Taking a peek at the postseason picture

I saw a graphic on one of the national sports highlight shows last night that listed the teams in the National League wild card race. There were the Giants, holding the top spot, four games clear of the Pirates, who would earn the second wild card if the season ended today. A couple of the teams chasing them: the Braves, now 1 1/2 games back of Pittsburgh after losing the first two games of this three-game set with the Nationals, and the Brewers, who are in an absolute freefall the last few weeks, having lost 13 of their last 14 games. My eyes scrolled through those teams and then I saw two more squads listed toward the bottom of the graphic. And I was shocked at what I saw. laroche-swing-beard-red-sidebar.jpgThe Marlins are now just 3 1/2 games out of the final wild card spot, and the Mets are 5 1/2 games back of Pittsburgh. Both teams still have sub-.500 records (the Marlins are a game under .500 at 71-72, while the Mets are 70-75), and it would take a lot for, say, Miami to leap three teams this late in the season and sneak in to earn a wild card. But still, it shocked me to even see those teams on the list of wild card hopefuls. Speaks to how not many NL clubs have really played well enough to distance themselves from the pack, as well as what a promising future the Marlins and Mets might have, given the young talent they possess. The Nats, meanwhile, now have a nine-game lead in the division (the largest it's ever been since baseball returned to D.C.) with 19 games left on their schedule. The magic number is now 10, and that could shrink quickly if the Nats are able to do more damage against Atlanta in the four games that remain between the division rivals. The Nats are getting close to clinching, and while they're not ready to celebrate yet or look big-picture, some in the clubhouse admit they're starting to feel the division title is very much within reach. "It does. Feels like we're that much closer," Adam LaRoche said. "Again, not to take anything for granted until this thing is sealed up, but these are big this time of year, playing a team chasing you, to be able to win a couple." This now marks three straight series against above-.500 teams that the Nats have won. They took two of three at Seattle, won two of three in L.A. in a highly entertaining series, and now have secured a series win over the Braves with the final game of this set still to come this afternoon. They're playing good ball at the right time, are getting contributions from throughout their roster and their expanded bullpen, and are proving they can beat the successful teams, teams that have given them trouble in the past. Things sure are looking up in the nation's capital.

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