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Cardinals' Path to the Postseason: Sept. 27, 2012

Cardinals' Path to the Postseason: Sept. 27, 2012
HOUSTON -- The Cardinals made no strides toward clinching the last available National League playoff spot on Wednesday, falling to the Astros, 2-0, to wrap up their last regular-season road trip. At the same time, the Dodgers and Brewers closed the gap with wins. Both clubs now trail the Cardinals by 3 1/2 games.

Having won seven of nine games during a string of matchups solely against the Astros and Cubs, the Cardinals will return to Busch Stadium to face much steeper competition. Awaiting them will be the Nationals, who are nearing an NL East division title, and the Reds, who have already captured the NL Central crown.

"We've been playing well, it's just never something you're excited about when you lose a game right now," manager Mike Matheny said, when asked to characterize his club's recent stretch. "We're playing one-game series in my mind every night. I think that's what these guys realize, too. We talk about the game tonight and we go about it that way, not necessarily looking to do something over an extended stretch. We just don't have that leisure right now."

Milwaukee and Los Angeles are two of four clubs still mathematically with a chance to catch the Cardinals. Arizona and Philadelphia have also not been yet been eliminated.

Thursday's key games to watch (all times CST)

Brewers (Peralta, 2-1) at Reds (Latos, 13-4), 11:25 a.m. Preview >

D-backs (Corbin, 6-7) at Giants (Zito, 13-8), 2:45 p.m. Preview >

Nationals (Gonzalez, 20-8) at Phillies (Cloyd, 2-1), 6:05 p.m. Preview >

Dodgers (Capuano, 11-11) at Padres (Kelly, 2-2), 9:05 p.m. Preview >

If the postseason started today ...

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 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.

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