MIAMI -- The Braves took advantage of two idle teams on Monday, and they took one step closer to a playoff berth in the process.
After their fourth straight win, a 7-5 defeat of the Marlins at Marlins Park, the Braves gained a half-game on the Cardinals for the first National League Wild Card spot, putting them 7 1/2 up on St. Louis in the standings. Atlanta also inched a half-game closer to Washington in the race for the NL East, cutting the Nats' lead to five games in the division.
"We definitely want to win the division," second baseman Dan Uggla said. "That one-game playoff is such a gamble -- not a gamble, but it's one game deciding who's going to go. It's scary kind of. We'd rather automatically be in the [NL Division Series] and not worry about that one-game playoff. But if we're put in that situation, we'll take care of business the best we can."
Catching Washington could prove difficult, as none of Atlanta's 14 remaining games are against the Nats. However, the Braves' schedule down the stretch appears to be favorable compared to that of the Nats, whose final 16 games are all against teams vying for a postseason berth. Atlanta still has five games remaining against the Marlins and three each against the Phillies, Mets and Pirates, with eight on the road.
"Crazy things happen in this game, and you can't ever quit until the last out," Uggla said. "We're just going to keep playing and see what happens."
Tuesday's key games to watch (all times ET)
Dodgers (Harang, 9-9) at Nationals (Zimmermann, 10-8), 7:05 p.m. ET Preview >Braves (Maholm, 12-10) at Marlins (Eovaldi, 4-12), 7:10 p.m. ET 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
Tom Green is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.