ST. LOUIS -- The Cardinals know they will be playing in October, but where and against whom must still be sorted out over the next week. At this point, every scenario is still in play, from the Cardinals locking down home-field advantage through the National League Championship Series to the club having to go on the road as the second NL Wild Card winner.
Those extremes, however, are improbable, as the Nationals own a 3 1/2-game advantage over the Cardinals in the race for the NL's best record, while St. Louis sits three games ahead of the Pirates and Giants, who are currently tied in the Wild Card race.
More likely is that the Cardinals, assuming they can hold off the Pirates to win the NL Central, will finish as the second or third seed (based upon record) in the league. Entering Sunday night's game, the Cardinals (87-68) trailed the NL-West leading Dodgers (89-67) by 1 1/2 games.
If the positioning were to stay as is, the Dodgers would be hosting the Cardinals in the NL Division Series, beginning at Dodger Stadium on Oct. 3. Games 1-2 would be played in L.A., before the best-of-five series would shift to St. Louis for Games 3 and, if necessary, Game 4. A win-or-go home Game 5 would happen back in L.A., if necessary.
Of course, if the Cardinals were to leapfrog the NL West champ they would earn home-field advantage in that first round. San Francisco isn't out of the NL West mix, either. Though they trail the Dodgers by 4 1/2 games, the two clubs open a three-game series on Monday in Los Angeles.
Because the Cardinals lost their season series against the Dodgers (4-3) and Giants (4-3), they would lose NLDS home-field advantage if they had an identical record with the NL West winner after next Sunday. If the Nationals were to be leapfrogged in the standings by the NL West winner, they would line up to face the NL Central champ. The Cardinals went 5-2 against Washington during the regular season.
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.