ST. LOUIS -- A 4-1 win over the Astros on Tuesday gave the Cardinals back-to-back wins for just the second time since Aug. 27. It also improved St. Louis' cushion for the second National League Wild Card spot to 1 1/2 games.
The Dodgers, who are the Cardinals' closest competitor, lost a half game in the standings by not playing. Their game in Washington D.C. was postponed due to rain. Other NL Wild Card hopefuls, Milwaukee and Pittsburgh, faced each other in the first game of a three-game series in Pittsburgh. With a win in the opener, the Brewers remain 2 1/2 games behind the Cardinals. Pittsburgh's deficit dropped to 3 1/2 games.
"We have an opportunity to get things going in the right direction now," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "We need to make every game, every at-bat, every pitch count. That is really where we are right now. There's really no other way to look at it. Hopefully we'll start playing good baseball and get the fans really excited."
Fourteen games remain on the Cardinals' regular-season schedule, and the next eight are against sub-.500 teams Houston and Chicago. St. Louis is a combined 15-9 against those two Central division foes this year.
"They aren't playing bad baseball," outfielder Matt Holliday said of the Astros. "They have Major League players on their team. In baseball, anything can happen. We have our goals in front of us and it would be a big shame on us if we overlook anybody."
Today's key games to watch (all times ET)
Astros (Harrell, 10-9) at Cardinals (Lynn, 15-7), 8:15 p.m. Preview >
Dodgers (Harang, 9-9) at Nationals (Zimmermann, 10-8), 4:05 p.m. (Game 1) Preview >
Dodgers (Beckett, 6-13) at Nationals (Lannan, 3-0), Game 2 Preview >
Brewers (Estrada, 3-6) at Pirates (McPherson, 0-0), 7:05 p.m. Preview >
Phillies (Hamels, 15-6) at Mets (Harvey, 3-5), 7:10 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.