The Cardinals' playoff experience -- and Atlanta's untimely gaffes -- added up Friday into a St. Louis playoff win.
I know from now until the end of time that Braves fans -- who showed a complete lack of class by delaying the wildcard game by 20 minutes by throwing bottles and anything else they could get their hand on onto the field -- are going to whine that they were robbed of the game by one call.
To that I would say: 1) The umpire's call of an infield fly on a ball in short left field was not only correct by the rule book. But 2) it was made before the ball dropped to the ground between shortstop Pete Kozma and left fielder Matt Holliday. Watch the replay, Kozma was under the ball and had called for it when the umpire signaled an out due to infield fly. It seems likely that the umpire is the person who spooked Kozma from catching the ball, thinking that Holliday yelled instead of the umpire shouting "infield fly, the batter is out."
The rule states that it is an infield fly if the infielder can catch the ball with reasonable effort. When Kozma was under the ball and he called for it, the ump determined he could catch it with that reasonable effort and he called the out. Case closed. I don't particularly like the infield fly rule. But that's what's on the books.
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So... With all that out of the way, the Braves can blame no one but themselves for making THREE fielding errors and for stranding five runners on base in the last two innings of the game. The chances were there. I have an idea if we're looking to a scapegoat. How about the guy who popped up to short left representing the tying run in a playoff game?
Atlanta tried to manipulate the rules for its benefit earlier in the game when a batter bunted and then intentionally tried to get in the way of the throw from pitcher Kyle Lohse to first base. In the replay the batter can be seen swerving into fair territory -- at least two feet inside the baseline -- in reaction to Cardinals infielder Allen Craig reaching for the ball. Fortunately, the men in blue were paying attention and called the batter out, killing an Atlanta rally.
The Cardinals got their own healthy dose of umpire created bad luck earlier in the game when the plate ump called timeout as an Atlanta batter swung at strike three. Then on the next pitch he hit a two-run homer.
The most remarkable thing about the game, which has been completely overshadowed by the sour grapes of controversy, is that the Cardinals scored four runs against previously untouchable Braves pitcher for five runs, two of them earned.
And now the REAL playoffs begin as the Cardinals host the Nationals for the first two games of a five-game set Sunday and Monday in St. Louis. Suddenly, this postseason has an eerily familiar feel.
I love it.