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 implemeneted in 1981 as a result of a midseason strike with first place teams before the strike taking on the first place teams after. After 1993, it was implemented for good when Major League Baseball restructured each league into three divisions, but their next 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. The Atlanta Braves have currently played in the most NL division series with eleven appearances. One team has yet to play in an NL division series, the Pittsburgh Pirates. The Washington Nationals also have only appeared as the Montreal Expos.
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. 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. According to Nate Silver, the advent of this playoff series, and especially of the wild card, has caused teams to focus more on "getting to the playoffs" rather than "winning the pennant" as the primary goal of the regular season.
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