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Braves eliminated from playoffs

Chipper Jones looks on as his Braves’ career comes to a close. Jones ended his career with a broken-bat single in the bottom of the ninth.

Chipper Jones looks on as his Braves’ career comes to a close. Jones ended his career with a broken-bat single in the bottom of the ninth.

ATLANTA — David Freese and the St. Louis Cardinals rediscovered their postseason touch. Chipper Jones and the Braves kept throwing the ball away. And the Atlanta fans turned Turner Field into a trash heap.

They said anything could happen in baseball’s first wild-card playoff.

Boy, did it ever.

In a game protested by the Braves, Matt Holliday homered and the defending World Series champion Cardinals took advantage of three Atlanta throwing errors — the most crucial of them by the retiring Jones — to take the winner-take-all playoff 6-3 on Friday.

MLB executive Joe Torre said the protest had been denied. St. Louis advanced to face Washington in the best-of-five division round, beginning Sunday at Busch Stadium.

The Braves are done for this season, the recipients of another heartbreaking loss in the playoffs.

The 40-year-old Jones is all done, period. He managed an infield hit in his final at-bat but threw away a double play ball in the fourth, which led to a three-run inning that wiped out Atlanta’s early 2-0 lead behind Kris Medlen.

“Ultimately, I feel I’m the one to blame,” Jones said. “That should have been a tailor-made double play.”

But this one-and-done game will be remembered for the eighth, when a disputed call on a fly ball that dropped in short left field cost the Braves a chance at extending Jones’ career.

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.

“It was scary at first,” St. Louis catcher Yadier Molina said. “I’ve never seen that before.”

The stoppage 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.

The infield fly is a complicated rule, designed to prevent infielders from intentionally dropping a popup with more than one runner on base and perhaps get an extra out.

No one could ever remember it being applied like this. And, after past postseasons dotted by contested calls, this play will certainly another slew of October cries for more instant replay.

When Simmons popped one into short left field, rookie shortstop Pete Kozma drifted out, throwing up his hand like he had it. Then, with left fielder Holliday lurking a few feet away, Kozma suddenly veered away and the ball fell safely.

At least that’s what the Braves thought. Just a split-second before the ball hit the grass, Holbrook threw up his right arm to signal an automatic out. Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez stormed onto the field to object. When the fans spotted Simmons walking slowly off the field and a second out go up on the scoreboard, they erupted.

The Cardinals fled to the safety of their dugout, while the Holbrook and the rest of the six-man umpiring crew gathered in the middle of the field, out of throwing range.

Then again, this is what some fans feared about a one-game playoff — a disputed call could determine a team’s fate for an entire season. Even with two extra umpires added for postseason games.

Jones refused to pin this loss on the umps.

“That one play didn’t cost us the game. Three errors cost us the game,” he said. “We just dug ourselves too big a hole.”

Holliday homered in the sixth off Kris Medlen, who had been baseball’s most dominant starter over the final two months. The Braves had not lost a start by the diminutive right-hander since 2010 — a streak of 23 games, the longest in modern baseball history.

But this is the postseason.

This is when the Cardinals shine. So does Freese, the MVP of last year’s World Series and NL championship series.

St. Louis stunningly made the playoffs a year ago at the Braves’ expense, ralllying from 10½ games back in the wild-card race in late August to pass Atlanta on the final day of the season. The Cardinals went on to capture the championship, winning four straight elimination games while upsetting Philadelphia, Milwaukee and, finally, Texas, with the most improbable victory over all in the World Series.

They were down to their final strike in Game 6 against the Rangers before Freese tied with game with a two-run triple. They rallied from two down again in the 10th, then won it on Freese’s homer in the 11th to set up a Game 7 victory that almost seemed anticlimatic.

St. Louis was expected to fade after slugger Albert Pujols signed with the Angels and longtime manager Tony La Russa retired. And, indeed, the Cardinals wouldn’t have made the playoffs without a change in the format, adding a second wild-card team in the each league. They finished six games behind the Braves during the regular season, only to hand them more misery in the postseason.

The Braves haven’t won a playoff round since 2001. Since then, they’ve gone 0 for 7 — including six decisive losses at Turner Field.

The atmosphere was electric at the start of the game, a crowd of 52,631 battling its way through Atlanta’s notorious rush-hour traffic to fill the place before the first pitch. Among those in attendance: former President Jimmy Carter and former Braves owner Ted Turner.

The stadium got even louder when David Ross, starting at catcher in place of McCann, sent a two-run homer into the left-field seats in the second.

McCann struggled through an injury plagued season, prompting Gonzalez to give Ross the nod. It looked like a brilliant move when the Braves struck for an early lead. Uggla walked with two out against 16-game winner Kyle Lohse, then Ross appeared to strike out to end the inning. But the hitter yelled for time just before Lohse delivered the pitch, and umpire Jeff Kellog hopped out from behind the plate waving his arms while Ross swung and missed.

That call worked out for the Braves.

Behind the plate, Molina dropped his head when he realized the pitch didn’t count. He was really kicking himself when Lohse hung a breaking pitch right over the plate — and Ross knocked it out of the park. In the dugout, McCann clapped and pumped his fist for his backup.

But the Cardinals have been in this position before.

Carlos Beltran led off the fourth with the first hit of the game off Medlen, a bloop single to right. Holliday followed with a hard shot to third base, and Jones made a nice backhanded scoop. The crowd cheered, expecting a double play. That turned to gasps when Jones’ throw to second base sailed over the head of Uggla, winding up in right field. Instead of having no one on with two outs, Medlen and the Braves faced second and third and no outs.

The Cardinals made Atlanta pay, as they always seem to do in October. Allen Craig, the replacement at first base for Pujols, lined a double off the left-field wall, cutting Atlanta’s lead to 2-1. Molina followed with a groundout that brought home another run and moved to Craig over to third. He trotted home on Freese’s sacrifice fly to center field.

The Braves totally fell apart in the seventh, and Freese was right in the middle of things again. He led off with a routine grounder to Uggla, who bobbled it briefly, then unnecessarily rushed his throw to first. It wasn’t close, the ball ricocheting sailing behind home plate while Freese kept right on going to second. Daniel Descalso bunted him over to third, then Chad Durbin replaced Medlen.

Durbin got what he wanted from Kozma — a grounder to the drawn-in infield. But Simmons bobbled the ball and hurriedly threw it all the way to the backstop as Freese slid across head first to make it 5-2. Kozma took second on the miscue, and he came all the way around to score on another ball that didn’t get out of the infield. Matt Carpenter’s bunt down the first-base line was fielded by another new pitcher, Jonny Venters, who missed a swipe tag and, with his back turned, failed to notice that Kozma kept right on running to make it 6-2.

“We played to win the game,” Molina said. “They played to lose the game.”

Lohse got the win, allowing six hits and two runs in 5 2-3 innings. Medlen, who went 10-1 during the regular season, surrendered just three hits and two earned runs in 6 1-3 innings. But he gave up five runs in all, most of it none of his doing.

Jason Motte earned a save by getting the final four outs, taking over after the delay.

NOTES: The Braves outhit the Cardinals 12-6 but left 10 runners on base. St. Louis left only two runners aboard. … For the first time, the teams wore special patches on their caps commemorating the playoffs. In the past, those were only worn during the World Series. … Lohse (16-3) and Medlen had a combined record of 26-4 during the regular season. The cumulative win percentage of .867 was the highest ever for opposing postseason starters, edging the .850 mark of California’s John Candelaria (10-2) and Boston’s Roger Clemens (24-4) in the 1986 AL championship series.

Comments

Sherwood_Eagle_Alum 2 years ago

The only thing worse than the call was how some classless fans conducted themselves during that 8th inning. Complete embarrassment to the city of Atlanta and all the true Braves fans out there. It's a shame that Chipper had to go out like this. No standing ovation while taking a lap around the field.

For shame Atlanta "fans," for shame.

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Jax 2 years ago

I didn't think Braves' fans cared that much. While I admit it was classless to throw bottles on the field, I was happy to see at least some reaction from the crowd.

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coachjohnson42 2 years ago

I hate to say I told you so, but,...... (wait for it)......"I told you so!!!!"

Yes, The Almighty Coach is back!!!!! (evil laughter)

The Coach destroyed the dumb and the blind, He left his shoe in their behind, while the losers cried out for more, while picking their lips up off the floor,

You can all rest, as the best is back, Your leader is here, and thats a fact, still crushing the right,and leading the way, The Coach will fight another day!!!

The Coach was here, but now he's gone, He left his name to carry on, those who knew him, knew him well, and those who didn't can go to hmmmmm,

Good Evening fans, It is my pleasure to bring back the leader of the blogs..................THE COACH!!!!!!!!!

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VSU 2 years ago

The almighty idiot is back? Heck you never left. We know you were on the blogs under a different name. You are so predictable, I knew several months ago when you stopped posting as CJ42 that you would not show back up until after the Braves season was over and not even 3 hours has passed and voila there you are. Screw you coach, you said the Braves would not make the playoffs, in fact you said the Braves wouldn't even be over .500. So basically you were wrong. If you think anybody is impressed, you are sadly mistaken. You were wrong coach!!! WRONG!!!!!

By the way, how does it feel knowing you were wrong. Did I mention you were wrong, or did I say you were not right, either way you had it incorrect.

Poor Coach, gonna have to go the whole season knowing he was wrong. Da Corch said the Braves would suffer a late season meltdown and suck just like last year, Da Corch said the Braves would miss the playoffs and would have a losing season, but Da Corch was wrong, the Braves had one of the top records in baseball, yeah they lost in the playoffs again, but that's okay, because Da Corch said the Braves wouldn't even make it to the playoffs, so Da Corch has to face the fact that he was wrong.

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Sister_Ruby 2 years ago

Coach is back.........on dope.

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The_Dude 2 years ago

No, you didn't tell us the Braves would make the playoffs. We told you that, but you continued to spew idiocy until you were proven wrong again and again and left like a little kid who got his toy taken away. So.... We told you so!!! How ya like them apples?

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Jax 2 years ago

Welcome back, coach. While I may never agree with anything you say, you almost always make me laugh. You and bubbasmithredneck.

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coachjohnson42 2 years ago

First of all, let me say thank you to all my fans and friends who have called, texted, and emailed me to get back on here and LAY THE SMACK DOWN on all these idiots proclaiming prophecy since I was on vacation. I guess the heralds newspaper sales were low and they needed "DA CORCH"....to make a comeback. Secondly, I did say that the BRAVES WERE GONNA SUCK this year. So what if they made the playoffs....thats not anything new......they suck in the playoffs!!! Get over it......I have....I knew the outcome of that fairy tale a long time ago in the off-season!! . They forgot how to play defense.....3 errors!!! Can you say "choke"??? or MELTDOWN?????? So, go ahead and make an excuse for them again, but, the bottom-line is THEY SUCK!!!!!!

You cant stop me, and your heart is BROKEN!!! So get pissed off cuz 'DA CORCH' has SPOKEN!!!!

hahahahahahahahaha!!!!!

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waltspecht 2 years ago

Man, they apparently gave you your privilages back. You gonna be more respectful to the Guards this time? Or will you disappear into the isolation ward again soon?

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coachjohnson42 2 years ago

I dont think you want none of this walter.....I respect my elders and you are no competition.......so, save face now and run........

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VSU 2 years ago

Face it coach you were wrong! You even predicted the Philadelphia Phillies would win the division and win the World Series, but that prediction didn't work out too well for you either. You have our permission to go on another 3 month vacation, at least under coachjohnson42, but as I said earlier, you never left this site, you just used another name. And then when the timing was convenient, you go back to cj42 to run your mouth about you were right, when actually you were totally wrong.

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waltspecht 2 years ago

Whats the matter? Lost your sense of humor? Suddenly can't take a joke anymore?

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AlbanyIsTooDarkDuringTheDay 2 years ago

So, to go 94-68 means your team sucks?

Let's do some math. You are back after a little over 2 months being away. That means you likely violated probation and had to serve 60 days in jail. Congrats on getting out!

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coachjohnson42 2 years ago

little man, you amuse me.........I come and go as I please.......nobody stops the coach.....

If you want some, come get some Elroy........

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bubbasmithredneck 2 years ago

(wiping my eyes)......COACH!!!!!!! YES!!!!!! Thank you , thank you, thank you my old friend.....welcome back!!! Its good to have you back........yes, they have been awful, so please.....Get em Coach!!!! Show no mercy!!!

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coachjohnson42 2 years ago

Yes my son....I am back.....Can I help you? Who are you referring to?

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VSU 2 years ago

Coach and BSR are the same people. You are so full of it coach.

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coachjohnson42 2 years ago

Hello Vomit State University....(VSU)....How have you been? Still weak I see.....lol

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VSU 2 years ago

Stronger than you are goatbreath!

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Sherwood_Eagle_Alum 2 years ago

Have you noticed the writing styles of BSR and Corch are similar? For instances how they use "....." frequently, but also they use more than 3 periods. Most people use 3. Corch and BSR came up with his own interpretation of what VSU stands for, also. BSR said it stood for "Velvet Still Undefeated", while Corch said it stood for "Vomit State University." They both make crazy statements to stir up the pot, and they are adamantly in favor of anyone who is black.

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Jax 2 years ago

Yes, Eagle! I noticed the ellipsis attempt, and I thought the same thing. I've noticed other similarities that elude me at the moment, but I find very telling. I really enjoyed the above banter he had with himself. "Their" commenting styles are just too much alike. Of course they always make me laugh. Keep it up, coachredneck!!

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VSU 2 years ago

Sherwood, I have been saying that CJ42 & BSR are the same person for months. In fact I imagine CJ42, BSR & BVR are all the same person. Funny someone just can't be themselves, instead of pretending to be someone else just so that it looks like someone agrees with them.

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Jax 2 years ago

No way in hell BVR is the same person as coach and bubbasmithredneck. BVR has a completely different way of typing. Believe it or not, the coach is better at it than BVR. Coach knows how to make his subjects and verbs agree.

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VSU 2 years ago

People can change and dictate their own way of writing. It's not hard for one person to write intelligently as one poster, and could intentionally use poor grammar and spelling under another name. It's not rocket science. Just like a person can disguise their voice to sound differently. You are going to need more evidence than that to prove they are not all three the same. Odd that as soon as BVR disappeared, BSR showed up. I have seem similarities in BVR's & BSR's post, although there is some difference but still when you are hiding behind a computer, anybody could be anybody. I imagine several posters have used different names so that they can say something to someone without revealing who they normally post as.

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Jax 2 years ago

Since when did you start thinking coach was smart enough to do that?

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VSU 2 years ago

I don't think Da Corch is stupid. Obnoxious and annoying maybe, but not stupid.

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bubbasmithredneck 2 years ago

The Coach is gonna get u......

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bubbasmithredneck 2 years ago

at one time I felt like I needed to explain to you guys who I am ....but I really like all the attention I get by being called "Da Corch".....so, keep it going, I like it......I dont know about the DA CORCH......but I am flattered.....cuz Da Corch is the best poster this site ever had.....

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