Can the Nationals to be trusted in October? On paper, they are the team with the best shot at derailing the freight train that is the Cubs, provided both clubs survive the National League Division Series. Their steady play has been admirable: Washington has held first place in the NL East for all but four days this season, all of them before May 13.

But the Nationals have concerns as they close in on a third division title in five years. They don't have a healthy Stephen Strasburg or Bryce Harper. Their only lefthanded starter, Gio Gonzalez—who looms as their most important pitcher in a Division Series matchup against the lefty-averse Dodgers—remains an enigma. Their closer, Mark Melancon—who has received a heavy workload since Washington acquired him from Pittsburgh on July 30 (he pitched in 23 of his first 40 games with the team)—has been asked to protect one postseason lead in his career, which he blew.

Remember, we’re talking about an organization that has won one playoff series in its 48 years (as the Montreal Expos in the 1981 NLDS) and infamously blew ninth-inning leads en route to first-round ousters in 2012 and '14. We’re not talking about Billy Goat curses yet, but this franchise is working on its own half-century tradition of bad karma.