Padres-Dodgers NLDS is set: Everything you need to know about the eight remaining MLB playoff teams

Padres-Dodgers NLDS is set: Everything you need to know about the eight remaining MLB playoff teams

After an action-packed Wild Card to get the 2022 MLB playoffs going, there are eight teams left battling for World Series glory entering the division series round.

With an extra round to begin the postseason and the possibility that this year’s Fall Classic extends to a Game 7 on Nov. 5, it was a very short October stay for some — and we could ultimately see the latest championship celebration in MLB history for the last squad standing.

Will the favored Los Angeles Dodgers rule the National League or will the repeat-minded Braves make another deep run? Can anyone in the American League keep the New York Yankees and Houston Astros from squaring off in the ALCS?

MLB experts Bradford Doolittle, Alden Gonzalez and David Schoenfield get you ready for it all with everything from odds for every matchup and a predicted date of each team’s last game to the best- and worst-case scenario for all eight remaining World Series hopefuls.

Note: World Series and matchup odds come from Doolittle’s formula using power ratings as the basis for 10,000 simulations to determine the most likely outcomes.

Bracket | Our picks | Wild-card takeaways

Jump to a team:

American League

They made it this far, but …

Seattle Mariners

No. 5 seed | 89-72 | AL wild second card

ALDS opponent: Astros (36.2% chance of advancing)

World Series odds: 4.9% | Caesars odds: +2000

Predicted date of their last game: Oct. 17

How they could stay around longer: Refuse to Lose. Anything Can Happen. True to the Blue. Believe. Hey, after Cal Raleigh clinched Seattle’s playoff spot and ended the franchise’s 21-year-old playoff drought with a dramatic pinch-hit, two-out, bottom-of-the-ninth, 3-2 count, walk-off home run — and then Seattle pulled off the comeback of all postseason road comebacks to eliminate Toronto on Saturday. Maybe destiny really is on the Mariners’ side. If you want a baseball reason, the bullpen is deep and built for October. But they’ll need to score some runs and to do that, how about a dream scenario: Rookie sensation Julio Rodriguez returns from the sore back that sidelined him at the end of September and has a postseason for the ages. — Schoenfield

What could send them home soon: The pitching will need to carry them, but it also looked a little fatigued at times down the stretch. Luis Castillo had three rough September starts when he suddenly lost it in the middle innings. Rookie George Kirby had been a model of consistency until a recent bad outing (and is well beyond his innings total from 2021). Robbie Ray had two scoreless starts in September mixed in with three mediocre ones. The bullpen was pushed hard throughout the season and closer Paul Sewald has been homer-prone of late. The Mariners don’t score enough runs to leave much margin for error, so the entire staff will need to bring it. — Schoenfield

One thing they do that could take down the Astros: The Astros won 12 of 19 games against the Mariners, but they outscored Seattle by only eight runs. In the six games started by Justin Verlander, however, the Astros outscored their division rivals 30-11. Houston won five of those starts. In his past three outings against Seattle, Verlander allowed three runs in 21⅔ innings. In other words — it’s going to be crucial for Seattle to take advantage on the days Verlander doesn’t pitch. Jose Urquidy, Framber Valdez and Cristian Javier have a 5.40 ERA in 48⅓ innings against the M’s this year. — Gonzalez

Cleveland Guardians

No. 3 seed | 91-70 | AL Central champs

Wild-card opponent: Yankees (37.7% chance of advancing)

World Series odds: 2.9% | Caesars odds: +3500

Predicted date of their last game: Oct. 17

How they could stay around longer: The Guardians have drawn comparisons to the 2014-15 Royals for their style of play: Contact hitting, speed, defense … and a dominant bullpen. Emmanuel Clase is as good as any closer this side of Edwin Diaz and the top three setup relievers in front of him — James Karinchak, Trevor Stephan and lefty Sam Hentges — have all been outstanding. They’re hard to hit, they strike batters out and all four are stingy with the home run. The pen has been even better since the beginning of July, with the second-best ERA in the majors behind the Dodgers. Get a lead through five or six and the Guardians almost always hold it. October baseball has become more and more about the bullpens and Cleveland can match up with any team. — Schoenfield

What could send them home soon: Lack of power. The Guardians have the fewest home runs of the playoff teams and you win in the playoffs by hitting home runs. Don’t buy that? In last year’s postseason, the team that hit more home runs went 25-2-10 — that’s 25 wins, two losses and 10 games where the teams hit the same number. No, the Royals didn’t hit a lot of home runs in 2014 or 2015, but they did hit them in the playoffs (and that was an era with fewer home runs in general). It certainly would be fun to see the Guardians scratch and claw their way to the World Series, but more likely they’ll have to power up. — Schoenfield

One thing they do that could take down the Astros: The only AL team that put the ball in play more often than the Astros was the Guardians — by a pretty sizable margin. Cleveland also stole the third-most bases in the majors and led the sport in going first to third on a single. Putting the ball in play and running the bases both effectively and aggressively is the Guardians’ recipe for success in October, not just against the Astros but against everyone. The Astros are the second-best defensive team in the postseason field, according to outs above average. But Martin Maldonado was below league average in caught-stealing percentage this season. The Guardians need to get on base and they need to run — and just hope the series doesn’t turn into a slugfest. — Gonzalez

Better pack for the whole month

New York Yankees

No. 2 seed | 99-63 | AL East champs

ALDS opponent: Guardians (62.3% chance of advancing)

World Series odds: 15.6% | Caesars odds: +500

Predicted date of their last game: Oct. 25

How they could stay around longer: Maybe it’s unfair, but it feels like so much is riding on Gerrit Cole’s performance, especially since Frankie Montas wasn’t the big rotation addition the Yankees expected. When Cole bombed out early in the wild-card game against the Red Sox last season, the Yankees went home. He’s still striking out a ton of batters, but he also led the American League with 33 home runs allowed — 16 of them off his four-seam fastball. Cole was especially homer-prone in September with 10 in 36 innings and in his four career postseason starts with the Yankees he has allowed six in just 20⅓ innings. He has to figure out how to keep the ball in the park. — Schoenfield

What could send them home early: Opponents pitch around Aaron Judge and the rest of the lineup fails to knock him in. When the Yankees struggled with a 10-18 record in August, they averaged just 3.61 runs per game — even as Judge hit nine home runs and drove in 22 runs. But as he continued mashing throughout the season, teams started walking him more often: 13 times in May, 15 in June, 17 in July, 25 in August and 30 in September. The Yankees led the AL in runs, but they can’t expect one man to carry them for an entire postseason. It’s worth noting that in seven games against the Astros they hit just .151. — Schoenfield

One thing they do that could take down the Astros: The Astros famously got the best of the Yankees during the regular season, winning five of seven. The encouraging news if you’re a Yankees fan: All seven games were decided by three runs or fewer. The not-so-encouraging news: The Yankees didn’t throw a single pitch with a lead. Both of their victories came as a result of come-from-behind rallies followed by walk-off hits from Judge. But the Astros were one of few teams that were actually able to keep Judge mostly in check, holding him to a .148/.258/.370 slash line. Needless to say, Judge’s bat needs to come alive in this potential heavyweight matchup. And the Yankees will have to play a clean, mistake-free brand of baseball. — Gonzalez

Most likely to be playing in November

Houston Astros

No. 1 seed | 106-56 | AL West champs

ALDS opponent: Mariners (63.8% chance of advancing)

World Series odds: 18.2% | Caesars odds: +380

Predicted date of their last game: Nov. 2

Why they are the AL’s team to beat: Jose Altuve and Alex Bregman, the two veteran holdovers from the 2017 World Series champions who continue to get booed around the league, do serious damage at the plate. Altuve quietly had one of his best seasons, with an OPS+ that matched his MVP season in 2017. Bregman, meanwhile, had a big second half, the best he’s hit since 2019. Altuve has been outstanding in his postseason career (.286/.361/.567, 23 home runs in 79 games) while Bregman less so (.226/.339/.400, 12 home runs in 73 games), but if they’re getting on base in front of Yordan Alvarez and Kyle Tucker, good things can happen. — Schoenfield

What could send them home early: The bottom of the lineup fails to contribute. The Astros don’t get much from their catchers, Martin Maldonado and Christian Vazquez (who hasn’t homered for Houston since coming over from Boston at the trade deadline). Yuli Gurriel had a rough season. Trey Mancini, the other trade acquisition, has hit under .200 for the Astros. Rookie shortstop Jeremy Pena has seen his numbers drop in the second half. This lineup simply lacks the depth of some other Houston teams of recent vintage. If the big four don’t click, it could be a quick exit — no matter how dominant Justin Verlander and the rest of the rotation is. — Schoenfield

Their biggest advantage if MLB’s two best teams meet in November: Most of the Dodgers’ postseason pitching plan remains a mystery, but one thing has already been declared by manager Dave Roberts: Julio Urias, Clayton Kershaw and Tyler Anderson will make up three-fourths of their postseason rotation. What do they all have in common? They’re all lefties. And the Astros — with a right-handed-heavy lineup headlined by Bregman and Altuve — feasted on left-handed pitching this season. Their best hitter, the left-handed-hitting Alvarez, was elite against lefties, too. In a matchup of two teams that are pretty closely matched, it could make the difference. If the Astros can make a habit out of scoring early, they could claim their second World Series title against the Dodgers — and their first without a cheating scandal. — Gonzalez

National League

They made it this far, but …

Philadelphia Phillies

No. 6 seed | 87-75 | NL third wild card

NLDS opponent: Braves (38.8% chance of advancing)

World Series odds: 4.9% | Caesars odds: +3500

Predicted date of their last game: Oct. 16

How they could stay around longer: The bullpen falls into place. Philadelphia has a 5.04 bullpen ERA since the beginning of September, a big contributor to Philly’s near-collapse down the stretch. Injuries have included Corey Knebel (done for the season) and Brad Hand (question mark for the playoffs). David Robertson will be a part of the high-leverage mix. Other solutions have emerged: converted starter Zach Eflin has flourished out of the bullpen, and Jose Alvarado has been as hot as any reliever. Struggling Seranthony Dominguez regaining the dominant form he flashed before an August injury might be enough to push the Phillies over the hump. — Doolittle

What could send them home soon: .The Phillies own MLB’s third-highest homer rate and while they aren’t the most longball-dependent offense in the postseason, they aren’t far off. Bryce Harper, Kyle Schwarber, Rhys Hoskins & Co. need to combine for two or three bombs per game or the Phillies will have a hard time turning the scoreboard. — Doolittle

One thing they do that could take down the Dodgers: The 2019 Washington Nationals proved you don’t need to be incredibly deep or even well-rounded to defeat the Dodgers in a short series. Sometimes, if the top of your roster is elite, you just need your best players to perform to their capabilities. Harper and Schwarber combined for a 1.315 OPS in 54 plate appearances against the Dodgers this season, but Aaron Nola and Zack Wheeler combined to allow nine runs in 17⅔ innings. In those four — and catcher J.T. Realmuto — the Phillies boast upper-echelon talent. They’ll need them to do most of the heavy lifting to defeat L.A. — Gonzalez

San Diego Padres

No. 5 seed | 89-73 | NL second wild card

NLDS opponent: Dodgers (24.8% chance of advancing)

World Series odds: 3.5% | Caesars odds: +2800

Predicted date of their last game: Oct. 16

How they could stay around longer: Juan Soto goes off. Soto went into a funk not long after the monumental midseason trade that sent him to San Diego. While his overall San Diego numbers are down even from his subpar pre-trade numbers in Washington, Soto has quietly been trending up over the past couple of weeks. And let’s not forget that when the Nationals won the World Series in 2019, Soto’s huge postseason as a 20-year-old had a lot to do with it. All the hand-wringing over Soto’s post-trade play would be forgotten if he has a big October. — Doolittle

What could send them home soon: The Padres’ rotation, especially Blake Snell and Joe Musgrove, carried them into the playoffs down the stretch. That success needs to continue, but it wouldn’t have mattered had closer Josh Hader not straightened himself out. After a catastrophic start to his Padres career, Hader finished strong — making his midseason slump all the more bewildering. What happens if the bizarro Hader returns? San Diego will be done, that’s what will happen. Sure, you can say the same thing about every team that leans on a primary closer — but not every team saw its relief ace pitch like Hader did in August. — Doolittle

One thing they do that could take down the Dodgers: The Padres struggled mightily against their Southern California rivals this season, losing 14 of 19 and getting outscored by a combined 62 runs. To beat L.A., they’ll need to make sure Yu Darvish pitches as often as possible and Sean Manaea doesn’t pitch against the Dodgers at all. They’ll need Soto and Manny Machado to be at their best. They’ll need Hader to be the lockdown closer they thought they were getting at the start of August. And they’ll need contributions from several others. Most of all, perhaps, they’ll need to summon some confidence. — Gonzalez

Better pack for the whole month

Atlanta Braves

No. 2 seed | 101-61 | NL East champs

NLDS opponent: Phillies (61.2% chance of advancing)

World Series odds: 13.2% | Caesars odds: +600

Predicted date of their last game: Oct. 24

How they could stay around longer: If the bullpen falls into place like it did last October, look out. The Braves’ are entering the playoffs with a more stable rotation outlook than a year ago, so Brian Snitker shouldn’t need to lean quite as heavily on his fireman as he did en route to the 2021 title. But even if he does, the Atlanta bullpen as a group has been smoking hot of late — led by trade acquisition Raisel Iglesias, who has allowed one earned run in 27 outings since he joined the Braves. Kenley Jansen has been very good, as have Collin McHugh, A.J. Minter and Dylan Lee. If Tyler Matzek can find last season’s consistency, there might not be a bad lever for Snitker to pull. — Doolittle

What could send them home early: A couple of lifeless cutters in the wrong situation by Jansen. This isn’t to pick on Jansen. He’s had an excellent first season in Atlanta. He leads the NL in saves and is on a pretty good roll entering the playoffs. But he still isn’t the shutdown hammer he was during his prime, and the Braves are such a complete team that there isn’t much else that might be a glaring issue. — Doolittle

One thing they do that could take down the Dodgers: The Braves and Dodgers have met in back-to-back NLCS, splitting the two series, and they seem poised square off again. Outside of the Astros, the Braves might be the closest to matching the Dodgers’ depth and balance. Their separator could be in the bullpen. The three guys who entered this season as the Dodgers’ most important back-end relievers are either lost for the year (Daniel Hudson), pitching in low-leverage situations because of ineffectiveness (Craig Kimbrel) or recovering from injury (Blake Treinen). The Braves are as deep as ever in the back end of their bullpen, and this is a clear advantage for them. — Gonzalez

Most likely to be playing in November

Los Angeles Dodgers

No. 1 seed | 111-51 | NL West champs

NLDS opponent: Padres (75.2% chance of advancing)

World Series odds: 34.2% | Caesars odds: +300

Predicted date of their last game: Nov. 2

Why they are the team to beat in all of MLB: During the regular season, depth is what jumps to mind. L.A. has a roster and system of processes with so much quality redundancy built in that it’s hard to remember a time when we didn’t simply pencil the Dodgers in for a playoff spot before a season began. Depth isn’t irrelevant in the playoffs, but it’s clearly not as big a factor with the possible exception of the back of the bullpen. The thing is, the Dodgers aren’t just about depth. They are about all of the things, and a team with star power like this has a talent edge on everyone. And, oh yeah, they just won 111 games with the run differential that suggests they were actually a little unlucky. — Doolittle

What could send them home early: The term “Achilles’ heel” has become such a sports cliche. If the Dodgers falter, maybe we’ll have to update it to “L.A. closer.” Like in the NFL, you might say, “They have an airtight defense but their L.A. closer is the lack of a quality third corner.” The Dodgers have run roughshod over the majors all season and have such a depth of impact talent in the organization that it’s dizzying. And yet they enter the playoffs with an uncertain end-of-game situation because of the struggles of Craig Kimbrel. It’s hard to fathom. — Doolittle

Their biggest advantage if MLB’s two best teams meet in November: First, a tangible one: Mookie Betts, Trea Turner and Freddie Freeman. The Dodgers’ dynamic top-of-the-lineup trio is what separates them from everyone, even the most elite. No team can boast the combination of bat-to-ball skills, power and baserunning that those three possess in abundance. –

Now, an intangible one: Revenge. Betts, Turner and Freeman were not with the Dodgers when they lost the 2017 World Series to an Astros team that was later found to have illegally stolen signs. But a few others — Clayton Kershaw, Justin Turner, Chris Taylor, Cody Bellinger and Austin Barnes — were. And beating the Astros on this stage would qualify as the ultimate payback, no matter how much these rosters have changed over the last five years. — Gonzalez