through.

Nobody is ready to anoint the Marlins as World Series contenders based on a sweep of the Orioles, who lost a combined 223 games in 2018 and 2019, and their road gets no easier from here. They won’t play their first home game until Aug. 14 — some three weeks into the season. They finish the season with a stretch of 28 games in 24 days, including four doubleheaders in a 10-day span.

But everyone in baseball understood almost anything could happen in a 60-game season. Perhaps the Marlins simply have a more fertile imagination than anyone else.

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