Of all the ways you imagined your career would end….
“This is not one of them. I can assure you that. It’s just one of those things that happens from time to time. You have a game defensively where you don’t make plays that you should. You give good teams extra outs, and it ends up biting you.
On the errors
“On my play, I made a good play on the pick got a two seam grip, and it just sailed on me, no other way to explain it. Looking back I realized later on that Beltran had to stop on the line drive, and if I had to do it all over again, I probably would have double clutched and made sure I got a four seam grip and give Uggla a little more time to get to second base, and give myself a better opportunity to make a truer throw. We gave up six runs on six hits, and I don’t know how many of them were unearned. But as far as I’m concerned the only one they should have scored was the homer.
On having a good season end by one sloppy playoff game and an umpiring decision
“Well, ultimately I think that when we look back on this loss, we need to look at ourselves in the mirror. We put ourselves in that predicament, down 6 2. You know, that call [infield fly] is kind of a gray area. I don’t know. But I’m not willing to say that particular call cost us the ballgame. Ultimately, three errors cost us the ballgame, mine probably being the biggest. Did it cost us one out? Did it cost us one run, possibly more? Yes. But I’m not willing to sit here and say that that call cost us the ballgame.”
What did you think of the fans’ reaction, and did you nearly get hit by a bottle?
“No, I was up under the awning. Mama didn’t raise no fool. But it’s disappointing anytime something like that happens. Obviously, delays in the game throw everybody kind of off their game. You never want to see something get violent like that.
“I know one thing is for sure, you won’t be able to say that Braves fans don’t care. They came out in full force tonight, 50,000 strong. We love each and every one of them. Obviously, you don’t want to see what happened there in the eighth inning happen. But when you’ve got a Game 7 and your whole season is on the line, obviously there was a call that didn’t go that did go against the home team. Unfortunately, things like that are going to happen.”
Your next-to-last at-bat, two outs, two on, a chance to make up for a lot of bad things
“Yeah, that one will stick with me because I got a pitch to hit, and that guy’s got a really good sinker. Moved up on the plate to kind of get it before it sunk too much on me. Moved up on the plate and was basically just trying to hit a line drive up the middle and the other way. That sinker is a heavy sinker, and I just couldn’t elevate it up over the second baseman’s head. I felt good in that situation. I felt like I got the pitch to hit, and I put a good swing on it, I centered it, and just right into the ground right at the second baseman.”
Has it sunk in as far as this is over, it’s done?
“No, I don’t think it will for a few days, maybe a week. I don’t know. As I told everybody today, I’m okay. I obviously wanted to move on. I wanted to come out here and play well. Today my heart is broken not for me, my heart is broken for my teammates and my coaching staff, and all these fans that have been so great to us this year. But I’ll be okay. It’s just one of those things. You come to the park, and I walk out of here knowing that I brought it every single day. I think when you walk out of here knowing that you brought it every day, it makes walking away on the final day a little bit easier.”
What was it like when you walked in the clubhouse after the game?
“Lot of shock. The people that were talking were obviously talking about the call on the infield fly. They’re disappointed. There are a lot of guys in there trying to lay blame, and I just kind of kept my mouth shut because ultimately I feel I’m the one to blame. That play should have been a tailor made double play, and they ended up scoring three runs and gaining momentum. Then Holliday hits the homer, and now all of a sudden we’re down two runs, and it just seemed like that play there turned everything. That’s what I’m most disappointed in, I think.
“Walking away [after] my last game, you certainly don’t want to go 0 for 5 [1-for-5 actually] and make an error that loses the season for your ballclub. That will be something I’ll have to deal with in the days to come.”
As a third baseman, have you ever seen an infield fly called that far in the outfield?
“I’m not going to say that I haven’t. I haven’t seen one called where the guy wasn’t camped. You know, normally when you’re that far out, nobody’s camped [underneath the ball]. But I saw the rule where it doesn’t necessarily have to be an infielder, it could be an outfielder who comes in and ultimately makes the play. But you really don’t see any clear indication that one of the two was camped.”
What explanation that you were given for the ruling?
“It’s an infield fly rule. I was arguing or protesting that it was not an ordinary effort. I thought that the shortstop had to go way out there to make a play on that flyball, and I think we’ve got to take account of the crowd, 50,000 people yelling, and I thought there was some miscommunication between Holliday and Kozma. I went out there and protested the game, and they came in and talked to Joe [Torre], because the protest — obviously there is no game tomorrow, so it’s got to be done right there and now.
“So they came back and told me that they’re going to go with what they called it on the field. I thought the umpires did a nice job handling that with my protest, and calling, and trying to get information. Again, from where I was, I just kind of took a glimpse of the replay, I [think] we have a legit beef.”
Given everything that happened tonight, your defense played shoddy one of the rare times all season. Did it make it especially difficult because you did have a chance there against all odds to kind of come back?
“We had some opportunities to score some runs and we didn’t get the big hit when we needed to. What hurts, and you’re absolutely right, we lead the league in fielding percentage all year long, and today we didn’t handle the ball quite the way we’ve done for 162 [games]/ Every time we gave them an opportunity, they scored big runs against us.
“I thought Medlen did a nice job. We kept putting him behind the 8 ball, and he kept making pitches. But, again, we didn’t score runs. And we didn’t handle the baseball like we have …and it came back and bit us.”
Losing a postseason game, how much more difficult is it one of the one-game “series”?
“Yeah, maybe they need to tweak the rules a little bit as you go forward. But it was one game for both teams. So, that part was fair. Both teams had one game to play, and we didn’t play particularly well on our end, so the Cardinals go on to the next round.”
Do you think the umpires handled the interference call on Simmons correctly? And when the infield fly rule was called, did you think Sam’s hand was in the air late as the ball was dropping?
“I think the interference going down the baseline, I think they made that call right, and somebody came up from the clubhouse a little later on and said that Simmons was on the grass. The infield fly rule is to protect the runners, really. But I thought that Kozma went out there way too far for a regular, ordinary flyball, and I think you’ve got to take sometimes you’ve got to take the wind at Wrigley Field for an ordinary flyball and the sun, and I thought today the crowd. I thought we were going to catch a break there. Bases loaded and one out with McCann at the plate instead of second and third and two outs. But nevertheless, we didn’t score runs when we had a chance to, and we didn’t handle the baseball.”
On the Simmons bunt, did you call a safety squeeze
“Yeah, that was a safety squeeze.”
“Was Freddy Freeman running?
“Well, the safety squeeze, you’ve got the runner on third base and you’ve got to read. I think we were just a couple of feet from really executing that to textbook with the bunt. I think if Simmons gets a little more behind it, and gets past the pitcher a little bit, I think Freeman walks home.
“Looking back into last month in September, we’ve had some tough times scoring runs, and I thought it was an opportunity there to tie the ballgame with Simmons and try to sneak a run in somehow.”
Did you think your guys were as poised as they’ve been during the season, i.e. the three errors?
“The guys that made the errors are pretty shorthanded. Whether we were excited a little bit, you can’t fault them for that. We’ve got a young kid playing shortstop. We’ve got Chipper who is a veteran, and we’ve got Danny Uggla who is a six, seven year veteran, so you can’t blame them for being inexperienced. But I’m sure we were excited. It’s a playoff game, a one game playoff, and 50,000 people this the seats or whatever, 50,000 plus, and we just didn’t do what we normally do and it hurt us.
Did that response from the fans catch you off guard?
“Well, I think we have very passionate fans here in Atlanta, and I think I’m a little disappointed with the reaction of throwing bottles and beer cans and you name it. For me, that’s uncalled for. 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 standpoint.
“You get people injured out there, and it can get scary. It really is when you’re standing out there, whether you’re a St. Louis Cardinal, an Atlanta Brave or an umpire, and you have these things coming at you, it’s a scary moment.
As a guy in charge of his team is this the kind of night you dread? A one game playoff, your team doesn’t play like it’s been playing?
“Well, it’s the nature of our game, of our business. It hurts. Whether it’s a bad call or a bad play or we didn’t get to drive in the run. Nevertheless, in my opinion, I think you’ve got to judge our team over 162 game season. I’m so proud of them. Anybody could have one bad game. Anybody could have one bad call, whatever, and go against you. But you win 94 games after the September we had last year, and you’ve got to tip your hat to this club.
“It hurts. It hurts losing ballgames the way we did tonight.”
On the infield-fly ruling
“I don’t even want to talk about it, man. Some things, I’ve learned since I was 22, 23 years old. I probably would have gone ahead and said the wrong thing [back then], but I know better. I’m going to step back and keep my mouth shut. It hurt us in the game, but we’re not going to talk about it.”
Have you ever seen an infield-fly ruling on ball that deep in outfield?
“No, but it happened tonight. They say there’s a first time for everything. I guess they made the first time happen today with that call…. But we had a lot of chances. We didn’t play our best game tonight. I think if we had to do it all over again, we’d do it differently. But guess what? Time can’t roll back, it rolls forward.”
On the loss
“It sucks to go out like that. We had a great year. That’s why this one-game play-in is so tough. It’s hard to kind of justify [hanging] a playoff run and the season that we had just on one game. Just for the simple fact, we didn’t play our best baseball tonight. There was an opportunity late in the game where we may or may not could have gotten back in there or taken a lead. Who knows? We’ll never know.
“For that to be Chipper’s last game … it sucks to lose that last one, especially like that.”
On the errors
“I felt really confident after Rossy hit that two-run homer. Gave Meds a little two-run cushion to work with. Not a great cushion, but still it is a cushion. And we had a little hiccup with the double-play ball. I was trying to catch it and just get one… I had a ball that ate me up a little bit. I just couldn’t get a grip on it. That’s the way it goes sometimes. Nine times out of 10, we all make those plays. But that’s the way it went tonight.”
On the Wild Card game
“You could look at it both ways. Obviously the Cardinals are extremely ecstatic that there was a one-game playoff this year. We would’ve loved to have it last year. Ultimately I think in the long run, with the way baseball is, it should be decided over at least a three-game series. But it’s tough, you can’t really do that because it puts the team that won the division at a disadvantage by sitting around for a week or whatever [while a Wild Card series could be played]. But it’s unfortunate that our season came to an end. And like I said, we had opportunities. We didn’t take care of the baseball. And it stings. It stings to have the season we did, winning the first wild-card spot by six games or whatever, and then to come down to this one game.”
On the infield-fly ruling
“I saw it. It happened. But I just keep going back to … I’m not a finger-pointer. We didn’t play well today. Obviously that call is magnified by the situation. But if we make plays earlier, if I make better pitches earlier, it’s a different game. It’s easy to point fingers. Was it a bad call? I’ll leave you guys to decide that. I just think we could have put ourselves in a better situation.”
On Chipper’s error in three-run fourth
“That’s a play that he makes 99 out of 100 times. It’s a play that he makes all the time. It’s why we play the game. It’s not the same every single day. Even a Hall of Famer can make an error. I think I need to do a better job with damage control, knowing I need to try to get out of that situation that I was put into. I let those runs in.
“Allen Craig hit what I thought was a pretty good change-up, 3-1, which really hasn’t happened all year. When we made mistakes, they capitalized on them. That’s the name of the game. They’re a good team and they’re not going to let you get away with stuff like that.”
Were you amped up more than usual?
“Honestly no. Two or three days ago I think I was nervous. I didn’t sleep well one of the nights. But once everything got situated I was fine. I just knew I needed to come in here and and do the same thing I’d been doing all year, and just execute my pitches.”
Nerves not a factor?
“No, I think it almost helped me. I had a great first inning. I felt the crowd in my chest. It was loud every pitch. It was awesome. They came out in full force. It was just a great vibe and something I’ll never forget, being my first time in the playoffs.”
“I talked to D-Lowe [Derek Lowe] yesterday, and he said once you get past the buildup, and once you get the ball and get on the mound it just goes back to normal. And that’s exactly what happened. I could hear the crowd and feel the crowd, but I felt normal.”
On Wild Card game
“The new playoff system obviously was good for baseball. It’s easy for us to be in this situation and say, oh, we shouldn’t have this one-game thing. If we won, we wouldn’t be concerned about it, so… The Cardinals were the better team today. It could be debated if they were the better team all year, but we’re in the situation we’re in, and we needed to come out and play better today. We didn’t.”
“It kind of leaves a sour taste in your mouth, but it is the game we play and we choose to play it.”
On the fans’ reaction to the umpire’s call, the bottles thrown on field, etc.
“Obviously the crowd was pretty fired up. I’m not necessarily embarrassed about what the fans did. They were obviously into the game and all that.”
On Chipper’s last game
“It’s unfortunate. It sucks for him to have to go out like this.”
On the infield-fly ruling
“I was stunned. I couldn’t understand the call. I didn’t even know what happened. The umpire was saying I was out at first, and I was like, for what reason? Fly ball in the outfield, how can …I didn’t understand the call.”
Have you seen an infield fly rule called on ball in shallow outfield?
“I’ve seen shallow, but not that far out, pretty much in left field. I’ve never seen that before. I don’t think anybody had seen that before.”
Strange night for you?
“Definitely. I felt like I could have helped the team more. I felt like I let the team down on a couple of occasions. It’s going to be a tough night for me, for sure.”
On the bunt
“It’s a safety squeeze. I didn’t get it passed the pitcher or towards the line like I wanted to. I failed to execute.”
Did you know you were running inside the line?
“I kind of knew. I didn’t feel like I was all the way in, but, I mean, I wasn’t paying attention to that very much.”
**UMPIRE SAM HOLBROOK
On what he saw
“I saw the shortstop go back and get underneath the ball where he would have had ordinary effort and would have caught the baseball, and that’s why I called the infield fly.”
Is there a difference making that call starting from third base or left field?
“It’s all judged on what the fielder does. Once that fielder establishes himself and he has ordinary effort on the ball, that’s when the call is made. So it wouldn’t matter whether it was from third base or on the line out there. But, again, it’s all based on what the fielder does, that’s what I went on, and that’s what I read.”
When you saw it again, were you confident in the call you made?