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

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

CHICAGO -- The Reds won't be able to clinch the National League Central in Chicago on Thursday, but it remains close. Cincinnati lowered the magic number to clinch the division to three with Wednesday's 6-5 victory over the Cubs in 11 innings. However, the Cardinals won their game vs. the Astros to prevent any thoughts of wrapping things up at Wrigley Field.

Cincinnati will return home to play the Dodgers on Friday. The Reds' magic number to clinch a Wild Card spot went to one as Los Angeles split a doubleheader with the Nationals on Wednesday. A Dodgers loss or a Reds win on Thursday would guarantee Cincinnati a playoff berth.

The Reds (90-59) are also chasing the Nationals (90-58) for the NL's best record and home-field advantage in the playoffs. They are a half-game behind.

"We know it's going to come, but we're not jumping the gun or anything," center fielder Drew Stubbs said of a division clinch. "We'll continue to play the way we have all year and let things take care of themselves."

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

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

Dodgers (Capuano, 11-10) at Nationals (Detwiler, 9-6), 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

Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Mark My Word, and follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.