The St. Louis Cardinals will face the Washington Nationals, while the Baltimore Orioles meet the New York Yankees in Major League Baseball’s division series after wins in the sport’s first wild-card round.
The Cardinals defeated the Atlanta Braves 6-3 in the National League wild-card game played under protest after an infield-fly call caused a 19-minute delay as grounds crew cleaned up debris thrown on the field by fans at Turner Field in Atlanta.
“That call was right there in the gray area,” said Atlanta third baseman Chipper Jones, who ended his 19-year career in a game in which he committed an error at third base that helped lead to runs for St. Louis. “That call didn’t cost us the ball game, three errors did and mine was probably the biggest. We just dug ourselves a little too big of a hole.”
In the American League wild-card contest, the Orioles downed the Texas Rangers 5-1 for Baltimore’s first postseason win since 1997. Baltimore hosts the Yankees in the first of the best-of-five game AL Division Series.
The Cardinals and Nationals also begin their NL Division Series tomorrow in St. Louis. The Nationals finished with the best record in the league, four games ahead of Atlanta in the NL East.
The other division series games begin today, when the Oakland Athletics visit the Detroit Tigers in the AL at 6 p.m. New York Time and the San Francisco Giants host the Cincinnati Reds in the NL about 3 1/2 hours later.
Baseball’s postseason was expanded this year to four rounds, including a second wild-card in each league for two non-division winners with the best records.
Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez, whose protest was denied by MLB, said he thought the ball hit by Andrelton Simmons was too far out for it to be an infield fly.
“From where I was, I thought we had a legit beef,” he said.
Gonzalez said he was disappointed at the fans’ reaction.
“For me, it’s uncalled for,” the Braves’ manager said. “It’ doesn’t look good.”
A throwing error by Jones in the top of the fourth led to the start of the Cardinals’ three-run inning. Matt Holliday hit a solo home run in the sixth to lead the defending World Series champions.
Braves pitcher Kris Medlen allowed five runs over 6 1/3 innings in the loss. Atlanta had won the previous 23 games Medlen started, breaking a record he shared with Whitey Ford and Carl Hubbell.
Baltimore’s J.J. Hardy hit a run-scoring single in the first inning and then scored on Adam Jones’s sacrifice fly in the sixth to give the Orioles a 2-1 lead at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, Texas.
Nate McLouth had a one-run single in the seventh inning for the Orioles, with Manny Machado driving in Lew Ford and Robert Andino scoring on McLouth’s sacrifice fly in the ninth.
Ian Kinsler scored the Rangers’ only run when Josh Hamilton grounded into a first-inning double play.
“I’m shocked,” Rangers manager Ron Washington said. “That’s the way a winner feels and I’m a winner.”
The Rangers, runners-up in the World Series the past two years, lost the AL West title on the final day of the regular season when they were defeated by the Athletics.
Joe Saunders, who was 0-6 against the Rangers going into last night’s game, allowed one run on six hits and struck out four in 5 2/3 innings.
“It was a little dicey in the first inning,” Saunders said, adding he wanted to “minimize the damage and keep us in the game.”
Yu Darvish gave up five hits and struck out seven in 6 2/3 innings for the Rangers.
Atlanta fans littered the field with cups, bottles and other debris in the eighth inning after Simmons was called out on the infield-fly-rule play.
A pop-up by Simmons landed on the left-field grass between St. Louis shortstop Pete Kozma and outfielder Holliday about 20 feet behind the infield dirt.
The rule, which means the batter is automatically out, is called when a ball can be caught by an infielder with an “ordinary effort,” when first and second, or first, second and third bases, are occupied, before two are out. It’s intended to prevent an infielder from intentionally dropping a pop-up to try to create a double or triple play.
The Braves would have had the bases loaded with one out if the rule hadn’t been called. Instead, they ended the inning without scoring a run.
The Cardinals, who entered the postseason with a losing record (38-43) away from home, had lost five of six regular-season games against the Braves.