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The top eight World Series contenders in the wake of the trade deadline

Justin Verlander in Cy Young form with  MLB-best 1.81 ERA.

They’ve opened up the Major League Baseball playoffs to 12 teams, yet it may be harder than ever to navigate.

A handful of teams found themselves well-equipped to attack October after major trade deadline acquisitions. But their paths to glory may be blocked.

Did your team win baseball’s trade deadline, or at least try? If so, congrats. It also won’t mean much when the playoffs arrive and commissioner Rob Manfred’s bracket shootout becomes reality.

With that, in the wake of Tuesday’s trade deadline, we take a look at the top eight clubs poised to win it all, a ranking based as much on path as it is talent:

Justin Verlander in Cy Young form with MLB-best 1.81 ERA.

1. Astros

You gotta get there to win it and nobody does that better than the Astros, who have reached five straight AL Championship Series and last year came two wins shy of a World Series title. This time, they’ll have ace Justin Verlander in tow, and it’s hard to argue anyone in the AL is throwing the ball better than the 39-year-old with a majors-best 1.81 ERA. They can stack the now playoff-hardened Framber Valdez, Luis Garcia and Jose Urquidy behind him – all after coasting to a division title and first-round bye.

2. Dodgers

They’re merely 22-5 since June 1, administering knockout blows to opposing pitchers before many fans have taken their seats. A fearsome 1-2-3 in any combo – pull Mookie Betts, Freddie Freeman and Trea Turner’s names out of a hat and go from there – is backed up by suddenly fearsome cleanup hitter Will Smith, who has an .821 OPS and a .906 mark in his last 35 games. The pitching is something of an adventure but the tonnage of arms will clear a path to the World Series, one way or another.

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3. Yankees

Not sold on Frankie Montas as the man to slay their longtime tormenters in Houston, but New York will coast to the East title and hold a significant advantage over their wild card survivor. We’re left to trust that they know something about Jordan Montgomery that we don’t, but his trade does make you wonder if they’re once again too smart by half.

4. Blue Jays

Bold pick here, but it’s largely based on a 1-2 punch of Alek Manoah and Kevin Gausman that could make for a painless trip through the wild card round, particularly if the Jays hold on for the…

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