In the National League, the Dodgers will try to become the first team since the 1923 Yankees to return to the World Series after losing two in a row. The Dodgers’ division series opponent will be the Nationals or the Milwaukee Brewers, who meet in Washington on Tuesday in the N.L. wild-card game. The St. Louis Cardinals — who clinched the N.L. Central title on Sunday — will face the Atlanta Braves in the other N.L. division series.
The Dodgers set their franchise record for victories by beating the Giants on Sunday, and believe they are poised for their first championship since 1988. That is the longest drought of any team in the field that has won a title, though three teams — Milwaukee, Tampa Bay and Washington — are seeking their first.
“I think our depth is as good as it’s ever been,” the infielder and outfielder Chris Taylor said this month. “Top to bottom, this is probably the strongest team that we’ve had, and I think our pitching is stronger as well — arguably the best starting rotation we’ve ever had.”
While the Dodgers have good reason to trust in Walker Buehler, Clayton Kershaw and Hyun-Jin Ryu, no team boasts a better big three than the Astros, with Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole and Zack Greinke, who combined to go 59-16 this season.
Verlander and Cole were the first teammates to each record 300 strikeouts since Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling did it for Arizona in 2002. Cole, who earned his 20th victory on Sunday, finished with 326 strikeouts, the most by an A.L. pitcher since Nolan Ryan in 1977. Strikeouts have risen across the league each season since 2008, with an increase of more than 1,300 this year, to 42,823.
Hitters also obliterated the home run record, bashing 6,776 homers — 671 more than the previous record set in 2017. The Mets’ Pete Alonso hit the most this season with 53, setting a major league record for rookies. The Mets were one of 15 teams that either set or tied their single-season record for home runs.
For all the gaudy numbers, though, there was also this: zero. That is the number of intentional walks issued by the Astros, while every other team allowed at least 10. Intentional walks have been officially tracked since 1955, and the Astros’ staff became the first to go a full season without one.