Dodgers' Path to the Postseason: Sept. 21, 2012

Dodgers' Path to the Postseason: Sept. 21, 2012

Dodgers' Path to the Postseason: Sept. 21, 2012
WASHINGTON -- As they watched the Nationals celebrate their first playoff berth since moving to the nation's capital, the Dodgers' own playoff hopes took yet another blow Thursday night at Nationals Park.

The 4-1 loss was the Dodgers' seventh in their last 10 games, a mark made even worse by the Cardinals' 5-4 win over the Astros earlier in the day. With 12 games to play, Los Angeles trails St. Louis by three games for the National League's final Wild Card spot.

Wells Fargo

Outwardly, it looks like the Dodgers' first playoff appearance since 2009 is slipping away. In the heat of another hard loss to swallow, manager Don Mattingly didn't argue that notion, either.

"Honestly, it does. It feels like it is a little bit," Mattingly said. "I just don't think there's anyway for us to look at it other than that. We're going in the wrong direction."

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

Cardinals (Carpenter, 0-0) at Cubs (Volstad, 3-10), 2:20 p.m. Preview >

Braves (Hanson, 12-8) at Phillies (Kendrick, 9-11), 7:05 p.m. Preview >

Brewers (Marcum, 5-4) at Nationals (Jackson, 9-10), 7:05 p.m. Preview >

Pirates (Locke, 0-1) at Astros (Gonzalez, 2-1), 8:05 p.m. Preview >

D-backs (Miley, 15-10) at Rockies (Pomeranz, 1-9), 8:10 p.m. Preview >

Padres (Kelly, 2-1) at Giants (Vogelsong, 12-9), 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.