PHILADELPHIA -- The Braves took another step toward locking up a postseason berth and kept their division-title hopes alive with a 2-1 win over the Phillies on Sunday afternoon. Atlanta's magic number to clinch a playoff spot has been reduced to two.
While the Braves are almost assuredly going to secure one of the National League's two Wild Card spots, they are still hoping to win the NL East. With nine games remaining, Atlanta sits 4 1/2 games behind the first-place Nationals, who will conclude a four-game series against the Brewers before playing the Phillies and Cardinals over the remainder of the week.
Following Monday's off-day, the Braves will play the Marlins and Mets. Their challenge appears much more appealing than that which the Nationals will face.
The Braves' magic number to clinch home-field advantage in the one-game playoff that will be played between the two Wild Card entrants is down to three. Mathematically, it rests at four. But because they won the season-series against the second-place Cardinals, they would win the first tiebreaker.
"We're kind of in the middle ground," Braves catcher David Ross said. "We feel like we've got the Wild Card secured and we're going to make the playoffs. The division is a little out of reach. But it's close enough that we're still fighting for it."
Monday's key games to watch (all times ET)
Brewers (Estrada, 4-6) at Nationals (Zimmermann, 11-8), 1:05 p.m. Preview >
Cardinals (Lynn, 16-7) at Astros (TBD), 8:05 p.m. Preview >
If the postseason started today ...
This is how the teams would match up: Postseason Bracket »
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.
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 Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.