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St. Louis Cardinals win the Wild Card amid the first-ever infield fly-related riot

The St. Louis Cardinals clinched the brand-new second National League Wild Card spot after the Los Angeles Dodgers lost Tuesday night. Now they have the Atlanta Braves to play, with Kris Medlen and Craig Kimbrel ready.

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25 Total Updates since October 6, 2012
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An infield fly riot: Baseball's officially spent

In the first-ever NL Wild Card single-elimination game, we saw baseball's last first: A riot predicated on the infield fly rule.

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The infield fly call has some defenders

The infield fly rule call that punctuated the St. Louis Cardinals' Wild Card win over the Atlanta Braves with 18 minutes of flying garbage looked inconceivably wrong at a glance—they're rarely called as far out as Pete Kozma was when he thought he was under the ball, and the call came later than most expected it to be—but give the internet long enough and it'll find the contrarians. Some very smart people, who are not and don't appear to be related to umpires, genuinely think the call was right.

One interesting discussion is going on at Baseball Think Factory, the official home of crabbed internet-baseball nerds since we were all super into Jeremy Giambi. One poster, UCCF, sums up the situation nicely—"Whether or not you think this was the right call depends almost entirely on whether you think Kozma was using ordinary effort to get back to the ball." He and a few others do.

Personally, I still don't, though that might be my generalized nervousness about these fly balls creeping in during a game I was watching as a fan. But I think there's another element to this play that leaves me on the wrong-move side—simply put, how surprising it was. The rules aren't there to surprise the players, especially in the postseason, and if we could isolate 50 almost-identical plays I just don't think we'd see the infield fly call made more than a few times.

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NLDS umps announced; infield fly opinions unknown

MLB announces the crew assigned to call the NLDS between the St. Louis Cardinals and the Washington Nationals

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Cardinals vs. Nationals NLDS game times set

The first two games of the NLDS between the St. Louis Cardinals and Washington Nationals will take place in St. Louis, starting with a Sunday Oct. 7 game at Busch Stadium.

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Infield fly riot overshadows Cards' 6-3 victory

Until the eighth inning, it looked like a somewhat sloppy, impressively tight postseason game. Then the infield fly rule caused its first-ever riot. The St. Louis Cardinals had a 6-3 lead over the Atlanta Braves, but Mitchell Boggs got in trouble with his command and his defense, and when Andrelton Simmons slipped a fly ball between Matt Holliday and Pete Kozma it looked like he'd have to deal with the bases loaded and one out.

Instead, the left field ump called the infield fly rule. Fans at Turner Field erupted, throwing garbage onto the field—grazing players and umpires—and forcing an 18-minute delay as on-field personnel escaped into the dugout. Things cleared, eventually, and after a disoriented start Jason Motte struck out Michael Bourn on a full-count fastball to end a disastrous eighth inning for Major League Baseball.

The first five outs of the ninth inning was anticlimactic, by comparison. Unhittable Craig Kimbrel was unhittable, and then Motte rolled through the first two batters he faced, before Chipper Jones hit a disputed infield single to a jump-throwing Daniel Descalso. Freddie Freeman hit a ground-rule double to put the tying run at the plate again, in the person of Dan Uggla. Uggla fouled a 98 mile-per-hour fastball straight back on the first pitch before grounding out to Descalso. Under a sky filled with trash and boos, the Cardinals sprinted off the field and toward the NLDS.

But right now the outcome of the game—played under protest, still pending—is almost secondary to the events leading up to it.

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Cardinals win 6-3, advance to NLDS

The Cardinals capitalized on shoddy defense by the Braves and controversial application of the infield fly rule to snag a 6-3 win and advance to the NLDS.

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Infield fly call sends Turner Field into paroxysms

A startling bullpen meltdown by the St. Louis Cardinals turned rapidly into a startling infield fly rule call by an umpire turned more rapidly still into an Atlanta Braves crowd that began throwing bottles and trash onto Turner Field. The near-riot delayed the game for minutes, sent both teams off the field, and overshadowed what was almost certainly the wrong call.

Andrelton Simmons's pop-fly to short left field split a disoriented Pete Kozma, who'd called for it, and a loping Matt Holliday, and looked like an obvious bases-loading hit on Kozma's mental error. But the left field umpire called the infield fly rule both very late and outside the infield, leaving Simmons out and the Turner Field crowd in a frenzy. Players had to dodge trash on their way into their respective dugouts.

It was a bad call, but unlike most bad calls it stopped the game dead in its tracks. The delay stretched past 10 minutes while stadium staff tried to clear the field and quiet the erupting crowd, leaving a game-tying at-bat—bottom of the eighth, two outs, two on, the score still 6-3—overshadowed by the kind of officiating controversy that is usually reserved for NFL replacement referees.

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Scrabble gets Chipper Jones in nerve-racking 7th

The narrative that was building in the bottom of the seventh inning was hard to avoid. Soon-to-retire Chipper Jones, whose inexplicable error gave the St. Louis Cardinals a lead over the Atlanta Braves they'd yet to relinquish, stepped up to the plate in the Wild Card play-in game for what could theoretically be the last out of his career with runners on first and second and the score 6-3. A home run off erratic Cardinals lefty specialist Marc Rzepczynski would tie the game.

Turner Field was about to erupt, and St. Louis had its collective heart in its collective throat. And on Rzepczynski's first pitch, a 93 mile-an-hour sinker, the Braves' all-time-great hit an unassuming ground ball directly to Daniel Descalso at second base.

For every postseason moment that we'll remember as long as we remember baseball—David Freese's heroics all the way down—there are 10 or 20 or 100 instances that have all the ingredients necessary for those moments, but don't quite come together. Chipper Jones and the Braves are still dangerous three runs down, but in the seventh inning, at least, the heroics that threatened the Cardinals' three-run lead never quite materialized.

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Braves errors continue as Cardinals score 6th run

The Atlanta Braves' third crucial error in seven innings pushed the St. Louis Cardinals' lead to 6-2 in the National League Wild Card play-in game, when shortstop Andrelton Simmons threw home on a Pete Kozma blooper and sent the baseball sailing over David Ross. That allowed Adron Chambers—running for David Freese—to score. David Freese got on base when Dan Uggla made the Braves' second crucial throwing error of the night.

And the Cardinals' scoring started in the fourth inning, when Kris Medlen was betrayed by a particularly ugly Chipper Jones throwing error that turned a 5-4-3 double play into first-and-third with nobody out. That's four of the Cardinals' five runs—Matt Holliday hit a solo home run—directly attributable to errors.

And then there was a fifth. Matt Carpenter hit a squibber to pitcher Jonny Venters, who tried to swipe-tag Carpenter at first. But while he was swinging and missing at Carpenter, the pinch hitter, Kozma, the Cardinals' September hero, was rounding third, making a mini-mad-dash for the Cardinals' sixth run. The Cardinals have Kyle Lohse to thank for the pitching, but they have the Braves' defense to thank for most of their offense.

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Matt Holliday homers to put Cards up 4-2

The St. Louis Cardinals' fanbase has a complicated relationship with Matt Holliday—talk-radio-call-in types seem desperate to believe he's an unclutch malingerer who counts his megabucks and doesn't hit when it counts. In their Wild Card play-in game against the Atlanta Braves, Holliday hit a booming line drive out of Turner Field to put the Cardinals up 4-2 in the top of the sixth inning.

So there's that. Holliday's NLDS drop against the Los Angeles Dodgers in his first postseason as a redbird has colored his entire tenure here—despite him winning a World Series with the team in 2011 and putting together seasons even better than we might have expected based on his career in Coors Field. Last year's injury-colored postseason, overshadowed by David Freese and Lance Berkman, wasn't much help either.

But if the Cardinals hold on against the Braves and win this Wild Card play-in, Matt Holliday might finally have an obvious, "clutch" moment those pseudo-fans can hold onto. And then—maybe then—they can finally shut up about it while Matt Holliday continues to have a brilliant Cardinals career.

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Chipper Jones's error starts Cardinals rally

The St. Louis Cardinals got their first hit of the afternoon off Kris Medlen to start the fourth inning, but when Matt Holliday sent a sharp grounder directly into Chipper Jones's glove it looked like it wouldn't go much further than that. But Jones, set to retire after the season, sailed his throw over the head of Dan Uggla, and the Cardinals suddenly had first and third with nobody out.

So of course Allen Craig doubled over Martin Prado's head, and of course the Cardinals—accused all season of not being able to play small-ball—scored two more runs on a groundout and a sacrifice fly, to take a narrow 3-2 lead over the Braves and their mostly unhittable starter. That's where things stand through five innings.

Even as a Cardinals fan it's hard to imagine Chipper Jones retiring as a direct result of his own error, if that's how things end up. But I'm not sure we ever remember these late-career blunders as strongly as we think we will. Babe Ruth the Brave and Willie Mays the Met weren't a lot of fun to watch, but they certainly haven't kept people from remembering the Yankee and Giant models.

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Cardinals reach Medlen after Chipper's error

The St. Louis Cardinals took a 3-2 lead in the top of the fourth inning of their Wild Card game vs. the Atlanta Braves, putting together three runs on Kris Medlen after a Chipper Jones error turned a double play into two baserunners for Allen Craig. Torty's owner doubled over the left fielder Martin Prado to put the Cardinals on the board, and Yadier Molina and David Freese drove in runs with a groundout and a sacrifice fly, respectively, to put them on top.

Medlen had carried a no-hitter into the inning, but Carlos Beltran led off with a base hit and Jones threw away Matt Holliday's sharp grounder. The Braves had taken the lead back in the second inning, when David Ross hit a two-run home run off Cardinals starter Kyle Lohse that was preceded by a controversial time-out call.

The first National League Wild Card play-in game is turning out to be exactly as stressful as you might have expected. So far, it's looking like a good game, too, even if Kris Medlen hasn't yet ascended into heaven and been named eternal Cy Young of the National League.

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MLB streaming: Postseason.tv showing Cardinals

Postseason.tv, a pay service provided by MLB, will be showing every postseason game up until the World Series.

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MLB odds: Cards have 15/1 odds to win World Series

The St. Louis Cardinals start off the postseason with 15/1 odds to win the World Series, the lowest odds of any team in the playoffs.

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Kris Medlen's the story as the Wild Card looms

The St. Louis Cardinals and the Atlanta Braves are playing in the first ever National League Wild Card play-in game Friday afternoon, but that's not the story. The story is that Kris Medlen is pitching. On a team that built its mid-90s dynasty around unusual-looking aces, the Braves' 26-year-old swingman finds himself 10-1 with an ERA of 1.57 and a strikeout-to-walk ratio on the Roy Halladay side of five. With 138 innings on a surgically repaired elbow, he's the media's Stephen Strasburg replacement and their excuse to talk about Stephen Strasburg, all at the same time.

And he's pitched extraordinarily well. Since joining the rotation on July 31 he's made 12 starts, thrown 84 strikeouts against 10 walks in 84 innings, and carried an ERA of 0.97. He's also won nine decisions—the Braves won the other three games he started after he left.

So—justifiably—whatever happens Friday, whether it's a blowout Cardinals win or a narrow loss, will be filtered through Kris Medlen's performance. Did somebody finally get to him? Is he still invincible? Is he as good as everybody said?

I don't think anybody's as good as everybody's said about Kris Medlen, or as Medlen has pitched over the last two months. But I'm sure that whatever happens next, he's become one of those great stories that baseball throws off every few years—the stories that transcend the season, and the rest of the player's career, and even the Braves and the Cardinals and this Wild Card game, to become a touchstone.

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Cardinals vs. Braves: Starting lineups announced

Major League Baseball's playoff picture has officially been set, with the St. Louis Cardinals and the Atlanta Braves taking the two wild card spots for the National League. Their winner-advance matchup will be on Friday at 4:07 p.m. CT at Turner Field, and the lineups for that game have been announced.

Kyle Lohse (16-3, 2.86 ERA) will take the mound for the Cardinals, facing off against Atlanta's Kris Medlen (10-1, 1.57 ERA) in a battle between two of the top pitchers in baseball. Of note on the Cardinals lineup is the starting shortstop, Pete Kozma. He was inserted into the lineup late into the season following a spat of injuries and has performed far above expectations, putting up a .333/.383/.569 line in 82 plate appearances.

Here are the lineups for Friday's playoff-opener:

St. Louis Cardinals:

Jon Jay CF
Carlos Beltran RF
Matt Holliday LF
Allen Craig 1B
Yadier Molina C
David Freese 3B
Daniel Descalso 2B
Pete Kozma SS
Kyle Lohse RHP

Atlanta Braves:

Michael Bourn CF
Martin Prado LF
Jason Heyward RF
Chipper Jones 3B
Freddie Freeman 1B
Dan Uggla 2B
David Ross C
Andrelton Simmons SS
Kris Medlen RHP

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Braves vs. Cardinals: Brian McCann to miss play-in

The St. Louis Cardinals won't have to worry about facing Atlanta Braves catcher Brian McCann in Friday's NL Wild Card play-in game, as David Ross will get the start behind the plate for the Braves, according to Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports.

Rosenthal reports that Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez cited the Cardinals tendency to run, paired with McCann being "beat up, banged up" as reasons for the move.

The Braves backstop has battled injuries all season, including a cyst and a frayed labrum in his shoulder, and most recently, hamstring tendonitis.

McCann played in 121 games for the Braves in 2012, his lowest total since taking over the starting job in 2006. While his power numbers (20 home runs and 67 RBI) aren't too far off from his career norms, his .230 batting average and .698 OPS in 2012 were the worst of his eight-year MLB career.

First pitch for Friday's NL Wild Card play-in is scheduled for 4:07 p.m. CT, and the game will be televised on TBS.

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Cards, Braves meet Friday

The St. Louis Cardinals get one game to continue their World Series defense.

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Cardinals cap regular season with 1-0 win

The Cardinals squeaked out a 1-0 win on Wednesday night as they prepare for a one-game playoff in Atlanta.

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Kyle Lohse gets Wild Card nod over Adam Wainwright

The St. Louis Cardinals send 16-3 Kyle Lohse to face Kris Medlen and the Atlanta Braves in a winner-takes-all Wild Card first.

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Cardinals to get look at top prospect Miller

Now that Game 162 won't determine the St. Louis Cardinals' postseason fate, they'll take it as an opportunity to see what their top pitching prospect can do against major league competition.

Shelby Miller will make his first career start Wednesday night when the Cardinals take on the Cincinnati Reds at 7:15 p.m. CT in St. Louis. The Cardinals will skip Adam Wainwright, leaving their ace available for either Friday's Wild Card play-in game with the Atlanta Braves or for Game 1 of the National League Division Series.

Miller last started Aug. 31 in Triple-A and has allowed two earned runs in 7⅔ innings out of the Cards' bullpen since. He entered the season as the Cardinals' top minor league prospect, though he struggled to a 4.74 ERA in his first season in Triple-A in 2012.

The Cardinals (87-74) clinched a playoff berth Tuesday night when the Los Angeles Dodgers lost to the San Francisco Giants, 4-3.

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A Dodgers loss was as good as a Cards win Tuesday

Chris Carpenter may have wanted to do things differently, but one way or another the St. Louis Cardinals earned a play-in berth against the Atlanta Braves Tuesday night.

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MLB Standings: Cardinals clinch Wild Card

The Wild Card race is finally over in the National League. After a loss by the Los Angeles Dodgers on Tuesday night, the St. Louis Cardinals clinched their spot in the postseason with an 87-74 record, two games better than LA's 85-76 record with one game remaining.

With every postseason spot clinched, October's picture is nearly complete in the National League. The Washington Nationals (97-64), Cincinnati Reds (97-64), San Francisco Giants (94-67) and Atlanta Braves (93-68) will join the Cards in the race for the 2012 World Series title. The only issue yet to be determined is seeding. Washington and Cincinnati enter the final day tied for the best record in the league.

Things aren't quite as settled in the American League, and the big game to watch will be the season finale between the Oakland Athletics and Texas Rangers for the AL West title. Both teams sit at 93-68 going into the final game of the year.

A full set of MLB standings can be found over at SI.com.

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