While all the talk after the St. Louis Cardinals 6-3 win over the Atlanta Braves, in baseball's first winner take all Wild Card showdown, was surrounding the absolutely awful call by umpire Sam Holbrook. At the end of the day, the Braves season came to an end for one reason and one reason only.
Edmonton - October 6, 2012 - While all the talk after the St. Louis Cardinals 6-3 win over the Atlanta Braves, in baseball's first winner take all Wild Card showdown, was surrounding an absolutely awful call by left field umpire Sam Holbrook during the bottom of the eighth inning. At the end of the day, the Braves season came to a surprising ending for one reason and one reason only...defence.
After completing an entire162 game schedule with the fewest errors in the entire National League, Atlanta self-destructed at crunch time. They committed three throwing errors, which led directly to four unearned runs and basically handed the the Cardinals a shot at defending their 2011 World Series Championship.
The game was rather bittersweet for Braves third baseman Chipper Jones. The loss brought an end to what was an outstanding nineteen year and Hall of Fame career but it finished up with the eight-time All-Star committing a crucial throwing error, that kick-started the Cards comeback.
Early on, it seemed as though it would be the Braves night. Right-fielder Jason Heyward started things off on a great note, taking away a sure-fire Home Run from Yadier Molina in the second inning, with a leaping catch to keep the game scoreless. Atlanta would make the most of Heyward's thievery, as backup catcher David Ross took St. Louis starter Kyle Lohse deep for a two-run shot in the bottom of the inning, giving them an early 2-0 lead.
They would hold that lead until the top of the fourth, which is when the Braves started to unravel. Carlos Beltran opened the inning up with the Cards first hit of the night off Braves starter Kris Medlen. That was followed by what looked to be a tailor-made double play ball, off the bat of Matt Holliday but Jones' throw to second sailed into right field, leaving St. Louis with men on second and third, with no one out. First baseman Allen Craig promptly smacked a double to left, scoring Beltran, to cut the lead in half. Two productive outs later,a ground out and sacrifice fly, and the Cardinals had their first lead, with only two hits on the board.
Atlanta looked to have regained the lead in the bottom of the frame, after an apparent Cardinals throwing error led to a pair of runners crossing the plate but shortstop Andrelton Simmons was called out for baserunner interference, squashing the St. Louis throwing blunder and keeping the visitors in the lead. The Braves did have runners on the corners, with one out in the inning, making the decision for Simmons to lay down a bunt, with the pitcher on deck, a rather perplexing move.
Holliday would make it a two run bulge, sending a Medlen offering over the left field wall in the top of the sixth. They would blow things open in the seventh, thanks to a couple of more throwing errors, one courtesy of Dan Uggla to start the inning and one from Simmons, which led to another two runs scoring. Just like that, this one had turned into a possible romp but to their credit, the Braves kept coming and than...it happened.
After pinch hitter José Constanza cut the lead to three in the seventh, coming home on a Michael Bourn groundout, Atlanta were pressing for more in the eighth inning. With runners on first and second and one away, Simmons popped up into shallow left and Cards shortstop Pete Kozma tracked back to make what looked to be a rather routine play. Be it the noise in the building or something else, Kozma backed off at the last second, allowing the ball to drop into no man's land.
That should have given the Braves the bases loaded with one out but Holbrook, for reason's known only to himself, called the infield fly rule, meaning Simmons was automatically out. Obviously it was the wrong call and to make matters worse, he made it late, adding more fuel to the fire. A twenty minute delay followed, as the fans showed their displeasure with the call, littering the field with whatever they could get their hands on. Make no mistake, it was a brutal call and a tough break for Atlanta but let's not forget, they were trailing by three runs. Could that have sparked a rally? Possibly but there was no guarantee of that.
When play finally resumed, the Cardinals brought in Jason Motte to close things out. After walking pinch hitter Brian McCann to load the bases and falling behind 3-1 to Bourn, Motte blew consecutive pitches by the Braves leadoff hitter, ending the threat and any potential comeback.
Atlanta were understandably unhappy with the blown call in the bottom of the eighth but their star third baseman summed it up best, in his post-game comments.
"People that were talking were obviously talking about the call," Jones said. "You know, they're disappointed. There's a lot of guys in there trying to lay blame, and I kind of kept my mouth shut, because ultimately, I feel like I'm the one to blame."
"I wanted to come out here and play well," Jones continued. "Today, my heart is broken 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."
It was definitely a brutal way for both the Braves and Jones to bow out but laying that at the feet of an umpire, who's blown call "might" have changed the outcome, would have been nothing more than passing the buck. Fortunately, the former National League MVP wanted no part of it, going out with head held high and not making any excuses.
Rob Soria is the Edmonton Oilers' correspondent for OurHometown.ca. Rob was born and raised in Edmonton and is the author of the Edmonton Oilers blog - OilDrop.ca. He has been a dedicated follower of the game and its history for years but his focus remains on his hometown Edmonton Oilers. If you have questions or wish to contact Rob, you can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org
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