Atlanta Braves' Chipper Jones tips his helmet to the crowd at his last at-bat during the ninth inning of the National League wild card playoff baseball game against the St. Louis Cardinals, Friday, Oct. 5, 2012, in Atlanta. The Cardinals won baseball's first wild-card playoff, taking advantage of a disputed infield fly call that led to a protest and fans littering the field with debris to defeat the Braves 6-3. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
ATLANTA -- Plastic bottles and paper cups flew out of the upper and lower decks, littering Turner Field, as fans booed and booed.
The Atlanta Braves season and Chipper Jones' Hall of Fame career is over. But the ending didn't come without plenty of controversy Friday night.
The standing-room-only crowd of 52,631 reacted angrily to an infield fly ruling in the eighth inning and the rest of the game -- resumed after a 19-minute delay -- was played under protest by Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez.
It was all for naught, though, major league baseball denying the protest.
"I thought we had a legit beef," Gonzalez said.
But the Braves' 6-3 loss to St. Louis in the first National League wild-card play-in game was as much their fault as any umpire's call.
Atlanta, which led the NL in fielding percentage during the regular season, committed three costly errors that made half of the Cardinals' runs unearned and left 12 runners on base in the most disheartening of losses.
" ... I'm not willing to say that that particular call cost us the ballgame," Jones said. "Ultimately, three errors cost us the ballgame, mine being the biggest."
The defending World Series champion Cardinals, who finished six games worse than Atlanta in the regular-season standings, go on to face Washington in a division series while the Braves face a long, long offseason and a 2013 without their longtime third baseman.
It wasn't the ending for Jones that anyone scripted. He made a throw error and was hitless in four trips to the plate before being credited with a broken-bat infield hit to keep the Braves alive with two outs in the ninth.
But Dan Uggla bounced out against St. Louis closer Jason Mott as the potential tying run after a double by Freddie Freeman and the Braves were one-and-out in the postseason.
It wasn't a game that will soon be forgotten.
The Braves were down by the final score but rallying when the game turned bizarre in the eighth inning.
With two runners on and one out, Andrelton Simmons hit a high popup to shallow left field. St. Louis shortstop Pete Kozma drifted back, but the ball fell behind him and in front of left fielder Matt Holliday, apparently loading the bases.
But Sam Holbrook, on the left-field line in a six-man umpire crew, raised his hand just before the ball dropped to signal an out under the infield fly rule.
Instead of the bases loaded and one out, the Braves had runners at second and third with two out.
An outraged Gonzalez rushed onto the field and Braves fans let fly.
" ... My problem with the call was that I thought the shortstop went out there a long, long, long ways to try to catch that ball," Gonzalez said.
When play resumed, Brian McCann walked as a pinch hitter. But Mott came in and struck out Michael Bourn to end the inning.
Two more runners were left on base in the ninth and the season was over.
The Braves had won 23 straight games started by Kris Medlen dating back to 2010 and the right-hander had gone 9-0 with a 0.97 ERA in 12 starts since joining the rotation at the end of July.
But it took a leaping catch by right fielder Jason Heyward to keep Yadier Molina from a second-inning homer and the Braves couldn't hold a lead after David Ross hit a two-run homer in the bottom of the inning.
After Carlos Beltran led off the fourth with the Cardinals' first hit, disaster struck.
Jones threw high and wide to second on the potential double play, the ball sailing into right field. A double by Allen Craig and David Freese's sacrifice fly later, the Braves trailed. One of the runs was officially earned, but only because a double play can't be assumed.
The other two miscues came in the seventh after the Braves had fallen behind 4-2 on Holliday's sixth-inning homer.
Second baseman Uggla threw away a grounder and so did shortstop Andrelton Simmons. The Cardinals scored twice without a ball leaving the infield, the only hit an infield dribbler.
The Braves got one run back in the bottom of the seventh on a triple by pinch-hitter Jose Constanza and Martin Prado's single. But that was it.
The Braves had 12 hits -- three each by Ross and Freeman -- to six by the Cardinals. But St. Louis left just two runners on and the Cardinals weren't charged with an error.
The new wild-card playoff format didn't work in the Braves' favor.
"But it was one game for both teams," Gonzalez said. "So that part was fair."