With the way the Nationals have played the last two weeks, it's pretty established they're the cream of the NL East crop. Trailing Washington by 7.5 games, hopes of a division title seem slim if you're the Braves. However, Atlanta is still in pretty good position for a wild card berth, sitting just a half game back of the second spot held by the Giants.
A good sign is that the offense is starting to round into shape. It's probably not a coincidence that right when Justin Upton began to heat up this month, the Braves suddenly got right. He has a .984 OPS in August, hitting 6 homers with 23 RBI. But he's not alone, either: Evan Gattis and Jason Heyward have both come on as of late too, and give the Braves a more balanced lineup to complement a competent pitching staff. Can they find consistency over the next five weeks?
In the battle of Giancarlo Stanton vs. Mike Trout, Stanton took the opening round Monday night in a landslide. He hit his 33rd home run of the season -- a three-run shot to put Miami up 7-0 -- and showed the crowd in Anaheim that the NL has a young stud of its own. The longball also marked the 150th of his young career, which is second all-time in franchise history to Dan Uggla. Five more dingers and Stanton'll have the record.
We keep mentioning Stanton every week as if there are no other parts to this Miami club that keep them afloat. But the fact is the 24-year old outfielder is having a season to remember, and could very well be the first NL MVP in team history. He leads the 'Senior Circuit' in the following categories: Home runs, RBI, slugging, walks, on-base percentage, and ....well, you get the point. He's good. So good that he's keeping this Marlins team in contention heading into Labor Day Weekend, a feat worthy of MVP consideration all by itself.
NEW YORK METS
To trade, or not to trade? That's the question the Mets are asking themselves about Bartolo Colon, who reportedly cleared waivers this week ahead of Sunday's trade deadline. Colon, who has pitched to a 12-10 record with a 3.82 ERA in his 17th major league season, is due $11 million in 2015. It's unlikely another team would take on that salary, but clubs like the Angels, Dodgers or Pirates could be interested in Colon's services for the stretch run.
Nationals fans have delighted in the Phillies' tumble down the standings this season, but that doesn't mean Jimmy Rollins and company are going to lay down the last five weeks of the year. Though they've now been relegated to playing spoiler, the Phillies have a great chance to do just that with their remaining schedule packed with contenders. Don't think they will compete with the big boys down the stretch? Consider that they're coming off back-to-back series wins over the Mariners and Cardinals, and they even edged a red-hot Washington team 3-2 Monday night. The Phillies have five more games against the Nats and 12 more against the Marlins and Braves. So though they may not win the division this season, they have a shot to put a dent in one of their rivals' playoff hopes.