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Top five teams in the National League

The Major League Baseball season is well underway, and the teams are starting to establish themselves as pretenders and contenders. It might be the end of May, but there is a certain sense of urgency for some of the clubs hovering around .500. Over the next two months, teams will start making or breaking their campaigns before the July 31 trade deadline.

In the National League, three teams are clearly the cream of the crop, while a handful of others are looming with talent. It is always fun to see which groups grow in strength as the temperature rises, while others slowly wilt under the beaming sun.

Without any more rambling, let’s take a look at the top five National League teams in inverse order:

5. Chicago Cubs

Although the New York Mets have a slightly better record, the Cubs have the appearance of a team that can really get on a roll. Behind the pitching of Jon Lester and Jason Hammel, and the power-hitting youngster in Kris Bryant, the ability is certainly there.

Chicago has been a sad franchise since the days of Dusty Baker, Sammy Sosa, Mark Prior and Kerry Wood. Suddenly, the Cubs are flush with promising players such as the aforementioned Bryant, Addison Russell, Javier Baez and others.

4. San Francisco Giants

At 28-20, the defending champions have the look of a team that would like to repeat. Under manager Bruce Bochy, the leadership and mindset will always be there to win consistently. After losing Michael Morse and Pablo Sandoval in the offseason, there was concern that the offense would be sub-par.

Instead, the lineup has produced 198 runs, good for the top half of the National League. Of course, the pitching is still rock solid led by a Tim Lineceum resurgence and the expected brilliance of Madison Bumgarner.

3. Washington Nationals

Without question, this is the most talented team in MLB. Washington has a ridiculously loaded rotation with Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann, Gio Gonzalez, Max Scherzer and Doug Fister. On top of that, the bullpen is locked down by Drew Storen and the lineup is loaded with Bryce Harper as the centerpiece.

If any team in baseball should win 100 games without breaking a sweat, it should be the Nationals. Still, Washington got off to a slow start and has the worst record of any NL division leader. Expect the Nationals to climb up the ranks in short order.

2. St. Louis Cardinals

St. Louis continues to amaze everyone. The Cardinals lost Adam Wainwright for the year to a torn Achilles and haven’t skipped a beat, posting a Major League-best 30-16 record. St. Louis has been able to amass the best run differential in the league at +58, largely due to the shutdown pitching which has allowed only 140 runs.

So why aren’t the Cardinals at the top of this list? It’s about not only the present, but looking into the future. With the Dodgers only 1.5 games behind St. Louis, it is assumed the Cardinals will fall off a bit as the loss of Wainwright catches up.

1. Los Angeles Dodgers

For years, Los Angeles used to be known as “Showtime” for the NBA’s Lakers. When the Dodgers take the field, especially on nights when Clayton Kershaw is pitching, it has the same vibe. The Dodgers, thanks to former ‘Showtime’ extraordinaire Magic Johnson, have built a team loaded with stars.

Behind Kershaw, Zach Greinke, Adrian Gonzalez, Yasiel Puig and others, the Dodgers exude championship quality. Leading the NL West by 1.5 games over the Giants, Los Angeles will be in a great battle throughout the summer.

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