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Dodgers NL Division Series history

The Dodgers played and won the first divisional series played in 1981 and have won their last two appearances. In between, not so great.

Dodgers celebrate their 2009 Divisional Series win
Dodgers celebrate their 2009 Divisional Series win

For over 60 years, MLB had the simplest of post-season schedules, you win your league and you play in the World Series. Home field rotated between leagues and you were done in a little over a week.

Next, in 1969, MLB expanded and formed two divisions in each league, so they added another competition, a League Championship series, first a best-of-five and then a best-of-seven, it was still pretty easy to figure out, win the division and you have a chance to win the World Series.

The next chapter started in 1995 when they made each league divide into three divisions and added a Wild Card. Thus they needed another round of playoffs. MLB spent a few seconds thinking about what to call it and came up the Division Series.

So since then, there have been three rounds of playoffs, however the first division series wasn't played in 1995, it was played in 1981 and that is where we start this review.

1981: Due to circumstances caused by a player strike, MLB decided they would play the remaining part of that season as a new competition and then the winners of both haves would meet prior to the League Championship Series. Since this round would consist of teams from each division playing each other, it was called the League Division Series. The Dodgers opponent was the Houston Astros. The series opened in Houston and would play the final three games in Los Angeles.

The Dodgers found themselves staring at an 0-2 deficit as they came home for three elimination games. In Game 3, the Dodgers erupted for 6 runs (after scoring just one run in the first two games) and Burt Hooton started his banner 1981 post-season with a win. The next day, Fernando Valenzuela pitched a complete game and Dodgers won 2-1 to force a fifth game. Then a battle between Nolan Ryan (who had already beaten the Dodgers in his last two starts against them, one of them being a no-hitter) and Jerry Reuss. Reuss got the better of Ryan and the Astros and the Dodgers won 4-0 to advance to the NLCS. The Dodgers would fall behind at one point in each of their three rounds of post-season games in 1981 but they came back to win their first title since 1965.

1995: The Dodgers played the Cincinnati Reds in the first division series played in the new post-season system. The Reds began a trend that would basically not change for 13 years, that trend was sending the Dodgers home from this round without much of fight. The Reds swept, winning games by 7-2, 5-4 and 10-1 scores. Eric Karros was the hitting star for the Dodgers in defeat (2 HR, 1.622 OPS) but it was a forgettable debut in this new round of playoffs.

1996: David Lauterbach covered this series yesterday.

2004: The Dodgers returned to post-season play after an 8 year absence as they played the St. Louis Cardinals for the first time in the playoffs in LA Dodger history. After losing the first two games in St. Louis, the Dodgers won their first post-season game since the 1988 World Series as Jose Lima shutout the Cardinals and Shawn Green hit two home runs to provide all the offense Lima needed. That winning feeling lasted just one night as the Cardinals won the next game to close out the series 3-1.

2006: After winning their last seven games of the regular season, the Dodgers entered the post-season as hot as they had been in years but the Mets would snuff out that momentum on one memorable play, a double play at the plate as two runners were tagged out off the same throw. The Dodgers would lose that game 6-5 and soon the series as the Mets swept the Dodgers.

2008: Sometimes a playoff series turns on one play and this one turned on a James Loney grand slam in the first game of this NLDS against the Chicago Cubs. That gave the Dodgers the lead and the Dodgers never trailed again in this series. The Dodgers put up 10 runs in the second game and won that one going away. Kuroda, Wade and Broxton held the Cubs to a single run and the Dodgers clinched their first post-season series at home since the 1988 NLCS.

2009: Oh, and the Dodgers swept the Cardinals 3-0