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Pending the result of an infield fly rule protest. Because it's the postseason and the Cardinals.
Cardinals: Pending the results of a protest about everyone's favorite jokey baseball rule, the St. Louis Cardinals advanced to the NLDS Friday. Back in the familiar best-of playoffs, they'll play the Washington Nationals. Kyle Lohse was sharp, Allen Craig hit a ringing double, and Matt Holliday homered, but for a six-run night on offense the Cardinals didn't play especially well. Both their rallies were founded on noticeably bad throwing errors, and the relievers were not strong enough to prevent an extended trash-throwing nightmare at Turner Field.
Braves: Pending the results of a protest about everyone's favorite jokey baseball rule, the Atlanta Braves lost their Wild Card play-in game Friday. It was frustrating even before that, though; sailing throws on the infield undermined Kris Medlen from the beginning, and Chipper Jones, playing in the last game of his career, was responsible for the first one. Eventually, for multiple reasons, the Braves scored just one run on eight baserunners against the Cardinals' bullpen.
The infield fly rule: I don't think the call was right. I'm learning the actual text of the infield fly rule along with everyone else in this news cycle, but inasmuch as I understand the concepts of "immediately" and "ordinary effort," Pete Kozma's stilted, uncertain gait out to the ball seemed out of the ordinary and the call was not made immediately.
I'm willing to be convinced in either direction by someone who knew the text of the rule before it was necessary. But what I don't like about the call is that invoking the infield fly rule in this situation seems like a needless, legalistic intrusion into the inning. Pete Kozma wasn't going to deke a runner and start a double play—he was going to, and this seemed clear almost immediately, sidle toward the ball half-certain about calling Matt Holliday off.
Even if calling the infield fly rule is justifiable based on the substance of the play, I'm a little shocked that an umpire who's been on so many baseball fields so many times saw the rule bubbling up in what was actually happened. It just wouldn't occur to me, just as it didn't seem to occur to the other umpires.
Trash on the field: I've seen a few tweets suggesting that people shouldn't be judgmental inasmuch as they'd probably do it themselves in the same situation. I don't think this is even close to true, and I don't think we, the complaining-on-the-internet-and-not-the-ballpark baseball fanbase, should pretend it is. I don't think it's peculiar to Atlanta, but it was ugly, and a bad call wasn't cause for it.
The rest of the game: This will and should color the outcome of the game, but a lot of the if-they-didn't-then-this that's going to happen over the next several days will probably be misguided. If we were able to accurately determine how wild Jason Motte would be if he hadn't come in under a hail of overpriced wax cups after a 20 minute delay, this kind of thing wouldn't be so frustrating.
Even the protest, if it goes through, couldn't tell us what might happen; it can make them start over, but it'll be a different game they're replaying. That's what's terrible about calls like this: The rest of the game we'd been watching until the eighth inning, the sloppy, hectic, exciting play-in game the Cardinals were winning, is lost to us forever.
But pending the results of a protest about the infield fly rule, the godforsaken infield fly rule, the Cardinals won, and now they'll go to the NLDS. And we'll forget, at least in the moment, that the rest of the Cardinals' postseason is hinged in this weird place.