With NHL players and NFL referees all currently locked out, at least baseball fans have something familiar to look forward to as MLB teams...

With NHL players and NFL referees all currently locked out, at least baseball fans have something familiar to look forward to as MLB teams nationwide hit the home stretch in the fight for the coveted 2012 playoff spots. With the playoffs just over a week away, four of the National League’s five playoff berths have been clinched, and top division teams in the American League continue to battle it out.

The league’s announcement in March of a novel 2-wildcard system has many teams hoping to pull everything together for one last ditch effort this year, making the postseason run exciting for fans across the country. The wild card games are scheduled to take place on Friday, October 5, and Game One in the division series are set to take place on Saturday, October 6. All games will be broadcast on the TBS network, with air times to be announced at a later date.

The last week has been very exciting for both the teams and fans in the National League. Four teams have thus far ensured themselves spots in the 2012 MLB postseason: Cincinnati Reds, Washington Nationals, San Francisco Giants, and Atlanta Braves.

The Cincinnati Reds of the National League Central Division were the first to clinch a playoff spot in the 2012 season. The Reds defeated the Chicago Cubs 5-3 on September 20, despite the absence of manager Dusty Baker who was hospitalized following a diagnosis of irregular heartbeat and a recent mini-stroke.

Later in the day on September 20, the Washington Nationals made history by clinching a playoff spot for the National League East Division. The Nationals beat the Los Angeles Dodgers 4-1, ensuring the team’s first winning season since moving from Montreal in 2005. The 2012 playoffs will be their second postseason berth in franchise history, and the first since the Montreal Expos came to within a game of the World Series back in 1981.

The San Francisco Giants clinched their playoff spot in the National League West Division with an 8-4 win over the San Diego Padres on September 22, winning their division with ten games to spare. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, this is the 8th NL West crown for the Giants, and they won it despite a series of unfortunate events affecting the team that include the drug-related suspension of Melky Cabrera.

The most recent clinching of a playoff berth happened at the hands of the Braves’ Freddie Freeman on September. Freeman hit a 2-run walk-off home run in Atlanta’s win over the Miami Marlins, ensuring them a spot in the National League East Division alongside the Nationals. The Braves missed out in the 2011 postseason, retiring Brave Chipper Jones told the Associated Press, “last year was somewhat of a fluke,” and the team is now “shooting for the stars.”

The playoff race is still pretty tight in the American League, with no teams clinching a spot as of yet. So far, the New York Yankees, Detroit Tigers, and Texas Rangers lead their respective divisions, and with only a short amount of time until the playoffs begin these teams will likely be making an appearance.