ST. LOUIS -- Ensuring that they will continue to control their own destiny, the Cardinals closed out a sweep over the Astros with a 5-4 win on Thursday.
The win solidified St. Louis' hold on the second NL Wild Card spot, which it leads by three games over the Dodgers. The Cardinals also hold a 2 1/2-game cushion over the Brewers, who scored four eighth-inning runs to defeat the Pirates, 9-7, shortly after the Cardinals left Busch Stadium to embark on their final road trip of the year.
With this upcoming swing through Chicago and Houston, the Cardinals seem to have set themselves up well for a strong season-ending push. Manager Mike Matheny, though, said he is not getting too caught up in scoreboard watching just yet.
"I pay attention, but probably not as closely as I should," Matheny said. "I truly believe that the more I focus on that that, the less I'm focused on what we have to do. I know that I need my concentration 100 percent. I'm not good enough to be watching what everyone else is doing and still have my head in everything that is going on with us."
Friday's key games to watch (all times ET)
Cardinals (Carpenter, 0-0) at Cubs (Volstad, 3-10), 2:20 p.m. Preview >
Braves (Hanson, 12-8) at Phillies (Kendrick, 9-11), 7:05 p.m. Preview >
Brewers (Marcum, 5-4) at Nationals (Jackson, 9-10), 7:05 p.m. Preview >
Dodgers (TBA) at Reds (Arroyo, 12-8), 7:10 p.m. Preview >
Pirates (Locke, 0-1) at Astros (Gonzalez, 2-1), 8:05 p.m. Preview >
D-backs (Miley, 15-10) at Rockies (Pomeranz, 1-9), 8:10 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.