MLB Playoffs 2012: Washington Natonals set to face either Atlanta or St. Louis

Photo: Associated Press

In past years, by this point, the Washington Nationals would know exactly who they were playing in the National League Division Series.

However, with Major League Baseball's new playoff format, nothing is certain for the National League East champions, and nothing will be until Friday night.

Washington clinched the National League's best record with their victory over Philadelphia on Wednesday. That sets them up to not only carry home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, but also set a match-up between them and the NL Wild Card winner.

In 2012, though, that Wild Card spot comes down to a one-game playoff. On Friday at 5 p.m., the St. Louis Cardinals will visit the Atlanta Braves, and the winner gets Washington in the NLDS.

That winner will host the Nationals in Games 1 and 2 on Sunday and Monday, with Games 3, 4 and 5 (4 and 5 if necessary) back at Nationals Park. The full Nationals NLDS schedule is as follows (* - if necessary):

Game # Date Venue Time 1 Sunday, Oct. 7 Atlanta/St. Louis 3 p.m. 2 Monday, Oct. 8 Atlanta/St. Louis 4:30 p.m. 3 Wednesday, Oct. 10 Nationals Park TBA 4* Thursday, Oct. 11 Nationals Park TBA 5* Friday, Oct. 12 Nationals Park TBA

The other NLDS is already set. The Cincinnati Reds will take on the San Francisco Giants starting Saturday.

In the American League, the junior circuit's Wild Card spot will come down to a game between the Baltimore Orioles and Texas Rangers. The Orioles, who are making their first playoff appearance since 1997, will visit the two-time defending American League champions.

The Rangers had a chance to win the AL West during a three-game series with Oakland this week, but the Athletics swept them to capture the division title.

The winner of the Baltimore/Texas game will get the chance to take on the AL East champion New York Yankees in one American League Division Series. The other AL series will match-up the Athletics and Detroit Tigers.