Today's NL and AL Wild Card games were for the birds as the St. Louis Cardinals and Baltimore Orioles prevailed.
The Cardinals-Braves game proved controversial. In the bottom of the 8th, with runners on first and second and one out, Braves rookie shortstop Andrelton Simmons hit a fly ball to shallow left field which Cardinals shortstop Pete Kozma and left fielder Matt Holliday converged on. There appeared to be a miscommunication between Kozma and Holliday as the ball landed between them loading the bases.
Or did it?
As it turned out, left field umpire Sam Holbrook called the infield fly rule which prompted Kozma and Holliday to back off. When an umpire calls the infield fly rule, the batter is automatically out. While David Ross and Dan Uggla were permitted to advance to second and third, Simmons was called out. Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez exploded and Braves fans did the same by littering the field with foreign objects which caused a delay in the game.
During the delay, Gonzalez protested the game. But MLB denied the appeal since it was a judgment call by the umpire as opposed to a breach of the rules.
I disagree. Here is the definition of the Infield Fly Rule:
An infield fly is a fair fly ball (not including a line drive nor an attempted bunt) which can be caught by an infielder with ordinary effort, when first and second, or first, second and third bases are occupied, before two are out. The pitcher, catcher and any outfielder who stations himself in the infield on the play shall be considered infielders for the purpose of this rule. (italics mine).
When it seems apparent that a batted ball will be an infield fly, the umpire shall immediately declare infield fly for the benefit of the runners.
Well, neither Kozma or Holliday stationed themselves anywhere near the infield. Nor did Holbrook make the call immediately. Yes, it was wrong for the Braves fans to react they way they did. But they were more clever when they chanted "infield fly rule" when the Cardinals hit fly balls deep into the outfield.
For a moment there, it looked like Chipper Jones was going to end his career by making the final out of the game. He had already committed an error which led to three Cardinal runs in the fourth and had been hitless in his first four at bats. If he had made the final out, it would have been the worst possible way for Jones to end his career.
Jones hit a routine groundball to Cardinals secondbaseman David Descalso. But Descalso's throw forced Cards firstbaseman Allen Craig off the bag and Jones was ruled safe. Now that was an error. But under the circumstances he was credited with a hit.
Freddie Freeman then doubled which brought the tying run to the plate. Unfortunately for the Braves, Dan Uggla hit a routine grounder to Descalso and it was all over. The Cardinals broke the Braves' hearts for the second straight year and Chipper Jones walked off the field for the last time.
The Cards advance to the NLDS and will host the Washington Nationals starting Sunday.
The Orioles-Rangers game was far less controversial. I was surprised that Buck Showalter started Joe Saunders given that he was 0-6 with an ERA of nearly 10.00 in Arlington. But Saunders pitched into the sixth inning giving up only one run. Showalter looked like a genius and he might very well be.
Then again, the Rangers were flat nearly the entire game. Less than two weeks ago, they had a five game lead in the AL West. The Rangers would be swept by the Oakland A's and ceded the AL West title. The back to back AL champions found themselves in an unfamiliar and uncomfortable situation.
Down 5-1 in the bottom of the ninth, the Rangers appeared to show life by loading the bases against O's closer Jim Johnson. This brought the tying run to the plate. But it was not to be. David Murphy flied out to Nate McLouth to end the game. So we won't get to see anymore of Nolan and Ruth Ryan or George and Laura Bush in the post-season.
The O's now go back to Baltimore to face the New York Yankees in the ALDS starting Sunday. It will be the first time the NLDS will be an interdivisional affair. The O's and Yankees built up quite a rivalry this season and it will no doubt intensify over the next several days.