Cardinals' Path to the Postseason: Sept. 25, 2012

Cardinals' Path to the Postseason: Sept. 25, 2012

Cardinals' Path to the Postseason: Sept. 25, 2012
HOUSTON -- The Cardinals continue to create separation in the race for the second National League Wild Card by taking advantage of a recent string of games against the Astros and the Cubs.

Those are the only two clubs the Cards have played in the last seven days, during which they've built their Wild Card lead to 3 1/2 games. St. Louis has won six of the games. Another two remain against the Astros before the Cardinals close out the regular season with three games apiece against the Nationals and the Reds at home.

"We know the stretch that we have during these nine games that we have to play really well because we have two tough opponents [coming up] at home," starter Lance Lynn said. "My guess is that neither one of those guys want to see us make the playoffs. We need to make sure that we're playing good going into that series. And we want to play well going into the playoffs."

Wells Fargo

The Brewers and Dodgers appear to be the only two clubs still within striking distance of that final NL playoff spot. Both are 3 1/2 games behind the Cardinals. No other club is closer than 5 1/2 games back.

That cushion, however, does not have the Cardinals complacent.

"Celebrate today. Look at tomorrow," manager Mike Matheny said. "We want to keep pushing forward without getting too far out in front."

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

Cardinals (Garcia, 5-7) at Astros (Harrell, 10-10), 8:05 p.m. Preview >

Nationals (Lannan, 3-0) at Phillies (Hamels, 15-6), 7:05 p.m. Preview >

Marlins (Eovaldi, 4-12) at Braves (Medlen, 9-1), 7:05 p.m. Preview >

Brewers (Fiers, 9-8) at Reds (Leake, 8-9), 7:10 p.m. Preview >

Pirates (Rodriguez, 11-13) at Mets (McHugh, 0-2), 7:10 p.m. Preview >

Dodgers (Beckett, 6-13) at Padres (Volquez, 10-11), 10:05 p.m. Preview >

D-backs (Collmenter, 4-3) at Giants (Lincecum, 10-14), 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

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.