Cardinals' Path to the Postseason: Sept. 17, 2012

Cardinals' Path to the Postseason: Sept. 17, 2012

Cardinals' Path to the Postseason: Sept. 17, 2012
LOS ANGELES -- At risk of falling behind the Dodgers in the race to capture the National League's second Wild Card, the Cardinals pulled out a 5-2, 12-inning win that sent them back home staked to a one-game lead. St. Louis should feel fortunate about its positioning given that it just wrapped up a 2-5 trip to California.

"I don't know if must-win is the right phrase, but it was pretty darn close to a must-win," said Jason Motte, who earned his 35th save. "You see the scoreboard before the game ... you know where everybody is. It's not too early to be scoreboard watching. But we need to go out there and take care of our business. Similar to last year, if we don't win then nothing else matters. Today our guys went out there and battled their butts off and were able to get us a win."

The upcoming schedule would seem to work in the Cardinals' favor. Over the next 10 days, the Cardinals will face the 99-loss Astros six times and the Cubs three times. The team is also on the verge of plugging Chris Carpenter back into the rotation.

Wells Fargo

As for the Wild Card competition, it remains stiff. The Dodgers are a game back and the Brewers, who leapfrogged the Pirates in the NL Central standings, are only 2 1/2 games out. The Pirates (three games) and Phillies (four games) are also still within striking distance.

"There's still a lot of baseball to play," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "I think we're playing like this is the very last one every game."

Monday's key games to watch (all times ET)

Braves (Hudson, 14-6) at Marlins (LeBlanc, 2-4), 7:10 p.m. Preview>

Phillies (Lee, 5-7) at Mets (Dickey, 18-5), 7:10 p.m. Preview >

Pirates (Correia, 10-9) at Cubs (Wood, 6-11), 8:10 p.m. Preview >

Rockies (Chacin, 2-5) at Giants (Bumgarner 14-10), 10:15 p.m. Preview >

If the postseason started today ...

AMERICAN LEAGUE
Wild Card: Second Wild Card at First Wild Card
Division Series: Second-best AL record vs. Third-best AL record | Best AL record at Wild Card winner

NATIONAL LEAGUE
Wild Card: Second Wild Card at First Wild Card
Division Series: Second-best NL record vs. Third-best NL record | Best NL record at Wild Card winner

Postseason Bracket »

Postseason 101

Magic numbers
To calculate a team's magic number, take the number of games it has remaining and add one. Then subtract the difference in the number of losses between that team and its closest pursuer.

Tiebreaker scenarios
A tiebreaker game will be played to determine a division winner, even if the tied clubs are assured of participating in the postseason. If a division championship tiebreaker is necessary, the head-to-head record between the clubs will determine home-field advantage. If the head-to-head record is tied, then the division record will be the next tiebreaker.

If two clubs are tied for the two Wild Card berths, home-field advantage will be determined by the head-to-head record between the clubs. If the head-to-head record is tied, then the division record will be the next tiebreaker.

Tiebreaker rules »

2012 postseason schedule
Wild Card playoff games: Oct. 5
Division Series: Oct. 6-12
AL Championship Series: Oct. 13-21
NL Championship Series: Oct. 14-22
World Series: Oct. 24-Nov. 1

Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.