NEW YORK -- As the Nationals swept the free-falling Mets this week at Citi Field, they had one eye on the scores coming out of Milwaukee, where the streaking Brewers also took care of the Braves. In effect, the simultaneous sweeps -- Washington beating New York and Milwaukee handling second-place Atlanta -- accelerated the Nationals' race toward the postseason.

Following a 2-0 Nats win at Citi Field on Wednesday and Milwaukee's 8-2 win against the Braves, the Nats' magic number to clinch the National League East dwindled to 11 while Washington's lead over Atlanta in the standings climbed to 8 1/2 games. The two teams will meet for a crucial weekend series beginning Friday at Turner Field.

"We just need to continue doing the things we've been doing and just worry about ourselves," third baseman Ryan Zimmerman said. "If we keep playing the kind of baseball that we've played all year and take it one game at a time and not think about stuff too far ahead ... obviously we have a big series coming up these next three days. We need to go down there and just try to win a series like we've done all year."

Friday's key game to watch (all times ET)

Nationals (Detwiler, 9-6) at Braves (Medlen, 8-1), 7:35 p.m. Preview >

If the postseason started today ...

AMERICAN LEAGUE
Wild Card: Second Wild Card at First Wild Card
Division Series: Second-best AL record vs. Third-best AL record | Best AL record at Wild Card winner

NATIONAL LEAGUE
Wild Card: Second Wild Card at First Wild Card
Division Series: Second-best NL record vs. Third-best NL record | Best NL record at Wild Card winner

Tiebreaker rules »

Postseason 101

Magic numbers
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.

Tiebreaker scenarios
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.

Tiebreaker rules »

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