Nationals' Path to the Postseason: Sept. 26, 2012

Nationals' Path to the Postseason: Sept. 26, 2012

Nationals' Path to the Postseason: Sept. 26, 2012
PHIlADELPHIA -- The Nats don't have reason to panic yet, but things still aren't comfortable atop the National League East. A 6-3 loss to the Phillies coupled with the Braves' 4-3 walk-off win against the Marlins on Tuesday narrowed Washington's lead over Atlanta to just four games -- the tightest margin since Aug. 28 -- with eight to play.

The Braves clinched a postseason berth with their victory, but still have their sights set on the East. Washington finishes with five against Philadelphia -- against which they've lost six of seven -- and three against St. Louis. The Braves, on the other hand, have lowly Miami, New York and Pittsburgh. Washington's magic number remains at five, and it's now impossible for the Nats to clinch the division in Philadelphia this week.

"All year long, we've won, they've won, we've won, they've won," shortstop Ian Desmond said of the division race with the Braves. "For [Atlanta] to get one up on us today, it's no big deal. We've still got 8-9 games to go, and I think we feel pretty good about ourselves."

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

Nationals (Lannan, 3-0) at Phillies (Kendrick, 10-11), 7:05 p.m. Preview >

Marlins (Johnson, 8-13) at Braves (Maholm, 12-10), 7:05 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

Joey Nowak is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @joeynowak.‬ This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.