In the first playoff game of its kind in baseball history, the defending World Series champion Cardinals eliminated the Braves and advanced to meet the Washington Nationals in a best-of-five division series beginning Sunday. That series will mark the first post-season appearance for a Washington major league team in 79 years.
Friday's wild-card playoff showdown included three costly errors by Atlanta leading to four unearned runs, the first of them being a game-changing throwing miscue by Braves' third baseman Chipper Jones in the final contest of his 20-year career.
Another of the errors was committed by Atlanta shortstop Andrelton Simmons while St. Louis was scoring two unearned runs in the seventh.
Simmons also was ruled out on an interference call running to first base in the fourth, costing Atlanta a chance for a big inning, and his pop fly to left field in the eighth led to a very controversial umpire's ruling and the ugly scene that followed.
With two runners on and one away in the eighth, Simmons lifted a fly ball that carried about 30 feet into left field. St. Louis shortstop Pete Kozma went out to make the catch, but gave way at the last second to let left fielder Matt Holliday make the play.
The ball fell between them, but an instant before the ball hit the ground third base umpire Jeff Nelson made an "infield fly" call, which meant Simmons was out.
Atlanta fans quickly began throwing bottles, cans and other debris onto the field and the Cardinals retreated to their dugout. There was an 18-minute delay, during which Atlanta Manager Fredi Gonzalez made an official protest that must be considered by Major League Baseball.
Motte was then called out of the bull pen and although he walked the first man he faced to load the bases, he struck out Michael Bourn to end the eighth inning. Motte also retired Dan Uggla with two men on in the ninth to end the game. That preserved the win for starter Kyle Lohse, who gave up two runs on six hits in 5 2/3 innings.
Atlanta took the lead on a two-run homer in the second by David Ross, putting the Braves in good shape since they had Kris Medlen on the mound. Medlen had baseball's lowest earned run average (0.94) of any starting pitcher in the majors after the all-star break.
Medlen gave up a leadoff single to Carlos Beltran in the fourth, but Holliday followed with a grounder to Jones at third. His throw to second base was too high and sailed into right field, putting runners on first and third.
St. Louis quickly capitalized with Allen Craig's double driving in a run, Yadier Molina's ground out producing another and a sacrifice fly by David Freese bringing in Craig from third and putting the Cardinals in front for good.
The game was the first to be played in baseball's new post-season format, one in which two wild-card teams from each league meet in a one-game playoff. It is the first change in 17 years to the way playoff baseball is conducted.
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