The wacky final outs in Cards' 16th win

September 27th, 2021

CHICAGO -- The Cardinals may have won their 16th straight game on Sunday with a 4-2 victory over the Cubs, but they didn’t get there without a little controversy.

With one out and runners on first and second in the bottom of the ninth, the Cubs' Frank Schwindel lofted a popup high above the third-base line and the infield fly rule was called by third-base umpire Gabe Morales. Cards third baseman Nolan Arenado stumbled as he tried to make the catch, which allowed the ball to drop in fair territory.

Under the infield fly rule, if the ball is fair, the batter is out regardless of whether the ball is caught and the baserunners are allowed to advance at their own risk.

Baserunners Austin Romine and Rafael Ortega decided to attempt to advance after a delay, and the Cardinals threw the ball to third and second base to try and scourge a final out. They appeared to get it by tagging out Ortega, who overran second base after umpire Doug Eddings signaled Ortega was out. He wasn't, because the play was not a force, but Tommy Edman placed a tag on Ortega, which would have resulted in him being out.

However, the umpiring crew had already called the play dead, according to Cardinals manager Mike Shildt, negating Edman the chance to tag out Ortega and end the inning.

“The argument was that he had already vacated the base, he was tagged, which could have been out three,” Shildt said. “But they had killed the play, effectively eliminating the ability to tag him.”

The umpires gathered to sort it out, and they put Ortega on second and Romine on third with two outs. Shildt took exception with the ruling, since had time not been called as quickly then the out at second base would have ended the game. Both Shildt and Paul Goldschmidt were animated on the field, and Shildt was ejected prior to what became the final at-bat of the game.

Bill Miller, the home-plate umpire, explained the rulings to a pool reporter.

"It’s pretty self-explanatory once you hear the facts," Miller said. "Runners at first and second, ball was hit. Arenado comes in, our third-base umpire signals infield fly. So he determined it was an infield fly, which means the batter’s out, if it's a fair ball. The ball lands fair, because Arenado slips, ball lands fair. Runners, not realizing it was an infield fly most likely -- I'm not going to judge that -- but because the ball dropped, the runners ran. A runner from second, Romine, goes to third base. They throw the ball to third base and tag the base. It's no longer a force out. Infield fly was called, so the batter's out. The runners have to be tagged. So the runner from third, they catch the base before he gets there, but he's safe because he wasn't tagged. They throw the ball to second base and this is where the confusing part comes in. The second-base umpire, Doug Eddings, did not realize an infield fly was called, and so they throw the ball to second base, he called that guy out, Ortega. From first base, he called him out on a force play. Ortega thinks he's out, game's over, whatever it is, walks off the base. And so now Goldschmidt's yelling at whoever to tag the runner, and so before that runner was tagged, Doug says ‘Timeout, timeout,’ because he knows the runner left the base because he called him out.

“Then the argument on Shildt's part was, he didn't understand that Doug had called him out on a force play, so he thought Doug called time prematurely so he couldn't be tagged. He didn't realize that he left the base because Doug had called him out.”     

The Cardinals, though, were able to cool off with the fact that Giovanny Gallegos struck out Ian Happ to make the controversy for naught, extending St. Louis' historic win streak to 16 games and decreasing its magic number for the postseason to one.