Friday: Cardinals, Orioles win wild card games
ATLANTA (AP) — The St. Louis Cardinals won baseball’s first wild-card playoff, taking advantage of a disputed infield fly call that led to a protest and fans littering the field with debris to beat the Atlanta Braves 6-3 Friday.
Matt Holliday homered and the defending World Series champion Cardinals benefited from three Braves errors. St. Louis advanced to play Washington in the division series starting Sunday.
Chipper Jones played his final game for the Braves, and made a crucial throwing error in the fourth inning that led to three runs.
But the first game in the majors’ new postseason round — and one-and-done matchup — will be remembered forever for a wild play in the eighth on a shallow fly to left field.
The Braves thought they had the bases loaded with one out after the ball dropped between two fielders, who appeared to get mixed up over who had called for it. But left-field umpire Sam Holbrook called Andrelton Simmons out under the infield fly rule — even though the ball landed at least 50 feet beyond the dirt.
When the fans realized what had happened, they littered the field with beers cups, popcorn holders and other trash, leading to a 19-minute delay as the Cardinals retreated to their dugout.
That only delayed the inevitable. When play finally resumed, Brian McCann walked but Michael Bourn struck out to end the threat. Dan Uggla grounded out with two aboard in the ninth to end it, leading to one more wave of trash throwing as the umps scurried off the field — probably feeling a lot like those replacement NFL refs who caught so much grief.
Orioles 5, Rangers 1
ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — Buck Showalter and the Baltimore Orioles will get another chance to overtake the New York Yankees.
The surprising O’s have already beaten some big odds, getting past the two-time defending AL champion Texas Rangers and their Japanese ace, Yu Darvish, in the win-or-go-home wild-card playoff.
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 5-1 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.