Kim O'Reilly, CBS Sports

Now that the trade deadline is in the rearview, we can start to look ahead at the playoff races. We're actually pretty blessed right now in that only one race is over (yes, I've officially crowned the Braves NL East champs for the sixth straight season). Otherwise, everything else is up for grabs. It's difficult to pin down what will be the best race, but right now we have a great idea on what race includes the most combatants. 

Zero in on those NL wild-card standings. 

Who feels safe? The Dodgers would be if they were caught at the top of the NL West, though if that meant a Dodgers collapse -- instead of what the Braves did the Mets last season -- they would be in play. Past that, we're looking at a group where the two top teams are the Giants and Phillies. Even if you believe either is a good bet to make the playoffs, a reasonable stance, that leaves the final spot. 

For that last spot, we'd be looking at the two NL Central contenders who miss out on the division title along with the Marlins, Diamondbacks and, yes, the Padres

As things stand, the Phillies and Giants are tied, up three games on the Cubs, who sit in the third spot. The Reds are essentially tied with the Cubs (they trail .51754386 to .51785714). They both only trail the Brewers by 1 1/2 games in the Central division. Back to the third wild card, the Marlins are a half-game back, the Diamondbacks are 1 1/2 out and the Padres are three out. 

Who in there do you actually trust to play consistent, winning baseball the rest of the way? I'll even loop in the Giants and Phillies (and remember, either the Cubs, Brewers or Reds won't be an option due to one of them winning the division). 

  • The Giants were 11-17 before they started winning. They recently lost six in a row, a stretch that included being swept by the Nationals. They just lost two straight to the A's. 
  • The Phillies had a stretch earlier this season where they lost six in a row, won five straight then lost five straight. In July, they had a stretch where they lost three, won four and then lost four. If it's close, they are certainly capable of a poorly timed losing streak that knocks them out, though they are probably the most reliable one here, for me. 
  • The Brewers started the season 18-8. They are 42-44 since then. The sub-.500 stretch is a much bigger sample than the very good start. 
  • The Cubs were 26-36 at one point. They are hot now and maybe the best bet to win the NL Central (who would've thought we'd be saying that back in May?), but there are certainly reasons to worry about a backslide. At a bare minimum, we shouldn't believe they'll consistently win the rest of the way. 
  • The Reds didn't address their problematic rotation at the deadline and are in a total tailspin right now. They've lost six straight, including a sweep at home at the hands of the Nats. 
  • The Marlins are 5-16 since the All-Star break and seem pretty broken. If they don't turn things around quickly, we won't be talking about them in the race much longer. 
  • The Diamondbacks are an MLB-worst 7-22 since July 1. 
  • The Padres, well, they've told us all season how reliable they are. That is: Not very. 

Where there's no reliability, there is chaos and that's all kinds of fun to witness in professional sports. 

Bigger picture, this also means that through roughly 70% of the season, 10 of the 15 National League teams are alive in contention. The funny thing is, on the AL side we're also looking at 10 teams in contention (and possibly 11, depending on how hard you want to squint the Angels back into the race). 

We've got a lot of great races coming here in the next eight weeks. There will be plenty of excitement and chaos. In the latter case, the NL wild-card race will bring plenty. 

Finally, if you want me to make picks, I'll say the Cubs take the Central, the Dodgers hold on in the West and the Phillies, Giants and, yes, Padres round out the field. 

Biggest Movers
7 Cubs
5 Angels
1 Braves The Braves are only 10-10 since the All-Star break. It really doesn't matter, though. They can go on cruise control until October. -- 39-31
2 Orioles I do not think they are a better team than the Braves, but the Orioles have a legitimate case for the top spot. I wouldn't argue with anyone who says the O's should be number one right now. If we went back in time to early July of last season, who would've thought this was a serious conversation -- this soon? Amazing turnaround. -- 47-24
3 Rays Good thing for the Rays that they built such a big cushion early in the season. With the Shane McClanahan concern and now Tyler Glasnow, their rotation continues to be a major worry. -- 34-38
4 Rangers Man, what a bummer that Josh Jung broken thumb is. These Rangers have been battling injury adversity all season, though, so it would be foolish to count them out now. They just bounced back from a terrible week by winning six straight. 1 33-39
5 Astros It definitely felt right seeing Justin Verlander back on the mound in an Astros uniform, even if this is still only his sixth season doing so, compared to 13 for the Tigers. Might he be moving into "blank cap on his Hall of Fame plaque" territory? As things stand, that would be my bet. 1 33-39
6 Dodgers Amed Rosario only hit three homers in 412 plate appearances for the Guardians this season. It took him just 26 with the Dodgers to club his second homer. He also has nine RBI in eight games. 1 45-29
7 Blue Jays Davis Schneider was a 28th-round draft pick and was never really considered a prospect. After seven years of working his way up and persevering in the minors, he debuted for the Blue Jays this past week. Through three games, he's 9 for 13 (.695) with two home runs. How great is baseball? 1 35-37
8 Phillies The Phillies are a more dangerous playoff team than regular-season team, but they really need an Aaron Nola fix. He has a 5.06 ERA in his last seven starts and it's 4.58 overall. 4 48-24
9 Giants It was already a weird week with no Friday game, but then they followed up a run of seven wins in nine games by losing two to the A's. The good news is they get to play three against the hapless Angels next. That should get them back on track. 1 36-37
10 Mariners The Mariners have won 10 of their last 12 games and are a season-high eight games over .500. Can they make it two straight postseason trips after the drought? 5 43-31
11 Cubs The turning point of the season was me writing a long column that essentially said Jed Hoyer should be on the chopping block. The team is 32-18 since then, which is a 104-win pace. If only I had spoken up sooner. 7 34-39
12 Brewers A 3-4 week against the Nats and Pirates has left the door open for the surging Cubs. 4 42-30
13 Reds The returns of Hunter Greene and Nick Lodolo were probably part of the consideration by the front office when it didn't add any starting pitching before the deadline. Can they hang around long enough for those returns to matter? The ship is sinking right there in the Ohio River. 4 34-38
14 Yankees Pathetic situation from the team on Anthony Rizzo playing with a head injury for months, even playing two games after he told the team he felt "foggy" in the head. Do better as an organization. -- 50-24
15 Red Sox Since I know Red Sox fans love looping in the Yankees while thinking of their favorite team, I'll park this comment here: The Yankees and Red Sox have never finished in the last two AL East slots. We're headed that way this year. It's even possible, albeit very unlikely due to the state of Texas, that they'll pull this off and have one of the teams make the playoffs. 4 38-35
16 Twins The 5-1 week should wash the stench off being swept by the Royals last week. 4 40-32
17 Padres I'll simply leave this here: It was Aug. 6, 2021 when the Braves moved above .500 for the first time all season. They'd win the World Series after making the playoffs with the worst record among playoff teams. I guess what I'm saying is there's hope for a miracle. 2 37-39
18 Angels Here's a task for all the people convinced that this losing streak means they definitely should have traded Shohei Ohtani. Go to any organization that would realistically have traded for him and choose four tradeable prospects (think C.J. Abrams when he was dealt to the Nationals and not Adley Rutschman before he was promoted to the majors) and file them away. Check back in four years to see how good those four players became. My very, very strong hunch is that you won't have something that looked like a no-brainer for the Angels. When that's the case, you hold, hope a playoff run happens and then hope you can re-sign the best player in the world. 5 29-43
19 Marlins Luis Arraez's batting average is .375. The run at .400 was probably always a pipe dream, but we haven't seen a qualified hitter top .375 since Larry Walker in 1999 (.379). If we wanted to exclude pre-humidor Coors Field, it goes back to Tony Gwynn's .394 in 1994. If we wanted a full season, it goes back to George Brett's .390 in 1980. This is the long way to say it's still a special season. 3 23-49
20 Diamondbacks It's gotten so bad they are losing a Zac Gallen vs. Dallas Keuchel matchup in 2023. 3 35-37
21 Guardians José Ramírez looked like a scrappy boxer, so at least they have that going for them right now. -- 44-25
22 Pirates It's been really fun watching Endy Rodríguez flash his immense upside at the plate here in the first 18 games of his big-league career. Of his 11 hits, two are doubles, two are triples and two are homers. 2 35-37
23 Nationals For nearly all of this season, it seemed a foregone conclusion the Nationals would finish in last place in the NL East. Right now, it seems like a sure bet that they'll finish ahead of the Mets. A lot of that is the Mets being bad, sure, but the Nats are now 15-9 since July 7. 3 35-36
24 Cardinals There have been several different moments this season that felt like "rock bottom." Losing 1-0 at home to the Rockies on Sunday is up there (or down there, whatever). 1 36-35
25 Tigers It seems like the front office should've had a better feel of where Eduardo Rodriguez's head was before agreeing to the trade with the Dodgers, right? It's a complicated matter, of course, but it's a new front office trying to establish how the team is going to be run and many people believe it looked poorly executed. -- 34-38
26 Mets No team has ever won 100 games one season and lost 100 the next. The Mets need to go 13-38 the rest of the way to finish 63-99. Surely they aren't bad enough to make a run at this, right? RIGHT? 4 34-37
27 White Sox The season from hell for Tim Anderson continues. -- 19-54
28 Rockies Holy smokes. Look at the rest of the Rockies' schedule. They only play two series against sub-.500 teams the rest of the season and one of those series is against the Padres, who could well be over .500 by the time they face off. Ridiculous. -- 25-47
29 Royals For most of the season, the Royals and A's have been on pace to be historically bad. Now after what the Royals just pulled off last week, both teams have also had a seven-game winning streak. Good ol' baseball! -- 41-32
30 Athletics They couldn't have gotten anything for Ramon Laureano in a sellers' market with a dearth of available position players? Nothing at all? Are they even trying? -- 26-48