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MLB

Disputed call overshadows Cardinals wild-card playoff win

| Friday, Oct. 5, 2012, 8:56 p.m.
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ATLANTA, GA - OCTOBER 05: Grounds crew members clean up bottles and cups thrown by fans after the home fans disagree with an infield fly ruling on a ball hit by Andrelton Simmons #19 of the Atlanta Braves in the eighth inning while taking on the St. Louis Cardinals during the National League Wild Card playoff game at Turner Field on October 5, 2012 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

ATLANTA — David Freese and the St. Louis Cardinals rediscovered their postseason touch. Chipper Jones and the Braves kept throwing the ball away. And the Atlanta fans turned Turner Field into a trash heap.

They said anything could happen in baseball's first wild-card playoff.

Boy, did it ever.

In a game protested by the Braves, Matt Holliday homered, and the defending World Series champion Cardinals took advantage of three Atlanta throwing errors — the most crucial of them by the retiring Jones — to take the winner-take-all playoff 6-3 on Friday.

MLB executive Joe Torre said the protest had been denied. St. Louis advanced to face Washington in the best-of-five division round, beginning Sunday at Busch Stadium.

The Braves are done for this season, the recipients of another heartbreaking loss in the playoffs.

The 40-year-old Jones is all done, period. He managed an infield hit in his final at-bat but threw away a double play ball in the fourth, which led to a three-run inning that wiped out Atlanta's early 2-0 lead behind Kris Medlen.

“Ultimately, I feel I'm the one to blame,” Jones said. “That should have been a tailor-made double play.”

But this one-and-done game will be remembered for the eighth, when a disputed call on a fly ball that dropped in short left field cost the Braves a chance at extending Jones' career.

The Braves thought they had the bases loaded with one out after the ball dropped between two fielders, who appeared to get mixed up over who had called for it. But left-field umpire Sam Holbrook called Andrelton Simmons out under the infield fly rule — even though the ball landed at least 50 feet beyond the dirt.

When the fans realized what had happened, they littered the field, leading to a 19-minute delay.

“It was scary at first,” St. Louis catcher Yadier Molina said. “I've never seen that before.”

When play finally resumed, Brian McCann walked, but Michael Bourn struck out to end the threat. Dan Uggla grounded out with two aboard in the ninth to end it.

The infield fly is a complicated rule, designed to prevent infielders from intentionally dropping a popup with more than one runner on base and perhaps get an extra out. No one could ever remember it being applied like this. And, after past postseasons dotted by contested calls, this play will certainly another slew of October cries for more instant replay.

When Simmons popped one into short left field, rookie shortstop Pete Kozma drifted out, throwing up his hand like he had it. Then, with left fielder Holliday lurking a few feet away, Kozma suddenly veered away and the ball fell safely.

Jones refused to pin this loss on the umps.

“That one play didn't cost us the game. Three errors cost us the game,” he said. “We just dug ourselves too big a hole.”

Holliday homered in the sixth off Kris Medlen, who had been baseball's most dominant starter over the final two months.

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