Cardinals' Path to the Postseason, Sept. 20, 2012

Cardinals' Path to the Postseason, Sept. 20, 2012

Cardinals' Path to the Postseason, Sept. 20, 2012
ST. LOUIS -- With their first three-game winning streak of the month, the Cardinals have given themselves a bit of breathing room in the race for the second National League Wild Card.

The hunt is far from over, but St. Louis enjoys a two-game cushion with 13 regular season games remaining. The Cardinals' 5-0 win over the Astros, coupled with the Dodgers' split in a doubleheader with the Nationals, lengthened the separation between the two clubs on Wednesday.

Sitting only a half-game back of the Dodgers are the Brewers, winners in 22 of their last 28 games. Milwaukee's consecutive wins in Pittsburgh have seemingly pushed the Pirates out of contention for the postseason. The Bucs are 4 1/2 games back. The Phillies trail the Cardinals by four games.

St. Louis' schedule should continue to work in its favor, too. After Thursday's series finale against the Astros, the Cardinals will make three-game stops in both Chicago and Houston. Those two clubs have a combined winning percentage of .356 this year.

Wells Fargo

"We understand Houston and Chicago, that their records aren't that great," said David Freese, who belted his 20th homer of the season on Wednesday. "But we also understand that they can come out here and pound us any given moment. The last thing we're doing is taking any team lightly.

"This homestand, this next road trip, is definitely a time to make a move because we understand who we have when we come back here. Anytime you can extend the lead for postseason play, it's a plus. The sooner you can do that, the more comfortable it gets."

The Cardinals' final six games will come against first-place teams Washington and Cincinnati.

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

Astros (Norris, 5-12) at Cardinals (Garcia, 4-7), 1:45 p.m. Preview >

Padres (Richard, 13-12) at D-backs (Skaggs, 1-2), 3:40 p.m. Preview >

Brewers (Fiers, 9-8) at Pirates (Rodriguez, 11-13), 7:05 p.m. Preview >

Dodgers (Capuano, 11-10) at Nationals (Detwiler, 9-6), 7:05 p.m. Preview >

Phillies (Cloyd, 1-1) at Mets (Hefner, 2-6), 7:10 p.m. Preview >

If the postseason started today ...

This is how the teams would match up: Postseason Bracket »

AMERICAN LEAGUE
Wild Card: Second Wild Card at First Wild Card
Division Series: Second-best AL record vs. Third-best AL record | Best AL record at Wild Card winner

NATIONAL LEAGUE
Wild Card: Second Wild Card at First Wild Card
Division Series: Second-best NL record vs. Third-best NL record | Best NL record at Wild Card winner

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 games 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 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 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.