Dodgers' Path to the Postseason: Sept. 20, 2012

Dodgers' Path to the Postseason: Sept. 20, 2012

Dodgers' Path to the Postseason: Sept. 20, 2012
WASHINGTON -- After splitting Wednesday's doubleheader with the Nationals, the Dodgers kept within striking distance of the National League's final Wild Card spot.

Los Angeles trails St. Louis by two games entering Thursday following the Cardinals' 5-0 win over the Astros. By winning the nightcap on Wednesday, the Dodgers snapped a two-game skid, but are still 4-6 over their past 10 games. They will play one more game in Washington on Thursday before traveling to Cincinnati for a pivotal three-game set with the NL Central-leading Reds, who have a magic number of three.

The Cardinals appear to have a more generous schedule moving forward, with one more game against the Astros at home before travelling to Chicago for a three-game weekend set with the Cubs. Beginning on Monday, the Cardinals play the Astros three more times in Houston. After an off-day next Thursday, they begin what is likely to be a critical three-game series with the Nationals in Washington.

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

Dodgers (Capuano, 11-10) at Nationals (Detwiler, 9-6), 7:05 p.m. Preview >

Astros (Norris, 5-12) at Cardinals (Garcia, 4-7), 1:45 p.m. Preview >

Reds (Cueto, 17-9) at Cubs (Berken, 0-1), 2:20 p.m. Preview >

Padres (Richard, 13-12) at D-backs (Skaggs, 1-2), 3:40 p.m. Preview >

Brewers (Fiers, 9-8) at Pirates (Rodriguez, 11-13), 7:05 p.m. Preview >

Phillies (Cloyd, 1-1) at Mets (Hefner, 2-6), 7:10 p.m. Preview >

Red Sox (Buchholz, 11-6) at Rays (Price, 18-5), 7:10 p.m. Preview >

Rockies (De La Rosa, 0-0) at Giants (Zito, 12-8), 10:15 p.m. Preview >

If the postseason started today ...

This is how the teams would match up: 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

Mike Fiammetta is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.