Originally posted on Pro Sports Daily  |  Last updated 6/28/12

With 10 games until the All-Star break, the Marlins will be thrilled if they can just get back to .500 for the start of the second half of the season.

That might sound like a challenge for a Marlins team that has won just six of 24 games this month. The Marlins (35-40) are five games under as they open a three-game series Friday at home against the Philadelphia Phillies, who are in last place in the National League East, a half-game behind Miami.

"You look at right before the All-Star break who's going to be battling out for first, and right now we're battling it out not to be last," said Marlins reliever Randy Choate.

The two teams have the top two payrolls in the National League, according to USA Today, with the Phillies topping out at $174.5 million and Miami at a franchise-record $118 million.

"That's why payrolls don't always matter when everybody thinks the highest payroll is going to get it done," Choate said. "Just because we're not battling it out right now doesn't mean in September we won't."

The Marlins, however, are encouraged because they have gotten solid starting pitching this week. Each of Miami's five starters went at least into the seventh inning even though the Marlins won only two of those games.

Offense remains their weakest facet. The Marlins rank in the bottom half among NL teams in key offensive categories, which can be attributed to a lack of production from players who were expected to blossom this season.

First baseman Gaby Sanchez, an All-Star last year, and starting catcher John Buck both are hitting below .200. Left fielder Logan Morrison is hitting .227.

And the team has expected more out of third baseman Hanley Ramirez, a three-time All Star who is hitting .260 with 11 homers and 41 RBI.

Second baseman Omar Infante, who's batting .287 with 25 RBI, said the team still hasn't played its best baseball. He said the Marlins can get back in the race if they can play like they did in May, when the team went 21-8.

"We're fine. We are playing together," Infante said. "We just have to play good baseball and show energy."

Manager Ozzie Guillen said he was encouraged when someone wrote on the clubhouse wall earlier this week that the team's 34-39 record was the same as the 2003 team's record after 73 games.

The 2003 team, with Guillen as the third base coach, went on to win the World Series.

"I was asked the other day is this is a bad team or if this is a great team playing bad," Guillen said. "My answer was this is a great team playing very bad. That's what gives me a lot of hope."

Guillen watched the Miami Heat's basketball championship celebration on television Monday afternoon. He said he hoped that celebration provides some inspiration to the Marlins.

"When I saw those guys in the parade, I got jealous. I felt pride. I wanted to be there. I wish I was that coach," Guillen said. "That's my inspiration for the rest of my career in Miami -- hopefully I'll feel the same way (the Heat) felt when they had the parade."

Guillen won a World Series with the 2005 Chicago White Sox, as did Marlins pitcher Mark Buehrle. Greg Dobbs is the only other Marlins player with a ring, from the 2008 Philadelphia Phillies.

"I don't care how much money you make, there's nothing better," Guillen said. "That ring doesn't make you rich. But it's something that will always keep your chin up. I got one. I wish all of those players before their careers are over will get one. Hopefully this year."

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