Iffy call against Braves sets off Turner Field fans

ATLANTA – Bedlam reigned at Turner FIeld on Friday night when a questionable application of the infield fly rule resulted in trash tossed on the field and a 15-minute delay during the eighth inning of the National League wild-card game pitting the Braves against the St. Louis Cardinals.

Grounds crew members pick up trash at Turner Field after a controversial call.

Atlanta Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez played the remainder of the game – won by the Cardinals, 6-3 – under protest, but it was denied by Major League Baseball officials on the scene before the game was concluded. Major League Baseball vice president Joe Torre informed the clubs immediately, waiving the 24-hour review period for a protest because of the quick turnaround of the playoffs.

St. Louis advances to the National League Division Series, where it will meet the Washington Nationals. Game 1 is Sunday.

With the Braves trailing 6-3 and two runners on in the bottom of the eighth inning, Andrelton Simmons was called out an infield fly rule on a ball he hit 65 feet into the outfield.

In an instant, a wave of blue beer cans came out of the Turner Field stands in a shower of disgust.

As soon as Gonzalez got back to the dugout and Simmons was moved off first base, the crowd exploded in a frenzy of boos and debris. Cardinals third baseman David Freese sprinted for the dugout to escape the torrent, and his teammates quickly followed.

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When asked after the game if he was concerned for his team’s safety, Matheny said: “Very.”.

The umpires gathered behind the pitcher’s mound and a water bottle, apparently still half full, came skipping across the diamond.

“I was concerned that once we went back to our positions, it would happen again,” said Jeff Kellogg, the umpiring crew chief, in a postgame press conference. “Fortunately, it didn’t.”.

Added catcher Yadier Molina: “It was scary at first. I’ve never seen that before.”.

The Braves were batting with one out and runners on first and second when Simmons hit the pop toward left. St. Louis shortstop Pete Kozma went back on the ball, then stopped as leftfielder Matt Holliday came charging.

Left field umpire Sam Holbrook called the infield fly rule and third base umpire Nelson jerked his thumb in the air, too. The rule is designed to thwart a defense that allows a ball to drop purposely to force out an advancing runner.

Instead of bases loaded and one out, it was second and third with two out.

Here’s the definition of baseball’s infield fly rule:.

Rule 2.00 (Infield Fly) Comment: On the infield fly rule the umpire is to rule
whether the ball could ordinarily have been handled by an infielder—not by some
arbitrary limitation such as the grass, or the base lines. The umpire must rule
also that a ball is an infield fly, even if handled by an outfielder, if, in the
umpire’s judgment, the ball could have been as easily handled by an infielder.

Afterward, Holbrook was asked if he still believed he made the correct call after viewing the replay.

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“Absolutely,” Holbrook said.

The call created an immediate and ugly backlash, this in a town accused for years of not being passionate about sports. Atlanta fans turned the perception around in an instant – to an unfortunate extreme.

Braves players were quick not to blame the call directly for their loss, but frustration was palpable.

As the postgame press conference with Torre and the umpires aired in the Braves clubhouse, several players muttered as answers were given. When Torre was asked his opinion of the call if he were a manager in the Braves’ situation, one of the players shouted, “Tell the truth!”.