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In Major League Baseball, the National League Championship Series (NLCS) determines who wins the National League pennant and advances to baseball's championship, the World Series, facing the winner of the American League Championship Series.

Prior to 1969, the National League Champion (the "Pennant Winner") was determined by the best won-loss record at the end of the regular season. There was an occasional ad hoc playoff series due to ties under this formulation, as also happened in the American League.

A structured playoff series began in 1969, when both the National and American Leagues were reorganized into two divisions each, East and West. The two division winners within each league played each other in a best-of-five series to determine who would advanced to the World Series. In 1985, the format changed to best-of-seven.

The NLCS and ALCS, since the expansion to best-of-seven, are always played in a 2-3-2 format: Games 1, 2, 6 and 7 are played in the stadium of the team that has home field advantage, and Games 3, 4 and 5 are played in the stadium of the team that does not. Home field advantage is given to the team that has the better record, unless that team happens to be the Wild Card team. In that case, the other team gets home field advantage.

In 1981, a divisional series was held due to split-season caused by strike action.

In 1994, the league was restructured into three divisions, with the three division winners and a wild-card team advancing to a best-of-five playoff round, the National League Division Series (NLDS). The winners of that round advance to the best-of-seven NLCS.

The Houston Astros are the only team in Major League Baseball history to win an NLCS (2005) and an ALCS (2017,2019). The Milwaukee Brewers are the only other MLB franchise to play in both an NLCS (2011, 2018) and an ALCS (1982) but have not won an NLCS as of 2021.

A Most Valuable Player (MVP) award is given to the outstanding player in each series, though voters can consider performances made during the divisional series. The Warren Giles Trophy is awarded to the NLCS winner.

For National League pennant winners prior to 1969, see National League pennant winners 1901-68 and National League pennant winners 1876-1900.

NLCS results (1969-present)[]

Year Winner Loser Wins Losses Series MVP Notable
1969 New York Mets Atlanta Braves 3 0  
1970 Cincinnati Reds Pittsburgh Pirates 3 0  
1971 Pittsburgh Pirates San Francisco Giants 3 1  
1972 Cincinnati Reds Pittsburgh Pirates 3 2   After Johnny Bench hit a Game 5-tying home run, Bob Moose threw a 9th-inning wild pitch to send the Reds to the World Series.
1973 New York Mets Cincinnati Reds 3 2   This series is best remembered for a fight between Pete Rose and Bud Harrelson.
1974 Los Angeles Dodgers Pittsburgh Pirates 3 1  
1975 Cincinnati Reds Pittsburgh Pirates 3 0  
1976 Cincinnati Reds Philadelphia Phillies 3 0  
1977 Los Angeles Dodgers Philadelphia Phillies 3 1 Dusty Baker, Los Angeles
1978 Los Angeles Dodgers Philadelphia Phillies 3 1 Steve Garvey, Los Angeles
1979 Pittsburgh Pirates Cincinnati Reds 3 0 Willie Stargell, Pittsburgh
1980 Philadelphia Phillies Houston Astros 3 2 Manny Trillo, Philadelphia Numerous surveys and articles rank this as one of the best postseason series of all time; the final four games went to extra innings.
1981 Los Angeles Dodgers Montreal Expos 3 2 Burt Hooton, Los Angeles A key home run by Rick Monday, off Steve Rogers, eliminated the Expos in their only postseason appearance.
1982 St. Louis Cardinals Atlanta Braves 3 0 Darrell Porter, St. Louis
1983 Philadelphia Phillies Los Angeles Dodgers 3 1 Gary Matthews, Philadelphia Philadelphia prevailed despite having lost 11 of 12 regular-season meetings.
1984 San Diego Padres Chicago Cubs 3 2 Steve Garvey, San Diego After Garvey hit a walk-off home run in Game 4, the Padres finished their 2-0 comeback in Game 5 after Leon Durham made a crucial error.
1985 St. Louis Cardinals Los Angeles Dodgers 4 2 Ozzie Smith, St. Louis The first best-of-seven NLCS. Smith ended Game 5 with his first ever left-handed home run, and in Game 6 Tom Niedenfuer surrendered his second big homer in as many games when Jack Clark struck the deciding blow.
1986 New York Mets Houston Astros 4 2 Mike Scott, Houston Scott pitched two complete games, but Lenny Dykstra and Gary Carter provided game-winning heroics for the Mets before an epic 16-inning classic in Game 6 closed out the series.
1987 St. Louis Cardinals San Francisco Giants 4 3 Jeff Leonard, San Francisco Although Leonard hit home runs in each of the first 4 games of the series, it would not be enough as Cardinal pitchers John Tudor and Danny Cox hurled shutouts in games 6 and 7.
1988 Los Angeles Dodgers New York Mets 4 3 Orel Hershiser, Los Angeles The Dodgers scored a memorable 7-game upset victory over the heavily favored Mets. Hershiser, the series MVP, pitched an LCS-record 24⅔ innings, while Kirk Gibson hit 2 key home runs.
1989 San Francisco Giants Chicago Cubs 4 1 Will Clark, San Francisco Will Clark set LCS records with a .650 AVG, 8 runs scored and 24 total bases as the Giants stormed to a 5-game series victory for their first NL pennant in 27 years.
1990 Cincinnati Reds Pittsburgh Pirates 4 2 Rob Dibble and Randy Myers, Cincinnati Led by "Nasty Boys" Dibble, Myers and Norm Charlton coming out of the bullpen, the Reds defeated the Pirates in 6 games.
1991 Atlanta Braves Pittsburgh Pirates 4 3 Steve Avery, Atlanta Steve Avery's record 16.1 scoreless innings pitched led the unheralded Braves to a 7-game series victory.
1992 Atlanta Braves Pittsburgh Pirates 4 3 John Smoltz, Atlanta Down in the 9th inning, Francisco Cabrera singled home two runs to bring Atlanta their second pennant in a row.
1993 Philadelphia Phillies Atlanta Braves 4 2 Curt Schilling, Philadelphia Kim Batiste, in his only postseason at-bat ever, hit the game-winning single in the 10th inning of Game 1 after making a 9th-inning throwing error that led to the tying run.
1994 Not held due to player strike.
1995 Atlanta Braves Cincinnati Reds 4 0 Mike Devereaux, Atlanta The Braves wiped out the Reds in the first-ever four game sweep in NLCS history.
1996 Atlanta Braves St. Louis Cardinals 4 3 Javy López, Atlanta Atlanta came back from a 3-1 deficit by winning their next three games in blowout fashion. The combined score in those games was 32-1.
1997 Florida Marlins Atlanta Braves 4 2 Liván Hernández, Florida Filling in for an injured Kevin Brown, Rookie Livan Hernandez recorded 15 strikeouts in a crucial game 5 victory that would tilt the series in Florida's favor and send them to their first World Series.
1998 San Diego Padres Atlanta Braves 4 2 Sterling Hitchcock, San Diego Buoyed by strong pitching performances by series MVP Hitchcock, Kevin Brown and Andy Ashby, the Padres raced to a 3-0 series lead before wrapping up their first NL title since 1984.
1999 Atlanta Braves New York Mets 4 2 Eddie Pérez, Atlanta The Mets won on a Robin Ventura hit in the 15th inning of a rainy Game 5. In Game 6, Kenny Rogers walked Andruw Jones with the bases loaded to give the Braves the pennant in extra innings.
2000 New York Mets St. Louis Cardinals 4 1 Mike Hampton, New York The Mets beat the Cardinals in 5 games thanks mostly to timely hitting and clutch pitching. Mike Hampton's 3-hit shutout in the clinching game gave the Mets their first pennant since 1986.
2001 Arizona Diamondbacks Atlanta Braves 4 1 Craig Counsell, Arizona Arizona advanced to the World Series in only their 4th year of existence.
2002 San Francisco Giants St. Louis Cardinals 4 1 Benito Santiago, San Francisco Kenny Lofton's game-winning single wins San Francisco its first pennant in 13 years.
2003 Florida Marlins Chicago Cubs 4 3 Iván Rodríguez, Florida Steve Bartman earned infamy as Florida battled back from a 3-1 hole to extend the Billy Goat Curse. Rodriguez had an NLCS record 10 RBI.
2004 St. Louis Cardinals Houston Astros 4 3 Albert Pujols, St. Louis Pujols set NLCS records with 14 hits, 28 total bases and 4 home runs. Houston's Carlos Beltran matched the latter mark.
2005 Houston Astros St. Louis Cardinals 4 2 Roy Oswalt, Houston The Astros' first NL championship. Pujols' 3 run home run in Game 5 with 2 outs in the 9th temporarily saved the Cardinals from elimination.
2006 St. Louis Cardinals New York Mets 4 3 Jeff Suppan, St. Louis St Louis won the series behind strong pitching and a home run from Yadier Molina in Game 7. Suppan pitched Game 3 & 7, and had an 0.60 ERA in the LDS & LCS.

Denotes wild-card team (since 1995).

See also[]