What is NLDS in Baseball? – Rules & Significance Explained

A. Coatess

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A. Coatess



Sean Hunter

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what is nlds in baseball

NLDS stands for the National League Division Series, which is a pivotal stage of the Major League Baseball (MLB) postseason. As teams battle for supremacy, the NLDS determines which National League franchises advance to the League Championship Series.

The NLDS is the best-of-five series, showcasing the pinnacle of baseball talents with intense matchups, electrifying performances, and jaw-dropping moments. With a rich history and storied rivalries, the NLDS captivates fans with its high-stakes baseball.

Join us as we explore what is NLDS in baseball, its history, structure, and notable playoffs.

All About the National League Division Series (NLDS)

1. Definition

The NLDS or the National League Division Series is played immediately after the regular season and decides the top two teams that will advance to the National League Championship Series (NLCS).

2. NLDS History


The NLDS was first introduced in 1981 when the MLB expanded the playoffs from two teams in each league to four. Prior to that, only the winners of the National League East and the National League West would advance directly to the NLCS.

In 1981, the NLDS followed a best-of-five format, with the first team to win three games advancing.

In 1994, the MLB made three divisions per league the standard and added a Wild Card team to the playoffs. The first official NLDS took place in 1995, with the Atlanta Braves and Cincinnati Reds advancing to the NLCS.

In 2012, a second wild card team was added, leading to an additional single-game qualifier. The two Wild Card teams would face off in a one-game playoff to determine which would advance to the NLDS.

3. How does NLDS Work


The NLDS determines which team from each National League division will advance to the NLCS. Here’s how it works:

  • The NLDS involves four teams: three division winners (East, Central, and West) and one wild card team.
  • The teams are seeded based on the MLB division series records. The wild card team competes against the division winner with the best record, while the remaining two division winners face off against each other.
  • The first team to win three games advances to the NLCS. The higher-seeded team has home-field advantage, hosting Games 1, 2, and 5 (if necessary) in their home ballpark.
  • The NLDS series length is typically about a wee The series follows a 2-2-1 format, with two games hosted by the higher-seeded team, followed by two games at the lower-seeded team’s ballpark, and a potential fifth game back at the higher-seeded team’s home stadium.
  • The NLDS teams who won the matchups move on to the NLCS.

4. NLDS Format and Schedule


Here is the general format of the NLDS. Note that specific details and scheduling may vary from season to season based on MLB regulations and considerations.

  • The NLDS consists of four teams from the National League, which include three division winners and one wild card.
  • The division winner with the best regular-season record faces the Wild Card team, while the other two division winners play against each other. There may be two to three matches per day until the playoff ends, depending on how schedules are drawn up.
  • The teams with the best regular-season record among the matchups receive home-field advantage. They host Games 1, 2, and 5 if necessary. The other teams hosted Games 3 and 4.
  • The two teams that win their respective NLDS matchups move on to the NLCS, where they compete for the chance to represent the National League in the World Series.

The NLDS schedule happens pretty quickly. Last year, the entire playoff took place from October 18 to October 23, so teams had a very busy schedule regarding matches.

How Has the Format of the NLDS Changed Over the Years

The format of the NLDS has undergone several changes since its inception. Here is an overview of the format changes over the years:

  • In 1981, the NLDS was introduced when MLB increased the playoffs from two teams in each league to four. The playoffs featured a best-of-five series between the winners of each division.
  • In 1994, a Wild Card team was added to the playoffs.
  • In 2012, a second Wild Card team was added, leading to the creation of the Wild Card Game.
  • From 2012 to 2022, the wild card team that advances to the Division Series faced the number 1 seed, regardless of their division.
  • As of 2022, the #2 seed division winner will face the lowest-ranked division winner and wild card team, whereas the #1 seed will face the winner of the No. 4 v. 5 wild card matchup. Even if the No. 6-seed wild card team advances, there will be no reseeding.

5. Future of NLDS and Its Role in Baseball


The NLDS format has already seen changes in recent years, such as the introduction of the Wild Card Game and adjustments to divisional matchups. The NLDS plays a crucial role in determining the best two teams who will compete in the NLCS and eventually in the World Series.

The future of the NLDS will depend on the vision of the MLB and its desire to create an exciting and fair postseason experience for teams and fans alike.

6. Famous NLDS Rivalries, Notable Teams and Players

Let’s take a glimpse at the historic matchups in NLDS baseball.

Faceoffs Matchup Record Years
5 Atlanta Braves vs. Houston Astros The Braves won every time. 1997, 1999, 2001, 2004, 2005
3 San Diego Padres vs. St. Louis Cardinals The Cardinals won. 3–0 for the first two matches and 3-1 for the third 1996, 2005, 2006
3 St. Louis Cardinals vs. Los Angeles Dodgers Cardinals, 3–1

Dodgers, 3-0

Cardinals, 3-1

2004, 2009, 2014
3 Los Angeles Dodgers vs. Atlanta Braves Braves, 3-0

Dodgers, 3–1

Dodgers, 3-1

1996, 2013, 2018
2 Florida Marlins vs. San Francisco Giants Marlins, 3–0

Marlins, 3-1

1997, 2003
2 San Francisco Giants vs. Atlanta Braves Giants, 3–2

Giants, 3-1

2002, 2010
2 New York Mets vs. Los Angeles Dodgers Mets, 3–0

Mets, 3-2

2006, 2015
2 St. Louis Cardinals vs. Atlanta Braves Cardinals, 3–0

Cardinals, 3-2

2000, 2019
2 Los Angeles Dodgers vs. San Diego Padres Dodgers, 3-0

Padres, 3–1

2020, 2022

The standout players in the NLDS can vary from year to year, depending on team performance and individual achievements in the playoffs. However, here are some notable players:

  • Bryce Harper, Phillies
  • Yordan Alvarez, Astros
  • Harrison Bader, Yankees
  • Manny Manchado, Padres

As for teams, the Cardinals have the highest number of wins in the NLDS, followed by the Dodgers and Atlanta Braves.



NLDS meaning is the National League Division Series, which produces the best two teams to move to the NLCS.

NLCS meaning is National League Championship Series, the penultimate round in the MLB postseason. It determines the National League representative advancing to the World Series to compete against the representative of the American League.

People often ask, “Is the NLDS best of 7 or 5 games?” “NLCS is best of how many games?”

The maximum NLDS number of games is five while in the NLCS, it’s seven.

Similarities and Differences of NLDS and ALDS


Both the NLDS and ALDS are playoff rounds in the MLB. They involve four teams from their respective leagues and follow a best-of-five format and the 2-2-1 schedule.

The NLDS exclusively involves teams from the National League, while the ALDS includes teams from the American League. Unlike the NLDS, the ALDS employ the designated hitter (DH) throughout all games. The NLDS only utilizes the DH if the game is played in an American League ballpark during interleague play or the World Series.

The two playoff rounds’ impact on the postseason landscape includes shaping the teams that advance to the LC and determining World Series contenders.


Is the NLDS best-of-5 or 7 series?

It’s a best-of-five series. It features two division winners and the winners of the wild card playoffs. The winning two teams advance to the NLCS.

When is the NLDS?

The NLDS is typically scheduled in early to mid-October, following the conclusion of the regular season in the MLB. The specific NLDS dates can vary each year, depending on the MLB schedule.

How many games are played in the NLDS?

There’s a maximum of five games that can be played in the NLDS. The first team to win three games advances to the NLCS.

Where are the NLDS games played?

The NLDS games are played at the home stadiums of the teams participating in the series. The team with the better regular-season record among the two teams in a match receives home-field advantage and hosts Games 1, 2, and, if necessary, Game 5. The other team hosts Games 3 and 4.

What are the NLDS times?

NLDS games have been scheduled at various times throughout the day. Some games are scheduled during the afternoon, while others are scheduled for the evening. It’s best to check the MLB website for specific times.

Who won the NLDS in 2022?

The Philadelphia Phillies did. The team defeated the San Diego Padres. It was a historic event, because it’s the first time that two wild cards competed against each other in the NLCS.


“What is NLDS in baseball” or “NLDS 5 or 7 games” is a common question by baseball fans. The National League playoff is one of the most exciting and anticipated events in baseball, featuring a best-of-five series, which determines the two best teams to advance to the NLCS and ultimately, the World Series.

With its intense games, thrilling moments, and top-notch talent, the MLB NLDS is a must-watch for any baseball fan. Whether you’re rooting for your favorite team or just appreciate great baseball, the NLDS never disappoints.

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