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Bad Defense, Bad Call and Bad Behavior: Braves Fall to Cardinals after Bad Infield Fly Call

Plop… the Infield Fly that Wasn’t (Getty Images-TBS Screencap)

“The best umpired game is the game in which the fans cannot recall the umpires who worked it.” Bill Klem

The Atlanta Braves lost to the St. Louis Cardinals by a score of 6-3 in the National League Wild Card “Play in Game.” It was a game marked by incredibly bad defense on the part of the Braves, an extremely bad “Infield Fly Rule” call by Left Field Line Umpire Sam Holbrook and a 19 minute trash throwing delay by fans that I never thought possible in Atlanta. I thought I that a bunch of Philadelphia Eagles or Flyers fans had been transported to Atlanta for the game.

Braves starter Kris Medlen took the loss giving up just three hits but 5 runs, only 2 of which were earned. The Braves, including legendary Third Baseman Chipper Jones committed 3 errors which contributed to the loss.

In a normal situation this wouldn’t sound like a controversial. However the Braves, trailing 6-3 with runners on first and second with one out Braves Shortstop Andrelton Simmons was called out on a shallow fly ball to left field which fell between Cardinals’ shortstop Pete Kozma and Left Fielder Matt Halliday. It looked like the Braves had the bases loaded with only the one out when Left Field Line Umpire Holbrook made a late call for a “Infield Fly Rule” which caused Simmons to be out. The Braves fans went crazy forcing the players off the field as cans and bottles were thrown with wild abandon.

Turner Field ground Crew picks up the trash in the 8th inning (US Presswire) 

After the delay the Cardinals brought in closer Jason Motte who was able to work his way out of the inning. Motte then put the Braves down in the 9th despite giving up a broken bat infield single to Chipper Jones in his last at career at-bat and a ground rule double to Freddy Freeman to get the save.

The infield fly rule is designed to protect the offense from a fielder that intentionally drops or misses a pop fly in order to get a double play. On the play it is to be called early enough for runners to be able to have the opportunity to advance at their own risk. Likewise the fielder must be reasonably be in a position to make the play without undue effort. That certainly was nit the case. The call came as the ball was almost on the ground when the call was made and it certainly was not in any sense of the word a routine pop fly.  The MLB Rule Book reads:

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.

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.

Braves Manager Fredi Gonzalez put the game under protest but his protest was denied.

With the win the Cardinals move on to face the Washington Nationals in the NLDS on Sunday. The Braves and their future Hall of Famer Chipper Jones are now done for the season.

Tough Night for Chipper (Kevin C Cox Getty Images)

The game was not decided on the bad call alone. Jones committed a key error on a double play ball that allowed the Cardinals to rally and take the lead. Likewise the Braves managed to load the bases in the bottom of the 8th after the call but could not plate a runner, nor did they score in the 9th. The Braves had 12 hits to the Cardinals 6 and left 12 men on base. Teams do not commit that many errors or leave that many men on base without paying for it.

The behavior of the Braves fans was something that I never expected out of them. The reaction to the call was shameful and I think unfitting to honor Chipper Jones.

Appropriate credit has to be given to the Cardinals under rookie Manager Mike Matheny who despite the retirement of Manager Tony LaRussa and the loss of Albert Pujols to free agency fought hard to gain the final National League Wild Card berth.

I am a fan of having the Wild Card playoff but I wonder if a one and out format is the best. Maybe a three game series is better.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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No Joy in Tampa: Rangers Win 5-1 advance to ALCS

David Price looks on as the Rangers celebrate

The Tampa Bay Rays made an early exit from the playoffs in a year that many expected them to challenge for the World Series. Instead Joe Maddon’s team played their swan song on Tuesday night knowing that it is unlikely that this team will be the same next season.  It was a series where the home team never won a game, so much for home-field advantage which was bad news for the Rays who had the “advantage” of playing in a stadium that the fans only show up to during the playoffs. According to the Elias Sports Bureau it is the first time that the road team has one every game of a post season series.

The difference maker: Cliff Lee mows down the Rays (Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images)

Ron Washington’s Rangers ended a playoff drought that stretched back to 1961 when the Senators came to Washington as an expansion team and until Tuesday was the only MLB franchise that had never won a playoff series.  The legendary pitcher Nolan Ryan the new owner of the Rangers sat in the stands savoring the moment as Washington and his team celebrated on the field while the Tampa fans filed out of the stadium. The mood in Tampa was totally different than in Atlanta on Monday when the Braves lost their series to the Giants and both teams and grateful Braves fans saluted retiring manager Bobby Cox. If there was no joy in Mudville when the Mighty Casey struck out there was less in the Trop as B.J. Upton popped out to left center to end the game and season for the Rays.

Rangers celebrate their first playoff series win (Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images)

The Key was pitching, in particular Cliff Lee who as he was in the playoffs last year with the Phillies absolutely dominated the Rays for the second time in 5 games. Lee fanned 11 Rays in a six hit and one run complete game victory and lowered his post season ERA to 1.12.  The win continued a post season where pitching has been the dominant force in every series.

Aggressive base running: Elvis Andrus scores in the 1st inning

The Rangers used some aggressive base running to set the Rays on their heels early in the game and continued that aggressiveness the entire game. Elvis Andrus got a leadoff single and stole second base. He then scored on a ground ball out by Josh Hamilton alertly coming all the way around from second as the pitcher David Price taking the throw at first failed to check the runner.  The Rays got that run back in the bottom of the 3rd inning combining consecutive singles by Sean Rodriguez, Jason Bartlett and Ben Zobrist to get on the board.

The Rangers took the lead in the top of the 4th inning when Nelson Cruz alertly scored on Ray’s catcher Kelly Shoppach’s throwing error to third which sailed high and right over the outstretched arm of Evan Longoria. The scored again in the 6th inning to make the score 3-1 using aggressive heads up base running this time by Vladimir Guerrero to get the run. With Guerrero at second base and Nelson Cruz on first Ian Kinsler hit a ground ball to first base. First baseman Carlos Pena threw to second to get the force but the throw back from second was late getting to Price who was covering. Guerrero’s dash to the plate surprised Price who threw just late to Kelly Shoppach at the plate as Guerrero slid around the tag for the run. The Rangers added two insurance runs off or Rays Closer Rafael Soriano when Ian Kinsler hit his third home run of the series a two run shot to make the score 5-1.

The win was a triumph for the scrappy Rangers and a bitter disappointment for the Rays and the 12 disciples in Tampa that are their die-hard fans. The team will be certainly broken up was the payroll is slashed by a huge amount leaving free agents like Carl Crawford up for grabs. The Rangers move on the face the Yankees in the ALCS and this could be a much more interesting series than that played by the Yankees against their perpetual piñata the Minnesota Twins.

Tomorrow or Thursday I should have my LCS picks out, I went four for four in the Divisional series so I hope to repeat my success with the same degree as I did last year.

Peace

Padre Steve+

 

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Conrad’s 3 Errors Help Giants Win 3-2 to Take Series Lead

Brooks Conrad looks down after his 3rd error of the game (AP Photo/Dave Martin)

Once again the Braves and Giants had a pitcher’s duel going as their starters maintained a firm grip on the game as Jonathan Sanchez set the pace for the Giants holding the Braves to two hits and a run in 7.1 innings work and Tim Hudson holding the Giants to an unearned run in 7 innings work.

Jonathan Sanchez dominated the Braves for 7 innings (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

The Giants led by a score of 1-0 until the bottom of the 8th inning scoring their run in the second inning when Mike Fotenot tripled and then scored on Brooks Conrad’s fielding error on a Cody Ross ground ball. The lead held up until with one out in the 7th Sanchez gave up a single to Alex Gonzalez. This brought in Sergio Romo to face pinch hitter Eric Hinske. With a 0-2 count Hinske drilled a shot just over the right field wall next to the foul pole to give the Braves a 2-1 lead.  This sent the fans at Turner Field into a tomahawk chop frenzy, the Braves dugout was celebrating and the Giants appeared to be thunderstruck.  Sanchez appeared to be in shock and others were shaking their heads.

Aubrey Huff drives in the tying run off of Mike Dunn with 2 outs in the top of the 9th (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

The Giants came up in the bottom top of the 9th inning to face Craig Kimbrel.  Kimbrel got leadoff batter Cody Ross to pop out to second for the first out. Travis Ishikawa pinch hit for Romo and drew a walk. Kimbrel then struck out Andres Torres for the second out.  With the crowd roaring Kimbrel had Freddy Sanchez down to his last strike when Sanchez singled up the middle to keep the Giants in the game. That was all for Kimbrel who turned the ball over to left hander Mike Dunn to face Aubrey Huff who hits left handed pitchers like piñatas.  Huff was behind in the count but ripped a slider on the outside corner into right field where it dropped in from of right fielder Jason Heyward to score Ishikawa.  Dunn was done in by the hit and Bobby Cox brought in Peter Moylan to get Buster Posey. Moylan did his part; Posey hit a sharp ground ball to Conrad which went between his legs into right field allowing Sanchez to score giving the Giants a 3-2 going into the bottom of the 9th. With the exception of scattered boos for Conrad the crowd sat in stunned silence and all the energy disappeared from the Braves dugout.

Freddy Sanchez celebrates with Nate Schierholtz after scoring the go ahead run (AP Photo/John Amis)

The Giants brought in Brian Wilson to close the game and Wilson back in form shut down the Braves to get the save and give the Giants a 2-1 series lead. The teams will meet Monday with the Giants’ rookie Madison Bumgarner (7-6 3.00 ERA) going against Derek Lowe (16-12 4.00 ERA) in what could be the final game of Bobby Cox’s long career.  One wonders if the Braves can rise to the occasion.

Peace,

Padre Steve+

 

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