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

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

Pirates' Path to the Postseason: Sept. 20, 2012
PITTSBURGH -- Following their 10th loss in 12 games, the Pirates take the field on Thursday for the finale of their series against the Brewers with a dual purpose: Stay on the positive side of .500, and take a step back into the National League Wild Card picture.

They'll hand the ball to the right guy to accomplish the missions -- left-hander Wandy Rodriguez, who has contributed to four of the team's eight wins since Aug. 18.

Wednesday's 3-1 loss to the Brewers set the Bucs' record at 74-74 and also sent them to the fringe of the postseason race, as they are 4 1/2 games behind the Cardinals, who currently have the second Wild Card berth.

Following Thursday's game, the Bucs will embark on their final road trip of the season, three games in Houston and four in New York against the Mets.

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

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

Brewers (Fiers, 9-8) at Pirates (Rodriguez, 11-13), 4:05 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 Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. He can also be found on Twitter @Tom_Singer. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.