Rule book: Infield fly, game under protest mark Braves-Cardinals contest
With St. Louis leading 6-3 in the bottom of the eighth inning of Friday's wild-card playoff game between the Braves and Cardinals, Atlanta shortstop Andrelton Simmons hit a short fly ball to leftfield with runners on first and second base and one out. The ball fell in between Cardinals shortstop Pete Kozma and leftfielder Matt Holliday and it appeared as though the Braves would have the bases loaded. Leftfield umpire Sam Holbrook, however, called for the infield fly rule, meaning Simmons was automatically out. Here is the rule from MLB.com, with the points of contention bolded by SI.com for emphasis:
"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 [emphasis added], when first and second, or first, second and third bases are occupied, before two are out. 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.
When it seems apparent that a batted ball will be an Infield Fly, the umpire shall immediately declare [emphasis added] Infield Fly for the benefit of the runners. If the ball is near the baselines, the umpire shall declare Infield Fly, if Fair.
The ball is alive and runners may advance at the risk of the ball being caught, or retouch and advance after the ball is touched, the same as on any fly ball. If the hit becomes a foul ball, it is treated the same as any foul.
If a declared Infield Fly is allowed to fall untouched to the ground, and bounces foul before passing first or third base, it is a foul ball. If a declared Infield Fly falls untouched to the ground outside the baseline, and bounces fair before passing first or third base, it is an Infield Fly.
Rule 2.00 (Infield Fly) Comment: On the infield fly rule 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. The umpire must rule also that a ball is an infield fly, even if handled by an outfielder, if, in the umpires 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 umpires judgment must govern, and the decision should be made immediately.
When an infield fly rule is called, runners may advance at their own risk. If on an infield fly rule, the infielder intentionally drops a fair ball, the ball remains in play despite the provisions of Rule 6.05 (L). The infield fly rule takes precedence."
Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez indicated he was protesting the game. Here's what that means, again according to the rule book.
Each league shall adopt rules governing procedure for protesting a game, when a manager claims that an umpires decision is in violation of these rules. No protest shall ever be permitted on judgment decisions by the umpire. In all protested games, the decision of the League President shall be final.
Even if it is held that the protested decision violated the rules, no replay of the game will be ordered unless in the opinion of the League President the violation adversely affected the protesting teams chances of winning the game.
Rule 4.19 Comment: Whenever a manager protests a game because of alleged misapplication of the rules the protest will not be recognized unless the umpires are notified at the time the play under protest occurs and before the next pitch, play or attempted play. A protest arising on a game-ending play may be filed until 12 noon the following day with the league office."