NL playoff standings: Cardinals reduce magic number to 1

Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports

The Dodgers will likely begin the NLDS on the road. Whether they face the Braves or Cardinals will be determined in the final four days of the regular season.

The Cardinals were the big winners in the National League on Wednesday, the only one of five NL playoff teams to earn a victory. St. Louis lowered its magic number to clinch the National League Central to one and now owns the best record in the NL.

Here are Wednesday's relevant results.

Giants 6, Dodgers 4: A third straight poor start from Ricky Nolasco snapped a three-game winning streak for Los Angeles, who trails St. Louis and Atlanta by two in the loss column for the No. 1 seed in the National League.

Cardinals 4, Nationals 1: Matt Adams homered and doubled, and Yadier Molina drove in a pair of runs for St. Louis, who swept Washington in three games.

Cubs 4, Pirates 2: A three-run home run by Darnell McDonald in the sixth inning sank the Pirates, who still have the tiniest of chances to win the NL Central. Pittsburgh would need to sweep three games in Cincinnati and have the Cardinals get swept by Chicago.

If by chance both sweeps happen, the Pirates would host the Cardinals in a one-game tie-breaker for the division on Monday, Sept. 30. Pittsburgh would get home field advantage in said game thanks to winning 10 of 19 games against the Cardinals in 2013. The winner Monday would be NL Central champs, with the loser hosting Cincinnati on Tuesday in the wild card game.

Mets 1, Reds 0: I was hoping to write about the potential of a three-team tie in the NL Central, but Daisuke Matsuzaka helped ruin that by beating Cincinnati on Wednesday. With the loss, the Reds are eliminated from winning the NL Central. But they can still host the wild card game on Tuesday.

The Reds and Pirates meet for three games in Cincinnati beginning Friday night and, putting aside the double-sweep dream scenario for Pittsburgh, the winner of the three-game series in Cincinnati this weekend hosts the NL wild card game.

If the Pirates take two of three, they will finish with a better record than the Reds; if Cincinnati wins two of three games they tie Pittsburgh and would host the wild card game based on winning the season series, now tied at 8-8.

Brewers 4, Braves 0: Atlanta didn't do much the entire game, but the story of the night was Carlos Gomez going insane, and self-proclaimed keeper of order Brian McCann trying to set him straight.

Should the Braves and Cardinals tie, Atlanta owns the tiebreaker by virtue of winning four of seven head-to-head games this season.

The Dodgers' magic number to top the Braves is seven, with eight outcomes remaining (four games for both teams); the Dodgers' tragic number, which would clinch Atlanta having a higher seed, is two.

The Dodgers are now 2½ games behind the Cardinals though they hold the tie-breaker over St. Louis. The Dodgers' magic number to have a higher seed than St. Louis is six; their tragic number is two, with seven outcomes left (four games for the Dodgers, three for St. Louis).

All three playoff-bound NL Central teams are off on Thursday, leaving a schedule relatively light on important games (all times PT):

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