Here’s the 2021 MLB Playoff Format, Schedule and Predictions originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago
The MLB playoff field is officially established after a chaotic final weekend of regular season games. After expanding the playoffs to 16 teams in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, normalcy has returned with the 10-team pitch in 2021.
This year’s playoffs have all the makings for an instant classic. Four of baseball’s most notable organizations will face off in the wild card games, and two 100-win teams are already locked in the Division Series.
Here’s a full look at the 2021 MLB playoffs:
What is the format of the 2021 MLB playoffs?
The 2021 MLB playoff format is the same it’s been since 2012 – except for 2020.
It starts with the AL and NL wild card matches, one match for each, with the winner automatically progressing to the League Division Series to play the top seed in their respective league.
The League Division Series consists of a best-of-five battle, with the seed facing the wild card winner and the other two division winners facing off. The winner of these two series for each league will advance to the best of the league’s seven championships.
Whoever wins the ALCS and NLCS will compete in the 2021 World Series, which is a best-of-seven format with a home pitch awarded to the team with the best regular season record. The team with the pitch will play in their stadium for the first two games of the series, then return for a potential sixth and seventh game.
MLB 2021 Playoff Support
The AL and NL wild card games weren’t officially locked until the last day of the regular season. Things could not get better on the side of AL, with the New York Yankees visit the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park after both teams posted a 92-70 regular season record. The Red Sox have taken the field after winning the season series 10-9, so this game is about as even as it can get.
Newfoundland also features two famous organizations, as the St. Louis Cardinals play the Los Angeles Dodgers at Hollywood. The Dodgers had the second-best baseball record this season at 106-56, but lost the NL West to the Giants of San Francisco by a game and were forced into the wild card. St. Louis had a 17-game winning streak in September to walk away with second place in the wild card, ending the season 90-72.
Three teams in each league were granted automatic spots for the league division playoffs. In the AL, the Tampa Bay Rays are seeded and will face the winner of the Yankees-Red Sox while the No.2 seed Houston Astros will face the No.3 seed. Chicago White Sox. The aforementioned Giants own the first seed in the NL, facing the winner of the Cardinals-Dodgers. The No. 2 Milwaukee Brewers will face the No. 3 Atlanta Braves in the other heat.
Here’s a look at the full support:
What’s the 2021 MLB playoff schedule?
The playoffs begin this week, with the AL Wild Card Game Tuesday (October 5) at 8:08 p.m. ET and the NL Wild Card Game Wednesday (October 6) at 8:10 p.m. ET. It will be Gerrit Cole of New York against Nathan Eovaldi of Boston on Tuesday, with Adam Wainwright of St. Louis facing Max Scherzer of Los Angeles on Wednesday.
The American League Divisional series begins Thursday (October 7) with the Rays hosting wild card winner AL and the Astros hosting the White Sox for Game 1. The AL will play again on Friday before a day off, then two more games, another offside day, then potential game 5 on Wednesday, October 13. The National League Division Series begins Friday (October 8) with the same format – two games, one day off, two games, one day off, then the potential Game 5 on Thursday, October 14.
No matter how quickly the first round series ends, the dates for the league championship series are already set. The ALCS is scheduled to start on Friday, October 15, with subsequent matches on Saturday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday *, Friday * and Saturday *. The NLCS starts one day later, Saturday October 16, and plays again on Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday *, Saturday * and Sunday *. The last three matches of the ALCS and NLCS are only played when necessary.
The 2021 World Series kicks off on Tuesday, October 26. As with the ALCS and NLCS, there will be two games, one day off, three games, one day off, and then two games. The last three games are played if necessary, but once a team wins four games, the streak is over. The seventh match of the World Series would be played on Wednesday, November 3.
Who is favorite to win the 2021 World Series?
Despite being one game away from playing in the wild card game, the Dodgers are preferred to repeat as World Series champions, according to our partner, PointsBet. The Dodgers have a stacked rotation led by acquiring deadline Scherzer, young star Walker Buehler and 20-game winner Julio Urias. Los Angeles also has plenty of flat pop, with six players hitting 20 or more home runs – not including 2020 World Series MVP Corey Seager, who has six home runs in LA’s last seven games after an injury season.
The Rays and Astros are the favorites to exit the American League, which makes sense considering they are the top two seeds and the last two representatives of the AL World Series. Tampa Bay and Houston played a thrilling seven-game series in the ALCS last fall, with the Rays advancing. The Astros have made the ALCS in four consecutive years, winning it twice (2017, 2019). The Rays, meanwhile, lost to the Dodgers in the World Series last year, but won 100 games in 2021.
Two of the sport’s most successful franchises are the greatest hopes of winning the World Series. The Red Sox have won four titles since 2004, most of any team, with their last coming in 2018, which was also their last playoff appearance. They snuck into the playoffs with a return victory on the last day of the season, but they’ll have to beat rivals Yankees and Rays just to reach the ALCS. The Cardinals were baseball’s most prominent team in September, although a date with the Dodgers is looming. St. Louis has competed in the World Series four times since 2004, losing twice to the Red Sox and winning his two other appearances.
Here are all the odds of winning the 2021 World Series:
- Los Angeles Dodgers, +375
- Tampa Bay Rays, +600
- Houston Astros, +600
- San Francisco Giants, +650
- Chicago White Sox, +700
- Milwaukee Brewers, +700
- Atlanta Braves, +1100
- New York Yankees, +1 300
- Boston Red Sox, +1800
- Cardinals of Saint-Louis, +1800
Editor’s Note: All ratings are provided by our partner, PointsBet. PointsBet is our official sports betting partner and we may receive compensation if you place a bet on PointsBet for the first time after clicking on our links.
Predictions for the 2021 MLB playoffs
It could go horribly wrong in a hurry, especially with the uncertainty of the knockout wild card format. We’re going to start there, though, and I’m going with the Dodgers and Red Sox to move on to NLDS and ALDS, respectively. Scherzer just won’t allow the Dodgers to lose, and they’ll use their playoff experience to get rid of the Searing Cardinals. The Red Sox-Yankees are much more of a draw, but Cole hasn’t been keen since suffering a hamstring injury in September. This is a bet on Boston’s offense more than its pitch, which is among the worst of the playoffs.
Things get even more difficult in the next round. The Giants-Dodgers coming to the NLDS feel so bad after being the top two teams all year. San Francisco has just kind of a magic touch this year, and they’ll take out the defending champions. The Braves have been a great story in the regular season after battling so many injuries, but they’ve played in the worst division and have the worst record of any team in the playoffs. The Brewers advance to face the Giants.
On the AL side of support, the Rays will send the Red Sox into what should be a relatively easy series. Boston isn’t pitching well enough or playing defense at a level high enough to compete with Tampa Bay. Astros-White Sox might be the best series in the LDS. It’ll go a long way, but Houston has too much firepower on offense to lose to the young White Sox.
This places the Brewers-Giant in the NLCS and the Rays-Astros in the ALCS. Not exactly the sexy and important games MLB could want, but there will be some great baseball being played. Milwaukee has an incredible pitching team featuring three starters who have a lower ERA of three and closer, Josh Hader is 34 for 35 on attempts to stop. They won the season series 4-3 against San Francisco, and it will be a repeat in the NLCS. Brewers win Game 7 at Oracle Park in San Fran.
Whether fans like it or not (they don’t), the Astros continued to play winning baseball even after the sign-stealing scandal. They were less than one World Series game last year and they will do one better in 2021, taking revenge on the Rays. Young stars Yordan Alvarez and Kyle Tucker team up with established veterans Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman and Carlos Correa to form the best roster in baseball. That will be enough to get them to the World Series, even if the rotation isn’t quite like it used to be.
The World Series is between two teams that thrive in opposing fields. Houston led the league in points, hits and batting average. Milwaukee led the league in strikeouts and was third in ERA and quality starts. The Astros make their fifth consecutive playoff appearance, the Brewers make it their fourth. In a six-game series, the Astros win the 2021 World Series. Sorry, America.