Nats' Path to the Postseason: Sept. 20, 2012

Nats' Path to the Postseason: Sept. 20, 2012

Nats' Path to the Postseason: Sept. 20, 2012
WASHINGTON -- The Nationals had a chance to clinch a playoff berth on Wednesday night, but they lost to the Dodgers, 7-6, in the nightcap of their doubleheader at Nationals Park.

Even if the Nationals had won, there wouldn't have been a celebration in the clubhouse, because all they care about is winning the National League East title. Washington is currently five games ahead of the Braves, and its magic number to clinch the division is nine.

"I don't think we really think about that stuff," third baseman Ryan Zimmerman said. "[A playoff berth] is not as great. It something that hasn't happened in D.C. in a long time, but the goal is, we have a chance to win the division. That's our main goal."

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

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

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

Reds (Cueto, 17-9) at Cubs (Berken, 0-1), 2:20 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 >

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

Red Sox (Buchholz, 11-6) at Rays (Price, 18-5), 7:10 p.m. Preview >

Rockies (De La Rosa, 0-0) at Giants (Zito, 12-8), 10:15 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 »

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

Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the time He also can be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.