The first wild-card playoff game in baseball history turned out to be just plain wild yesterday, thanks to a complicated rule that has long been part of baseball, even if many people don't know exactly what it is. The St. Louis Cardinals beat the Atlanta Braves 6-3, with help from a hotly disputed call regarding the infield fly rule in the 8th inning. It went against the Braves, causing a 19-minute delay as fans littered the field with trash. The trouble began when Andrelton Simmons lifted a pop fly into shallow left field. St. Louis shortstop Pete Kozma drifted back, but veered out of the way at the last minute, apparently thinking left fielder Matt Holliday was going to take it.
The ball dropped in, and the crowd roared, thinking the Atlanta Braves had loaded the bases with one out. But umpire Sam Holbrook called Simmons out. Why? The infield fly rule gives umpires the discretion to call an automatic out on a popup with more than one runner on base, largely to prevent the team in the field from intentionally letting the ball drop so they can get an extra out. At issue was whether Kozma had established his position to make the catch, and whether it should have been made under any circumstances on a popup that far beyond the infield. (Read more baseball stories.)