As tempting as it is to blame Fredi Gonzalez for managing a winner-take-all game as if it were just another regular-season game or umpire Sam Holbrook for his brutal infield-fly call, the fact that the Braves lost to the Cardinals 6-3 on Friday can be chalked up to poor defense from a team that made the fewest errors in the National League this year.
– Up 2-0, third baseman Chipper Jones threw a potential double-play ball over the head of Dan Uggla and into right field in the fourth inning, opening the door for the Cardinals to score three runs.
– Second baseman Dan Uggla bobbled and then threw away David Freese’s grounder with the Braves down 4-2. Freese took second on the play.
– After a sac bunt advanced the pinch-runner, Pete Kozma hit a grounder to shortstop. Andrelton Simmons bobbled the ball and then foolishly threw home anyway. Not only did the run score, but Kozma was able to go to second when the throw went wide.
– It wasn’t an error, but the Cards scored again in the seventh to go up 6-2 when a Matt Carpenter swinging bunt turned into an infield single and an RBI, as Kozma scored from second after pitcher Jonny Venters missed the tag and had his momentum carry him past the first base line.
Atlanta went on to lose from there despite outhitting the Cardinals 12-6 and outwalking them 3-0. This one isn’t on Gonzalez or Holbrook; it’s all on the Braves.
Here we are, the final day of the regular season. And every game with playoff implications will start at the same time: 3:05 p.m. ET. What to watch …
American League Wild Card
NYY @ BAL
HOU @ ARI
LAA @ TEX
This is where the most intrigue lies heading into the day. We have the Yankees currently in position for hosting duties, but they’re only one game up on Houston. And then Houston is only one game up on Anaheim. Also at play here is that the Astros are just one game back of the Rangers in the American League West standings. If the Yankees, Astros, and Rangers all win on Sunday the current postseason map stays the same — the AL Wild Card Game on Tuesday will be at Yankee Stadium with the Astros visiting. And the Angels would obviously be out. But if the Angels win and the Astros lose, we’ll have a play-in game Monday. And if the Yankees lose, the location of the Wild Card Game on Tuesday could change.
American League West
HOU @ ARI
LAA @ TEX
As we touched on above, the Astros are still in a position to force a tiebreaker for the division if the Angels beat the Rangers again in Arlington. It’ll be Garrett Richards against Cole Hamels in that one. Houston is throwing Lance McCullers vs. Robbie Ray in Arizona.
American League Best Record
KC @ MIN
TOR @ TB
If the AL Central-champion Royals (94-67) beat the Twins on Saturday behind deadline acquisition Johnny Cueto, they’ll get the Wild Card Game winner in the ALDS and clinch homefield advantage throughout the postseason. But if they lose, the Blue Jays (93-68) could move into that top seed because they won their season series against Kansas City 4-3. Mark Buehrle is pitching for Toronto in what is supposed to be his final major league game.
National League Wild Card
CIN @ PIT
CHC @ MIL
Pittsburgh losing and Chicago winning on Saturday kept Wild Card Game hosting duties alive for Wrigley Field. If the Pirates fall again to the Reds and the Cubs win at Miller Park, the game Wild Card Game Wednesday will be in Chicago because the Cubs have the season-series edge (11-8) over the Bucs. Pittsburgh can wrap up clinching duties with a victory behind J.A. Happ.
Stay tuned. We’ll be covering all angles as the 2015 regular season comes to a close.
There was a pretty cool moment in Saturday’s game between the Reds and Pirates.
A.J. Burnett has announced that this will be his final season, so his start Saturday at PNC Park might have been the last time he ever pitches off a major league mound. (Pittsburgh has to make it through the Wild Card Game to get the 38-year-old right-hander another turn).
Aware of all this, Joey Votto made eye contact with Burnett just before his at-bat in the top of the first inning and gave a tip of the cap. Er, batting helmet …