Can Nats make miracle playoff run?

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

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.