Can Nats make miracle playoff run?

Why Washington has a shot to sneak into wild card race and play in October

Updated: August 17, 2013, 12:19 PM ET
By Dave Cameron | ESPN Insider

Bryce HarperEvan Habeeb/USA TODAY SportsBryce Harper and the Nats have what it takes to make an improbable playoff run.

On paper, the playoff race in the National League looks pretty boring. The Braves have a 14-game lead in the NL East, and while nothing is ever a completely sure thing in mid-August, they're about as close to a lock to win their division as you're going to find. Meanwhile, The Dodgers haven't lost a game since sometime back in May -- OK, they have, it just feels like they haven't -- and look poised to run away with the NL West, especially if Matt Kemp ever gets healthy.

The NL Central is shaping up to be a fun fight, but with St. Louis, Pittsburgh and Cincinnati fighting over one division title and two wild-card spots, it mostly seems to be a fight to avoid the wild-card game. The two runners-up are likely to face off once the regular season is over. It's not impossible to see Arizona running down one of the Central teams and perhaps adding a little more intrigue, but even if the Diamondbacks make a run, we're still looking at six teams fighting for five spots. The NL does not look like it's in for any kind of dramatic finish.

However, there is a seventh team quietly lurking, hanging out on the periphery of the playoff bubble. They're not quite a serious threat yet, but have enough potential to pull off a miracle. Of all the teams in baseball that look like their season may already be over, the Washington Nationals are the one who might just have a chance to shock the world and end up playing in October.