Nationals' Path to the Postseason: Sept. 17, 2012

Nationals' Path to the Postseason: Sept. 17, 2012

ATLANTA -- The Nationals' easy road to the postseason hit a sizable speed bump at Turner Field this weekend, as the Braves pulled off a three-game sweep that cut Washington's National League East lead from 8 1/2 to 5 1/2 games.

Regardless, the Nationals can still clinch a guaranteed playoff spot as early as Wednesday against the Dodgers and officially claim the NL East crown as soon as next Sunday, if everything rolls their way. But, as Washington was reminded this weekend, Atlanta isn't about to make it easy on the division leaders.

"We've had some battles against them," first baseman Adam LaRoche said. "They're pretty relentless. Watch the scoreboard all year and see how they continue to win and win, and we expected that coming in, that it was going to be a dogfight."

Washington's magic numbers are as follows: three to clinch at least a Wild Card spot, 11 to win the NL East and 15 to clinch home field throughout the NL playoffs. Although things didn't go as planned in Atlanta, nobody in the Nationals' clubhouse showed even the slightest signs of concern about where they are in the postseason race.

"I feel fine about where we're at," manager Davey Johnson said.

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

Braves (Hudson, 14-6) at Marlins (LeBlanc, 2-4), 7:10 p.m. Preview>

Phillies (Lee, 5-7) at Mets (Dickey, 18-5), 7:10 p.m. Preview >

Pirates (Correia, 10-9) at Cubs (Wood, 6-11), 8:10 p.m. Preview >

Rockies (Chacin, 2-5) at Giants (Bumgarner 14-10), 10:15 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

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.