Atlanta had a potential scoring opportunity interrupted by the call, which then developed into a 19-minute delay before play continued.
The Cardinals were leading, 6-3, at the time, and Andrelton Simmons came up with runners on first and second. Simmons lifted a fly ball into short left field, and two St. Louis defenders — shortstop Peter Kozma and left fielder Matt Holliday — converged on the ball.
Kozma wound up pulling up at the last second, and Holliday wasn’t in position to make the catch. The ball dropped, but left-field umpire Sam Holbrook immediately signaled for the infield fly rule. Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez protested, and fans in the crowd pelted the playing surface with litter.
“For me, that’s uncalled for,” said Gonzalez. “I think we, as fans, and I understand. I understand the disappointment. But we can’t do that. As Atlanta Braves and people from Georgia, it doesn’t look good, and I’m a little disappointed in our fans from that point.”
The umpire’s ruling meant that the batter was ruled out. Gonzalez filed an official protest with the umpiring crew, and the stadium waited while the situation was sorted out.
The inning ended with a bases-loaded strikeout by Michael Bourn.
Kozma was perhaps 90 feet onto the outfield grass when the ball dropped between he and the charging Holliday, and the umpire’s arm didn’t go up to indicate the infield fly rule until a moment before the ball hit the ground.
The Major League rulebook clearly states the circumstances of the infield fly rule.
“An infield fly is a fair fly ball (not including a line drive nor an attempted bunt) which can be caught by an infielder with ordinary effort, when first and second, or first, second and third bases are occupied, before two are out,” says Rule 2.00 in the definition of terms. “The pitcher, catcher and any outfielder who stations himself in the infield on the play shall be considered infielders for the purpose of this rule.”
A further comment on that official rule spells out the complexity of making the call.
“The umpire is to rule whether the ball could ordinarily have been handled by an infielder -- not by some arbitrary limitation such as the grass, or the base lines,” it says. “The umpire must rule also that a ball is an infield fly, even if handled by an outfielder, if, in the umpire’s judgment, the ball could have been as easily handled by an infielder.
“The infield fly is in no sense to be considered an appeal play. The umpire’s judgment must govern, and the decision should be made immediately.”
Torre, Major League Baseball’s executive vice president of baseball operations, addressed the protest after the game.
“I talked to Jeff Kellogg during the play stoppage because of the unique situation with the one-game playoff,” he said. “He just was curious how to handle the protest. In looking at the rule, there’s 24 hours you have to make the report. In the circumstances, I think, it just didn’t make sense for that to take place. So after the game, I made sure I talked to both Frank Wren and Fredi to let them know that I was disallowing the protest. I wanted to make sure they heard it from me.
“I like the one-game playoff. It’s a Game 7. This was an exciting game. I mean, I’m sorry about the controversy. It’s certainly not something we ever planned on. But two out of three, a number of different reasons I don’t like that. A two out of three, you’ve got to make an off-day somewhere. You could having a team win the division and [sit still] for five or six days.”