Pirates' Path to the Postseason: Sept. 17, 2012

Pirates' Path to the Postseason: Sept. 17, 2012

CHICAGO -- The Pirates appeared in control early Sunday against the Cubs, but allowed four runs in the fifth and five in the sixth at Wrigley Field in a 13-9 loss the Cubs.

The defeat was Pittsburgh's 12th in its last 15 games, but the Bucs are still in contention for the second National League Wild Card spot. They sit three games behind the Cardinals, who finished a four-game series Sunday evening in Los Angeles.

Pittsburgh's struggles also have given the Pirates more competition. The Bucs' swoon has coincided with hot play by the Brewers and Phillies. Milwaukee won Sunday and now is a ahead of the Pirates in the Wild Card race, while the Phillies dropped their second straight and sit four games behind the second Wild Card spot.

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

Phillies (Lee, 5-7) at Mets (Dickey, 18-5), 7:10 p.m. Preview >

Pirates (Correia, 10-9) at Cubs (Wood, 6-11), 8:10 p.m. Preview >

Braves (Hudson, 14-6) at Marlins (LeBlanc, 2-4), 7:10 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

Cash Kruth is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @cashkruth. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.