Nationals' Path to the Postseason: Sept. 30, 2012

Nationals' Path to the Postseason: Sept. 30, 2012

Nationals' Path to the Postseason: Sept. 30, 2012
ST. LOUIS -- After a wild 6-4 win over the Cardinals in 10 innings on Saturday night, the Nationals are one win away from their first National League East championship.

Washington beat St. Louis to lower its magic number to one, but the Braves beat the Mets, 2-0, and halted the Nationals' plans for a champagne-popping celebration at Busch Stadium. So the Nats' quest to officially clinch the NL East title will continue for at least one more day, although Washington's players have been able to find a silver lining in playing so many important games down the stretch.

"I guess people were saying they weren't sure if it was better or worse for us to play these games when we needed some wins," third baseman Ryan Zimmerman said. "But to be playing pretty much do-or-die baseball for the last week or so is obviously going to get us ready."

The Nationals also guaranteed that they will have home-field advantage in the NL Division Series, as they are four games ahead of the Giants with four to play and would win the tie-breaker. Washington is now also guaranteed no worse than a one-game playoff against Atlanta for the NL East title, but the Nationals certainly don't plan on letting it come to that.

"Obviously that's why we've been playing all year," pitcher Jordan Zimmermann said. "We get four games and need one win, so, I mean, hopefully we can get it [Sunday] and have a happy flight back."

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

Reds (Cueto, 19-9) at Pirates (Rodriguez, 12-13), 1:35 Preview >

Mets (Mejia, 1-1) at Braves (Medlen, 9-1), 1:35 p.m. Preview >

Astros (Lyles, 4-12) at Brewers (Fiers, 9-9), 2:10 p.m. Preview >

Nationals (Detwiler, 10-7) at Cardinals (Lynn, 17-7), 2:15 p.m. Preview >

Giants (Lincecum, 10-15) at Padres (Volquez, 11-11), 4:05 p.m. Preview >

Rockies (De La Rosa, 0-1) at Dodgers (Beckett, 6-14), 4:10 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

Adam Berry is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @adamdberry. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.