The MLB playoffs are back to the 10-squad format in 2021 after the league expanded to a 16-team free-for-all last year following a shortened season. The winners of the three divisions in the NL (National League) and AL (American League) all make the postseason as well as the next best two teams in each division for a total of 10 clubs.
The two non division-winning teams in each league each face off in a one-game Wild Card showdown with the winner advancing to the best-of-five divisional round against their league’s top-seeded squad. Meanwhile, the second and third seeds in each league square off against each other with the winner of each series meeting for the division’s best-of-seven Championship Series. The winner of the AL then takes on the winner of the NL in the best-of-seven World Series which opens on Tuesday, October 26th.
In the best-of-five series the the higher-seeded teams play the first two games at home, the second two on the road and the fifth and deciding contest at home if necessary. When the best-of-seven Championship Series take place the higher seed begins with two games at home, three on the road and the final two back at home when necessary. As for the World Series, the team with the best regular-season record gets home-field advantage in the 2-3-2 format.
This year’s AL Wild Card matchup wasn’t decided until the final inning of the final day of the season when the New York Yankees beat the Tampa Bay Rays and the Boston Red Sox downed the Washington Nationals in their final at bats.
The dramatic end to the 162-game marathon saw the Toronto Blue Jays and Seattle Mariners both miss the Wild Card action by one game and two games respectively with records of 91-71 and 90-72 while the Yankees and Red Sox both finished at 92-70.
The Red Sox hosted the Yankees in the Wild Card Game and emerged with a decisive 6-2 victory. This earned them the right to play the Tampa Bay Rays who finished as the top-seeded team in the AL by capturing the AL East Division with a record of 100-62.
Meanwhile, the Houston Astros are the second-seeded AL side as they won the West Division with a mark of 95-67. They’ll be taking on the third-seeded Chicago White Sox who topped the Central Division at 93-69.
Over in the NL, the Los Angeles Dodgers wrapped up the first Wild Card spot by finishing second in the NL West at 106-56 and took on the St. Louis Cardinals who finished second in the Central Division at 90-72. The Dodgers won the Wild Card game in dramatic fashion with a walk-off two-run homer in the bottom of the ninth inning for a 3-1 triumph. The victory enables them to take on the the NL’s top-seeded San Francisco Giants who edged the Dodgers to the West Division title by just one game with a mark of 107-55.
The other NL series sees the second-seeded Milwaukee Brewers battle it out with the third-seeded Atlanta Braves. The Brewers topped the Central Division at 95-67 while the Braves captured the East at 88-73.
The Los Angeles Dodgers enter the playoffs as the defending World Series champion and are trying to become the first team in over 20 years to win the title two years in a row. The last club to successfully defend their World Series crown was the New York Yankees when the won the championship three years running from 1998 to 2000.
Three of this year’s playoff teams won at least 100 games this season; the Rays, Dodgers and Giants and the Rays and Brewers are the only two of the remaining clubs which have never won a World Series.
The Red Sox have reached 13 World Series and won nine of them while the Giants franchise has gone 8-12 in World Series appearances followed by the Dodgers at 7-14, the Braves at 3-6, the White Sox at 3-2, the Astros at 1-2, the Rays at 0-2 and the Brewers at 0-1. The Giants’ record includes the franchise’s early days as the New York Giants while the Dodgers’ mark includes the team’s years as the Brooklyn Dodgers and the Braves’ record includes the team’s time as the Boston Braves and Milwaukee Braves.
Home runs have proven to be huge in the playoffs as the teams that hit more homers than their opponents in a game went 34-5 in the 2020 postseason. In addition, seven of the last 12 World Series teams managed to top their league in wins during the regular season. The Rays led the AL in victories this year with 100 while the Giants topped the NL and all of MLB with their 107 wins. This gives the Giants home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.
The bet365 oddsmakers currently list the Los Angeles Dodgers as the favorites to win the World Series at +240 followed by the San Francisco Giants and Tampa Bay Rays at +475, the Houston Astros at +550, the Chicago White Sox and Milwaukee Brewers at +700 with the Boston Red Sox at +950 and the Atlanta Braves at +1400.
There are several other bets to make during the postseason such as to win a series, to win a league, to win from behind, the total games of a series and correct score of a series. Of course, you can also wager on options offered for the individual games.