ATLANTA (AP) — Just like last year, the Braves lost out on a spot in the NL division series to the St. Louis Cardinals. Only this time, Atlanta was knocked out with the help of what will be remembered as one of the most disputed infield fly calls in baseball history.
Trailing by three runs, the Braves would have had the bases loaded with one out in the eighth inning. Instead they had runners on second and third with two outs, didn’t score again and lost 6-3 Friday night in baseball’s first, one-and-done, wild-card playoff game.
Just like that, the focus shifted from Chipper Jones’ impending retirement and the end of Kris Medlen’s winning streak to a call that led to a 19-minute delay caused by enraged fans throwing debris and a protest by Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez.
Andrelton Simmons’ fly ball into shallow left field fell between shortstop Pete Kozma and left fielder Matt Holliday, sparking the furor. Just before the ball dropped, left field umpire Sam Holbrook raised his arm to signal an infield fly, meaning Simmons was out.
The call was later than is usual on an infield fly, a rule designed to prevent fielders from deliberately letting balls fall in attempts for a double play. This ball landed at least 50 feet beyond the infield.
Gonzalez ran onto the field and argued the call with Holbrook and other members of the umpire crew.
Last year, the Braves led St. Louis by 101⁄2 games in the wild-card race before play on Aug. 26 and still were up by 81⁄2 games on the morning of Sept. 6. Atlanta went 9-18 in September, ended with a five-game losing streak and finished a game behind the Cardinals, who went on to win the World Series.
This year, with a second wild card added, the Braves went 94-68 and the Cardinals 88-74, setting up the wild-card matchup in the expanded postseason.
Atlanta then played one of its worst games of the year, blowing a two-run lead, making three errors that led to four unearned runs and going 1 for 8 with runners in scoring position. The Braves had the fewest errors in the NL during the regular season.
One of the errors was by Jones, whose bad throw on a potential double-play grounder helped allow the Cardinals to score three runs in the third and go ahead for good. Second baseman Dan Uggla and shortstop Andrelton Simmons also made throwing errors in the seventh, helping the Cardinals add two runs.
Atlanta had won a record 23 straight starts by Medlen, who was 9-0 with a 0.97 ERA in 12 starts this season.
ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — Joe Saunders pitched effectively into the sixth inning at a place where he had never won, Adam Jones delivered the tiebreaking sacrifice fly and the Orioles, in the playoffs for the first time in 15 years, eliminated the Rangers Friday night.
The Orioles advance to play the East champion Yankees, the AL’s top seed — the teams split 18 games this season. The best-of-five division series starts Sunday at Camden Yards.
The upstart Orioles spent the whole second half chasing New York, never passing them and falling just short in a neck-and-neck race for the division title.
Turns out, the Yankees haven’t brushed off these Birds just yet.
And just that quickly, the season is over the Rangers, who were in first place for a majors-high 178 days this season. Texas loaded the bases with two outs in the ninth before David Murphy flied out to end it.
The Rangers lost the AL West crown on the final day of the regular season, after being swept in three games at Oakland for a stretch of nine losses their last 13 games.
Their worst slump of the season came at the wrong time for Ron Washington’s team, which a week ago had a four-game division lead with six games to play. Because of that, they couldn’t avoid the AL’s new winner-take-all postseason opener, and then couldn’t get past their Orioles with their top pitcher on the mound.
When the Rangers committed more than $107 million last winter to acquire Yu arvish, they did so with the anticipation he’d be on the mound for many big games.
They never would have expected him being outdueled in a playoff game by Saunders, a late-season addition by the Orioles, who had lost all six of his previous starts with a 9.38 ERA at Rangers Ballpark.