Bring On The Redbirds

The Nationals will face the St. Louis Cardinals in the NLDS starting on Sunday, the result of the Redbirds’ 6-3 win over the Braves on Friday night in Atlanta. The Braves lost the game on three errors and a controversial infield fly rule call, but were also victimized by timely St. Louis hitting.

The loss marked the end of an otherwise successful season for the 94-68 Braves, and the final game for third sacker Chipper Jones, who now heads to the baseball Hall of Fame. “I know one thing is for sure, you won’t be able to say that Braves fans don’t care,” Jones said after the loss. “They came out in full force tonight, 50,000 strong. We love each and every one of them.”

The controversy over the calling of the infield fly rule came in the 8th inning, when St. Louis shortstop Peter Kozma appeared to settle under a pop fly behind shortstop off the bat of Andrelton Simmons. The left field line umpire signaled that the infield fly rule was in effect, but perhaps too late, and Kozma failed to catch the fly: with the batter out in any event.

Fredi Gonzalez, the Atlanta manager, protested the call — and vehemently. But the ruling on the field was upheld, and Simmons was ruled out. “I was under it,” Kozma later said. “I should have made the play. I took my eyes off it. I was camped under it.”

Bottles and refuse rained down the field, which resulted in an eighteen minute game delay — and endless postgame commentary. In fact, the call might have been less controversial than it immediately seemed. But it is extraordinarily rare for an infield fly rule to be called — and then not have the fly caught. “You never envision a game like this. This was a crazy game,” Braves’ second sacker Dan Uggla admitted.

Chipper Jones, after the game, refused to pin this loss on the umps. “That one play didn’t cost us the game. Three errors cost us the game,” he said. “We just dug ourselves too big a hole.”

As a result of the Cardinals win, the Nationals will face the Redbirds tomorrow in St. Louis starting at 1 p.m. The Nats will send lefty Gio Gonzalez to the mound in the first of five games, the first two of which will be played at Busch Stadium. The Cardinals are expected to counter with Adam Wainwright.