NEW YORK METS (90-72)

Last playoff appearance: 2006, when they lost the NLCS in seven games to the Cardinals. Game 3 will be the first postseason game at Citi Field, which opened in 2009.

How they got here: After six consecutive losing seasons, the Mets rebuilt around their prized young pitchers, who kept them within striking distance in the NL East until an anemic offense was rebuilt in late July through trades and players getting healthy.

Stats: The Mets' .244 average this season was 28th in the majors, but they hit .257 after the All-Star break and led the NL with 357 runs and 102 home runs. … Jeurys Familia's 43 saves matched Armando Benitez's club record in 2001. … Mets starters had a 3.44 ERA, good for fourth in the NL; the three teams ahead of them are the other three remaining NL playoff teams.

Watch for: Concerned about the workload of their young starting pitchers, the Mets rested Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard down the stretch. Harvey will start only once in the series in his first season back from Tommy John surgery.

LOS ANGELES DODGERS (93-69)

Last playoff appearance: 2014, when they lost in the Division Series in four games to the Cardinals.

How they got here: The Dodgers have won three consecutive NL West titles and surpassed 90 victories for the third season in a row. They did it this year by dominating at Dodger Stadium; their .678 home winning percentage was their best since moving to Los Angeles.

Stats: Los Angeles topped the NL in home runs (187) for the first time since 1983. … Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke combined for a 1.90 ERA, the lowest by a set of teammates with at least 25 starts each since 1968. Kershaw is the first pitcher in 13 years to reach 300 strikeouts, and Greinke had the majors' lowest ERA (1.66) since 1995. … The Dodgers bullpen ERA of 3.91 is the worst of any NL playoff team.

Watch for: All eyes are on Kershaw, the three-time NL Cy Young Award winner who has struggled in the postseason. He is 1-5 with a 5.12 ERA in six playoff series since 2008, including 0-2 with a 7.82 ERA against St. Louis in two games last year.

CHICAGO CUBS (97-65)

Last playoff appearance: 2008, when they were swept in the NLDS by the Dodgers. Wednesday's wild-card victory ended an eight-game postseason losing streak.

How they got here: The Cubs played MLB-best .700 baseball (42-18) from Aug. 1 on to easily claim a wild card. Jake Arrieta, a big reason for that surge, then threw a four-hit shutout in the Cubs' 4-0 victory at Pittsburgh in the wild-card game.

Stats: The Cubs hit .244, ahead of only the Padres in the majors. But they trailed only the Mets in the NL with 354 runs and 94 homers. … Cubs pitchers led the majors with 1,431 strikeouts. They also gave up only 134 homers, third-best in the majors, despite playing half their games at Wrigley Field. … Game 1 starter Jon Lester has a 2.57 ERA in 14 postseason games, including a 1.63 ERA in the Division Series.

Watch for: Kyle Schwarber was the offensive hero against the Pirates with a homer and three RBI. The rookie catcher-outfielder from Indiana University, last year's No. 4 overall pick, hit 16 homers with 43 RBI in 69 games for the Cubs.

ST. LOUIS CARDINALS (100-62)

Last playoff appearance: 2014, when they lost to the Giants in five games in the NLCS; they have appeared in the playoffs six of the past seven years.

How they got here: Despite playing in the same division as the Pirates and Cubs, the Cardinals' third consecutive NL Central title almost seemed like a foregone conclusion, as they were atop the division from April 17 on and finished with baseball's best record.

Stats: The key to St. Louis' success is its pitching: The Cardinals' ERA of 2.94 was the best in baseball, and they were the only team with an ERA below 3.00. Their starters had the majors' best ERA (2.99), their relievers the third best (2.82), along with an MLB-high 62 saves, 48 of those from Trevor Rosenthal. …The Cardinals offense scored 647 runs, 24th in the majors and the fewest of any playoff team.

Watch for: Michael Wacha led the Cardinals staff with 17 victories this season, but he struggled after Sept. 1 (2-3, 7.78 ERA), so St. Louis pushed him back to Game 3 at Wrigley Field, where he is 0-2 with a 5.50 ERA in four career appearances.

NEWS SERVICES