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What is the Cardinals’ magic number to clinch the NL Central division?

We’re tracking how St. Louis is doing in terms of wrapping up the division with plenty of time before the postseason.

MLB: Milwaukee Brewers at St. Louis Cardinals
St. Louis Cardinals designated hitter Albert Pujols (5) reacts after hitting a one-run single against the Milwaukee Brewers during the first inning at Busch Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry
Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

9/28 Update: The Cardinals clinched the NL Central division with a win over the Brewers on Tuesday night. St. Louis should be locked into the 3-seed in the postseason. The Mets and/or Braves will take the 2-spot behind the Dodgers.

9/26 Update: The Cardinals’ magic number is at 3 entering Monday night with plenty of teams off. St. Louis will have a shot to clinch the NL Central a short two-game set with the second-place Brewers starting Tuesday.

9/23 Update: The Cardinals' magic number to clinch the NL Central sits at 5. They will face the Los Angeles Dodgers in a three-game series this weekend.

The St. Louis Cardinals were locked in a tight divisional race at the beginning of August. But a torrid month put them in the driver’s seat for a division crown. Here are the Cardinals’ magic numbers to clinch both a playoff berth and their 12th NL Central title.

Cardinals magic numbers

Playoff berth: 3
NL Central title: 3

There is a significant gap between the Cardinals and the NL East leader for the No. 2 seed in the National League playoffs, so St. Louis is all but guaranteed to open its postseason as the No. 3 seed and face the NL’s No. 6 seed — the third NL Wild Card team. All games in that best-of-three series would be played at Busch Stadium. Although their overall record isn’t as impressive as the Dodgers’ or the Astros’, the Cardinals look like a tough out in the postseason. Their offense is headed by Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado, two veteran infielders who may finish 1-2 in the NL MVP voting this fall. Plus, Albert Pujols has provided more value to their lineup than anyone imagined at the start of the year. Their rotation is solid throughout and highlighted by left-hander Jordan Montgomery, who has been one of the best starting pitchers in baseball since coming over from the Yankees at the trade deadline.