Atlanta • Talk about a wild card.
This one was just plain wild.
Chipper Jones played his final game. The Atlanta fans turned Turner Field into a trash heap after a disputed infield fly. And the St. Louis Cardinals did what they always seem to do in October.
Celebrated another postseason triumph.
Matt Holliday homered and the Cardinals rallied from an early deficit, taking advantage of three Atlanta throwing errors — the most crucial of them by the retiring Jones — to beat the Braves 6-3 in a winner-take-all wild-card playoff Friday.
In the eighth inning, there was more crazy throwing, this time by an irate crowd that littered the field to protest an umpiring decision that went against the Braves.
The Braves trailed 6-3 and had runners at first and second with one out when Andrelton Simmons hit a pop fly into left field. Shortstop Pete Kozma ran out for it but backed off at the last second. The ball fell between Kozma and left fielder Holliday, and a crowd of 52,631 roared, assuming the bases would be full with one out and Brian McCann on deck to pinch-hit.
Only the bases wouldn’t be loaded, because left-field umpire Sam Holbrook called Simmons out on an infield-fly ruling, an unusual call for a ball that landed about 50 feet past the back edge of the infield dirt.
“I was stunned,” Simmons told the Atlanta Journal Constitution. “I couldn’t understand the call. I’ve seen it made shallow, but not that deep [in the outfield], pretty much in left field. I don’t think anybody has seen that one before.”
Just like that, the focus shifted from Jones’ impending retirement and the end of Kris Medlen’s 23-game winning streak as a starter to a call that led to a 19-minute delay caused by enraged fans throwing beer cups, popcorn holders and other debris and a protest by Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez.
The stoppage only delayed the inevitable. When play resumed, McCann walked to load the bases but Michael Bourn struck out to end the threat.
Infield-fly rulings are not reviewable under baseball’s instant-replay rules, and Joe Torre, Major League Baseball’s vice president of baseball operations, upheld the ruling “based on the fact it’s a judgment call,” Torre said.
Holbrook, crew chief Jeff Kellogg and umpire supervisor Charlie Reliford defended the call as coming on a play in which Kozma could make the play with “ordinary effort.”
Jones refused to pin this loss on the umps.
“Ultimately I think that when we look back on this loss, we need to look at ourselves in the mirror,” Jones said. “We put ourselves in that predicament, down 6-2. You know, that call right there is kind of a gray area. I don’t know. But I’m not willing to say that that particular call cost us the ballgame. Ultimately, three errors cost us the ballgame, mine probably being the biggest.”
Jones’ bad throw on a potential double-play grounder helped allow the Cardinals to score three runs in the third and go ahead for good. Uggla and Simmons also made throwing errors in the seventh, helping the Cardinals add two runs.
The 40-year-old Jones was 1 for 5, reaching on an infield single in the ninth and ending his career stranded at third base
“Today my heart is broken,” he said. “Not for me, my heart is broken for my teammates and my coaching staff, and all these fans that have been so great to us this year.
“I walk out of here knowing that I brought it every single day,” Jones added. “When you know that, it makes it easier to walk away.”