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

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

MIAMI -- Kris Medlen improved his magical number to 21, and he helped the Braves improve theirs to five on Wednesday night at Marlins Park.

Medlen tossed a masterful eight shutout innings as Atlanta took home a win for the 21st straight start by the righty. The 3-0 win against the Marlins, coupled with the Dodgers' split of a doubleheader with the Nationals, cut the Braves' magic number to clinch a playoff berth to five.

The 21 straight wins by the Braves when Medlen starts put them in elite company. The Yankees were the last team to win at least 21 straight starts by a pitcher, winning 22 consecutive Whitey Ford starts from 1950-53.

"Every time you can get in the same sentences with guys like that, it's really cool," Medlen said. "I try not to get too ahead of myself. I try to focus on the goal at hand, which is trying to make the playoffs. Every five days I'm going to try to go out and do my thing, and if that leads to more wins, then it does."

The Braves also moved to within five games of the Nats in the National League East race thanks to the split in the twin bill. Atlanta has 12 games remaining on its schedule after Thursday's off-day, and the Braves maintain a 6 1/2-game lead for the top NL Wild Card spot after the Cardinals also won Wednesday.

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

Tom Green is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.