Nats' Path to the Postseason: Oct. 2, 2012

Nats' Path to the Postseason: Oct. 2, 2012

Nats' Path to the Postseason: Oct. 2, 2012
WASHINGTON -- The Nationals took care of their first significant goal on Monday night. Now they focus on another.

With the National League East title wrapped up -- the Nats lost to the Phillies on Monday, but the Pirates' win over the Braves gave Washington the division championship -- manager Davey Johnson and his club can now set their sights on the NL's No. 1 seed. The Cardinals beat the Reds, 4-2, on Monday, so the Reds and Nationals share the best record in the league, at 96-64.

The top seed will play the winner of the one-game Wild Card play-in, with Game 1 of the Division Series set for Sunday. Johnson had said that he doesn't care much about having the best record, but he did say on Monday that he'd like to play on Sunday, mostly because that lines up as Gio Gonzalez's day to pitch.

"I'd like to play Sunday," Johnson said. "That's what I'd like to do. That would be Gio's game. Whoever that is, I don't care. I'd like to start with my 21-game winner. How that happens ... there's a lot of things that have to get in line with this playoff picture."

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

Reds (Latos, 13-4) at Cardinals (Carpenter, 0-1), 8:15 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 »

Complete schedule »

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