On Thursday, the Astros prevailed over the Brewers in extras, and the Marlins nipped the Giants by a single run. At first blush, those outcomes might not seem especially notable. After all, bad teams -- even the bottom-feeding ilk of the Astros and Marlins -- win games almost every day in baseball. That's how our sport works. In this instance, though, those victories pushed the Astros and Marlins into winning territory for the month of June.
To be sure, these remain the worst two teams in baseball, and that will almost certainly still be the case by season's end. We're also talking about a vanishingly small sample of games, as we still have nine days to go in June. The larger lesson is that anything can happen in baseball over a limited stretch, and even punch-liners like Miami and Houston are capable of playing winning baseball in isolation.
Of course, the extent of the turnaround is pretty striking. For instance, The Marlins, who stand at 9-8 this month (that Giancarlo Stanton is batting .333/.381/.718 since his June 10 return from injury is a big part of that), could lose out for the rest of the month and still have a markedly better record than their May mark (a stomach-turning 6-22). As for the Astros, they're 10-9 for June and coming off a May in which they went 10-18.
In terms of run differential, the Marlins are -11 for the month, which suggests their (narrowly) winning record has some good luck baked in. As well, 10 of the 17 teams that they've played this month have losing records (although their belt-stealing series win over the mighty Cardinals is duly noted).
Houston, meanwhile, has a +5 run differential for June, but the schedule has been quite accommoding: 16 of 19 games against teams with losing records. Still, for these two teams, beating even lackluster opponents constitutes a major improvement.
In a related matter, the Astros and Marlins now find themselves on pace for "just" 101 and 110 losses, respectively. So the '62 Mets and their hallowed 120 losses, the modern-era record, are safer than they were when the calendar read "May."
How safe? Well, the Astros must go 13-75 over their final 88 games to get to 121 losses for the season. That would entail playing .148 ball the rest of the way, and that's simply not going to happen -- even in Houston in 2013.
As for the Marlins, there's somewhat more "hope." They have, at this writing, 90 games remaining, and they'll need to go 18-72 to reach 121 defeats (i.e., post a winning percentage of .200). In other words, the Marlins would need to play worse baseball than they've played during any month of the 2013 season -- even that 6-22 May (.214) -- and keep it up for more than half a season. The schedule will help a bit, as the Marlins' remaining opponents have an average winning percentage of .508, and they'll play the divison-leading Braves 16 more times. Trading away Stanton would also be a boon, should that come to pass, but note that the Marlins won at a .306 clip while Stanton was on the DL.
In the end, take heart, Astros and Marlins, for unfortunate history is probably out of reach this season, thanks in part to a thus-far successful month of June.