ST. LOUIS -- Though the Dodgers on Sunday reeled off their fifth straight victory, St. Louis maintained its two-game lead for the second National League Wild Card with its own 10-4 win over the Nationals.
Three games remain on the regular-season schedule, which gives the Cardinals a magic number of two.
"I think there's a lot of teams that would love to be in the situation where we are," said Carlos Beltran, who lifted the Cards with a two-homer, five-RBI day. "I think it's great for baseball that the race is so close. At the same time, it's good for us that we're playing good teams. We're playing the Washington Nationals. Now we're playing Cincinnati. It's a good thing."
The Cardinals claimed a series win over Washington, which is nearing an NL East division title. The NL Central-champion Reds come to town next for a three-game series. St. Louis can clinch a postseason berth as early as Monday, if the Cards beat Cincinnati and the Dodgers lose to the Giants.
The Dodgers are the only other team the Cardinals have left to fend off for the final NL playoff spot. Milwaukee was officially eliminated when it lost Sunday afternoon.
Monday's key games to watch (all times ET)
Braves (Maholm, 13-10) at Pirates (Locke, 0-3), 7:05 p.m. Preview >
Phillies (Kendrick, 10-12) at Nationals (Lannan, 4-0), 7:05 p.m. Preview >
Reds (Arroyo, 12-9) at Cardinals (Garcia, 6-7), 8:15 p.m. Preview >
Giants (Cain, 16-5) at Dodgers (Harang, 10-10), 10:10 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.
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
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.