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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.
The first MLB Wild Card game was truly a wild one, as the St. Louis Cardinals won 6-3, to advance to the NL Divisional Series against the Washington Nationals.
The Braves jumped out to an early lead in the bottom of the second inning when catcher David Ross -- who started in place of injury-plagued backstop Brian McCann -- crushed a two-run homer into the left-center field seats to give them a 2-0 edge on the Cardinals.
St. Louis rallied in the top of the fourth to answer back. Carlos Beltran led off the inning with a single and was put in scoring position after a throwing error by Chipper Jones on a Matt Holiday grounder. With runners on first and third, Cards third baseman Allen Craig plated Beltran with an RBI double to left that advanced Holliday to third. Yadier Molina then grounded to second to score Holliday and move Craig to third, and a David Freese sacrifice fly to center scored Craig to give the Cards a 3-2 lead.
The teams lay dormant until the top of the sixth when Holliday blasted a solo homer to left field to put St. Louis up 4-2.
The Braves, who were the best defensive team in the National League in 2012, saw some uncharacteristically sloppy defense rear its ugly head in the top of the seventh inning, as second baseman Dan Uggla couldn't handle a grounder off the bat of Freese and overthrew Freeman at first to put Freese on second with nobody out. Daniel Decalso bunted pinch runner Adron Chambers to third, and the Braves defense faltered again when a Peter Kozma grounder to shortstop Andrelton Simmons led to Simmons firing a ball to the backstop allowing Chambers to score. Matt Carpenter followed by plating Kozma from second with slow grounder to Jonny Venters to give St. Louis a 6-2 lead.
Atlanta scratched back in the bottom of the seventh as pinch-hitter Jose Costanza tripled and was driven in on a ground out by Braves center fielder Michael Bourn to make it 6-3.
And then things got messy, literally. The Braves had a potential rally brewing in the bottom of the eighth, but a questionable infield fly rule call on a shallow fly ball that Holliday let drop in left field kept them from having the bases loaded with one out, and led Braves fans to shower Turner Field with garbage, which caused a 20-minute delay. It also caused Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez to file an official protest.
Following the delay, the Cards turned to closer Jason Motte to pick up a four out save. With runners on second and third and two out in the eighth, he walked pinch hitter McCann to load the bases, but struck out Bourn to end the threat.
With two outs in the bottom of the ninth, Motte allowed an infield hit to Chipper Jones in Braves third baseman's final MLB at-bat, followed by a ground rule double to Freeman putting runners at second and third. The Cards closer got Uggla to ground out to second to send St. Louis to the NLDS for the second year in a row.
While it's unlikely that anything will come of the Braves protest, it is likely that this game is one that is talked about for quite a while. The protest, which would normally be decided upon in a 24-hour window, will be subject to an expedited process given the gravity of the playoff situation and schedule.
Game 1 of the NLDS between the Cardinals and Washington Nationals is scheduled for 2:07 p.m. CT on Sunday, Oct. 7 at Busch Stadium and will be televised on TBS.