Today the first ever one-game Wild Card playoffs were held, and what a wild show it was. The National League Wild Card game between the top seed Atlanta Braves and the St. Louis Cardinals was drama-filled
complete with three costly errors from the usually defensively superb Atlanta squad and a highly controversial play in the bottom of the eighth inning which spurred the Braves to play under protest and angered the Atlanta fans who threw trash on the field causing a 19-minute delay.
In the home half of the eighth inning the Braves were losing 6-3 to the Red Birds. Freddie Freeman drew a lead-off walk against Mitchell Boggs. Dan Uggla grounded into a force out, and David Ross singled to give the Braves runners at first and second with just one out. Andrelton Simmons, who was also called out for interference the fourth inning after he ran on the infield grass and was in the way of Kyle Lohse‘s throw to first on his bunt attempt, hits into another controversial play. His pop fly is chased by shortstop Pete Kozma all the way into left field. When the ball drops the left-field umpire, Sam Holbrook, calls him out on the infield fly rule. Now this call caused an uproar both in Atlanta and online. The call was completely botched in my opinion. First of all, the ball was hit pretty deep into left field and nowhere near the infield. Second, the shortstop went out of his way to go after the ball which was not “catchable by ordinary effort.” Kozma had to run way into left field and try to catch it over his shoulder. The infield fly rule is intended to prevent infielders from intentionally dropping pop-ups in order to turn double or triple plays. In this circumstance, it was clearly not a situation where I would ever expect the infield fly rule to be called. Also, the umpire called the infield fly rule way too late. The runners were running half-way between the bases before he made the designation. The Atlanta crowd went berserk after the umpiring crew upheld the call, and they proceeded to throw garbage on to the field. There was a lengthy delay while the cups, bottles, and other trash was picked up. Jason Motte was brought in, and he immediately walked Brian McCann which would have equaled an Atlanta run if the bases would have been loaded. Michael Bourn strikes out swinging to end the ugly frame.
Chipper Jones made his final at-bat in the bottom of the ninth inning with two outs, and he managed a broken-bat infield single. Chipper Jones has
definitely had a Hall of Fame level career over his 19 years with Atlanta, and I have watched him play throughout that time. I distinctly remember the talented Braves teams of the 1990′s who were always tough for the Dodgers to beat. Chipper was one of the baseball players my generation grew up watching and looking up to. The Braves were unable to recover from the errors and the botched call, and the St. Louis Cardinals won 6-3 and advance to the National League Division Series where they will play the Washington Nationals. The Cardinals were celebrating by spraying each other with champagne in the clubhouse, while the Braves ended their season stunned. Fredi Gonzalez’s protest was denied by Joe Torre afterwards, and he said the infield fly rule call couldn’t be overturned with a protest because it was a judgment call by the umpire.
Over on the American League side, the Baltimore Orioles defeated the Texas Rangers 5-1. Buck Showalter’s team defied the odds by eliminated the Texas Rangers and moving on to the ALDS. This was Baltimore’s first play-off victory since October 13, 1997. Joe Saunders, who was acquired via trade with the Arizona D-backs in August, pitched 5 2/3 innings allowing just one run on six hits, and he froze the bats of both Josh Hamilton and Adrian Beltre who both went hitless. Yu Darvish pitched 6 2/3 innings and allowed three runs on five hits. The Rangers, who have lost two straight World Series, will not have the opportunity for redemption. You can’t help but root for the Baltimore Orioles, whose time to shine has finally come. The Orioles have placed last in their division the previous two seasons.
The NLDS and ALDS will begin on Saturday as the Tigers battle the A’s and the Yankees go up against the Orioles in the American League. In the National League the Reds will play the Giants and the Nationals will take on the Cardinals.
In Dodger news, Matt Kemp underwent a one-hour surgery on his left shoulder to repair his labrum and rotator cuff. Dr. Neal ElAttrache performed the operation which repaired the torn labrum and also included minor debridement of the rotator cuff. Kemp will begin physical therapy in 7-10 days in Arizona. He will not be able to swing a bat until January, but should be ready by Spring Training. We will keep you updated on his recovery progress.
Sound off in our comments section. Do you think the infield fly rule call was correct in today’s Wild Card game?