Nationals' Path to the Postseason: Sept. 28, 2012

Nationals' Path to the Postseason: Sept. 28, 2012

PHILADELPHIA -- The Nationals didn't get to clinch the National League East title in Philadelphia this week, but they did take two of three from the rival Phillies to cut their magic number to three as the Braves continued to surge.

The Nats have realized they can't count on Atlanta to lose -- the Braves have won 10 of 12 after sweeping the Marlins -- but just three more wins can seal the deal. A big series in St. Louis looms, with the Cardinals (Wild Card) and Nationals (NL East) both looking to clinch.

"I always take nothing for granted," manager Davey Johnson said. "And I know if we win three more, we're in, we win the pennant. That's all I want everybody in that room to figure on."

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

Nationals (Jackson, 9-10) at Cardinals (Wainwright, 13-12), 8:15 p.m. Preview >

Mets (Niese, 12-9) at Braves (Hudson, 16-6), 7:35 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.