They're in but there is work to be done.

Three scenarios on two different days in two different cities remain in play for the beginning of the Pirates' first playoff experience since 1992. They clinched at least a wild-card spot but with a good weekend -- and some outside help -- they can improve their position.

"This is the way our season has played out" manager Clint Hurdle said. "We've continued to battle to go play. We get the result we want we kind of put that one aside and go get another one. We don't get the result we want we wash it off and we get ready for the next game."

The Pirates trail the St. Louis Cardinals by three games in the National League Central Division with three games to play. The only way the Pirates can win the division and avoid the possibility of their season ending in a one-game wild-card playoff is by sweeping the Reds this weekend in Cincinnati in a series that starts today at Great American Ball Park and hoping the Chicago Cubs sweep the Cardinals in St. Louis. That would pull the Pirates and Cardinals into a tie for the division title and force an extra regular-season game a one-game tiebreaker to determine the division champion.

Because the Pirates have a better head-to-head record (10-9) against the Cardinals this season that 163rd game would be Monday at PNC Park. The winner of that game wins the division and advances to the National League Division Series which starts Thursday. The loser plays the Reds in a wild-card game Tuesday at home.

"I think that our goals haven't changed" Hurdle said. "That's to win the division."

Hurdle has experience with a 163rd game. His Colorado Rockies capped a monster run at the end of the 2007 season by defeating the San Diego Padres 9-8 in 13 innings to earn a wild-card playoff berth.

Trevor Hoffman blew the save in a three-run 13th and Jamey Carroll hit a sacrifice fly to score Matt Holliday and win the game.

The Cardinals' magic number is one meaning their next win or the Pirates' next loss eliminates the Pirates from contention for the division title.

The Pirates enter tonight's game with a one-game lead against the Reds. If they win the series taking two of three games or sweeping they will finish ahead of the Reds and host the wild-card game Tuesday.