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Cardinals' Path to the Postseason: Sept. 16, 2012

LOS ANGELES -- The Cardinals' inability to close out a one-run game on Saturday cost them a chance to extend their lead for the National League's second Wild Card spot. Instead of enjoying a two-game cushion, the turn of events in the ninth leave the Cards with the same 76-70 record as the Dodgers, who beat St. Louis, 4-3, in the third game of the series.

"It's pretty obvious that loss stings," Allen Craig said afterward. "It was one of those deals that happens and it stings, but you have to be positive and come back tomorrow. We're still in a good spot."

Indeed, the Cardinals aren't in the worst of positions. But they will have to win on Sunday to ensure they exit this seven-game road trip still in the second Wild Card position. And the Dodgers aren't the Cardinals' only competition. The Pirates, Brewers and Phillies all remain within three games of the Cards and Dodgers. Pittsburgh and Milwaukee won on Saturday.

Saturday's loss carried additional significance, too, as it ensures Los Angeles of winning the season series over the Cards. The Dodgers, who hold a 6-4 head-to-head advantage, would host a tiebreaker game should they tie with St. Louis for the final Wild Card spot.

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

Cardinals (Wainwright 13-13) at Dodgers (Fife, 0-1), 4:10 p.m. Preview >

Reds (Latos, 12-4) at Marlins (Nolasco, 12-12), 1:10 p.m. Preview>

Phillies (Halladay, 10-7) at Astros (Lyles, 4-11), 2:05 p.m. Preview >

Mets (Young, 4-7) at Brewers (Peralta, 1-0), 2:10 p.m. Preview >

Pirates (Locke, 0-1) at Cubs (Volstad, 3-10), 2:20 p.m. Preview >

Giants (Vogelsong, 12-8) at D-backs (Corbin, 5-7), 4:10 p.m. Preview >

Nationals (Gonzalez, 19-7) at Braves (Minor, 8-10), 8:05 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

Full Game Coverage
LOS Full Game Coverage ANGELES -- The Cardinals' inability to close out a one-run game on Saturday cost them a chance to extend their lead for the National League's second Wild Card spot. Instead of enjoying a two-game cushion, the turn of events in the ninth leave the Cards with the same 76-70 record as the Dodgers, who beat St. Louis, 4-3, in the third game of the series.

"It's pretty obvious that loss stings," Allen Craig said afterward. "It was one of those deals that happens and it stings, but you have to be positive and come back tomorrow. We're still in a good spot."

Indeed, the Cardinals aren't in the worst of positions. But they will have to win on Sunday to ensure they exit this seven-game road trip still in the second Wild Card position. And the Dodgers aren't the Cardinals' only competition. The Pirates, Brewers and Phillies all remain within three games of the Cards and Dodgers. Pittsburgh and Milwaukee won on Saturday.

Saturday's loss carried additional significance, too, as it ensures Los Angeles of winning the season series over the Cards. The Dodgers, who hold a 6-4 head-to-head advantage, would host a tiebreaker game should they tie with St. Louis for the final Wild Card spot.

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

Cardinals (Wainwright 13-13) at Dodgers (Fife, 0-1), 4:10 p.m. Preview >

Reds (Latos, 12-4) at Marlins (Nolasco, 12-12), 1:10 p.m. Preview>

Phillies (Halladay, 10-7) at Astros (Lyles, 4-11), 2:05 p.m. Preview >

Mets (Young, 4-7) at Brewers (Peralta, 1-0), 2:10 p.m. Preview >

Pirates (Locke, 0-1) at Cubs (Volstad, 3-10), 2:20 p.m. Preview >

Giants (Vogelsong, 12-8) at D-backs (Corbin, 5-7), 4:10 p.m. Preview >

Nationals (Gonzalez, 19-7) at Braves (Minor, 8-10), 8:05 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

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

St. Louis Cardinals