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Cardinals focus their playoff picture with win, Pirates loss

The Cardinals have stretched their lead in the National League Central to two games.

But, according to Major League Baseball's playoff probability chart, the top competitors from the division are nearly certain to continue their three-way battle into the offseason.

Although they have not technically clinched, MLB predicts that the Cardinals and Pittsburgh Pirates have a 100 percent chance of making the playoffs while the Reds have a 98 percent chance.

The only team with a glimmer of hope for a wildcard berth located outside of the NL Central is the Washington Nationals who have a 2 percent chance of catching the Reds. Cincinnati has done its part to close out Washington by beating up on Astros. But the Nationals have stayed alive with a hot streak of their own.

While they're likely to get into the playoffs, much is left to be decided about the seeding the Cardinals get. Of course there is a lot of value in winning their division and being guaranteed a five-game divisional series instead of a one-game roll of the dice in the wild card play-in.

The Redbirds also are fighting for home field advantage. They stand one game back of the Braves for the best record in the National League. The Cardinals have pulled two games ahead of the Los Angeles Dodgers. 

If the season ended today, The Reds would have to travel to Pittsburgh to play the wildcard game against the Pirates. The winner would travel to Atlanta to face the Braves and the Cardinals would host the Dodgers at Busch Stadium.

The Cardinals and Pirates games last night show how close the race remains. Pittsburgh was within one out of defeating the Padres and the Rockies were a single away from beating the Redbirds Wednesday night.