In Major League Baseball, the National League Division Series (NLDS) determine which two teams from the National League will advance to the National League Championship Series. The Division Series consist of two best-of-five series, featuring the three division winners and a wild-card team.
The Division Series was permanently created after the 1993 season when Major League Baseball restructured each league into three divisions, but their first regular playing was in 1995 due to the cancellation of the 1994 playoffs. Previously, because of a players' strike in 1981, a split-season format forced a divisional playoff series, in which the Montreal Expos won the Eastern Division series over the Philadelphia Phillies three games to two while the Los Angeles Dodgers beat the Houston Astros three games to two in the Western Division. The team with the best overall record in the major leagues, the Cincinnati Reds, failed to win their division in either half of that season and were controversially excluded, as were the St. Louis Cardinals, who finished with the NL's second-best record.
Since 1998, the wild-card team has been assigned to play the division winner with the best winning percentage in one series, and the other two division winners meet in the other series. However, if the wild-card team and the division winner with the best record are from the same division, the wild-card team plays the division winner with the second-best record, and the remaining two division leaders play. In any event, the two series winners move on to the best-of-seven NLCS. The winner of the wild card has won the first round 7 out of the 11 years since the re-alignment and creation of the NLDS.
Since the NLDS' inception, the Atlanta Braves & Houston Astros and San Diego Padres & St. Louis Cardinals are the only teams to have met more than twice, with the Braves winning the series the first three times and the Astros winning next two. The Cardinals won all three series against the Padres. The Los Angeles Dodgers in the 1981 NLDS, the first year of the Division Series, remain the only NL team to lose the first 2 games and win the next 3 games, defeating the Houston Astros. The Dodgers went on to win the 1981 World Series against the New York Yankees.
There is currently no award for the Most Valuable Player of the Division Series.
† indicates wild card team
- Division Series
- Division Series#Criticism of scheduling
- National League pennant winners 1876-1900
- National League pennant winners 1901-68
- American League pennant winners 1901-68
- American League Division Series (ALDS)
- National League Championship Series (NLCS)
- American League Championship Series (ALCS)
- World Series