ATLANTA — Just like last year, the Braves lost out on a spot in the NL division series to the St. Louis Cardinals. Only this time, Atlanta was knocked out with the help of what will be remembered as one of the most disputed infield fly calls in baseball history.

Trailing by three runs, the Braves would have had the bases loaded with one out in the eighth inning. Instead they had runners on second and third with two outs, didn't score again and lost 6-3 Friday night in baseball's first, one-and-done, wild-card playoff game.

Just like that, the focus shifted from Chipper Jones' impending retirement and the end of Kris Medlen's winning streak to a call that led to a 19-minute delay caused by enraged fans throwing debris and a protest by Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez.

"Ultimately I think that when we look back on this loss, we need to look at ourselves in the mirror," Jones said. "We put ourselves in that predicament, down 6-2. You know, that call right there is kind of a gray area. I don't know. But I'm not willing to say that that particular call cost us the ballgame. Ultimately, three errors cost us the ballgame, mine probably being the biggest."

Jones leaves with just one World Series title, in 1995.

"Today my heart is broken," he said. "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."

Attention was on Andrelton Simmons' fly ball into shallow left field, which fell between shortstop Pete Kozma and left fielder Matt Holliday, sparking the furor. Just before the ball dropped, left field umpire Sam Holbrook raised his arm to signal an infield fly, meaning Simmons was out.

The call was later than is usual on an infield fly, a rule designed to prevent fielders from deliberately letting balls fall in attempts for a double play. This ball landed at least 50 feet beyond the infield.

Gonzalez ran onto the field and argued the call with Holbrook and other members of the umpire crew.

Holbrook, crew chief Jeff Kellogg and umpire supervisor Charlie Reliford defended the call as coming on a play in which Kozma could make the play with "ordinary effort."

Ordinary? At least 50 feet from the infield?

"Well, it's a judgment," Reliford said in a postgame news conference that included MLB executive vice president Joe Torre, a former manager of both the Braves and Cardinals.

"I think as you watch that tape, the guy was not only under it and clearly waving that he had it, I think he had reasonably stopped his momentum, and he was under it and it was clearly the correct call," Reliford said.

Asked about the timing of the call, Reliford said an infield fly call should not be made before the ball begins its descent.

Holbrook said he "absolutely" thought he made the right call after watching a replay.

"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," Holbrook said.

Torre said he told Braves general manager Frank Wren and Gonzalez the protest "just didn't make sense" due to the lack of time before the division series begins on Sunday.

"I spoke to them, asked them what they were basing their protest on, and I ruled basically to disallow the protest based on the fact that it was umpire's judgment call," Torre said.

Torre said he was informed during the news conference that Wren dropped the protest.

Gonzalez scolded Braves fans for littering the field and putting players and umpires in danger.

"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," Gonzalez said. "For me, that's uncalled for.

"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 point. You get people injured out there."

It was the same type of ending as last year, but different.

Last season, the Braves led St. Louis by 10 1/2 games in the wild-card race before play on Aug. 26 and still were up by 8 1/2 games on the morning of Sept. 6. Atlanta went 9-18 in September, ended with a five-game losing streak and finished a game behind the Cardinals, who went on to win the World Series.

This year, with a second wild card added, the Braves went 94-68 and the Cardinals 88-74, setting up the wild-card matchup in the expanded postseason.

Atlanta then played one of its worst games of the year, blowing a two-run lead, making three errors that led to four unearned runs and going 1 for 8 with runners in scoring position. The Braves had the fewest errors in the NL during the regular season.

One of the errors was by Jones, whose bad throw on a potential double-play grounder helped allow the Cardinals to score three runs in the third and go ahead for good. Second baseman Dan Uggla and shortstop Andrelton Simmons also made throwing errors in the seventh, helping the Cardinals add two runs.

The 40-year-old Jones was 1 for 5, reaching on an infield single in the ninth and ending his career stranded at third base when Uggla hit a game-ending groundout. Jones tipped his helmet before his final at-bat.

"I walk out of here knowing that I brought it every single day," Jones said. "When you know that, it makes it easier to walk away."

Even after the controversial call, Atlanta had a chance in the eighth. The Cardinals brought in closer Jason Motte, who loaded the bases with a walk to pinch-hitter Brian McCann before striking out Michael Bourn on a 3-2 pitch.

Atlanta had won a record 23 straight starts by Medlen, who was 9-0 with a 0.97 ERA in 12 starts this season. He had not lost as a starter since May 23, 2010, at Pittsburgh. In this one he allowed five runs – two earned – and three hits in 6 1-3 innings.

David Ross' two-run homer put the Braves ahead in the second, but after Jones' error the Cardinals went ahead on an RBI double by World Series star Allen Craig, Yadier Molina's run-scoring groundout and David Freese's sacrifice fly. Holliday homered in the sixth to make it 4-2.

After Uggla's error on Freese's leadoff grounder in the seventh, Simmons made his bad throw on a grounder by rookie Pete Kozma and Matt Carpenter hit a run-scoring infield single to the pitcher.

Bourn's RBI grounder in the seventh was the only other run the Braves could muster. Atlanta sent the tying run to the plate in the seventh, eighth and ninth innings.

And now the Braves have all winter to think about another season with a sour ending.

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  • St Louis Cardinals v Atlanta Braves

    A sign is seen as Chipper Jones #10 of the Atlanta Braves is at bat in the third inning against the St. Louis Cardinals during the National League Wild Card playoff game at Turner Field on October 5, 2012 in Atlanta, Georgia.

  • St Louis Cardinals v Atlanta Braves

    St. Louis Cardinals left fielder Matt Holliday runs to a ball hit by Atlanta Braves' Andrelton Simmons during the eighth inning of the National League wild card playoff baseball game on Friday, Oct. 5, 2012, in Atlanta. The game was stopped after officials decided Simmons was out on the infield fly rule.

  • St Louis Cardinals v Atlanta Braves

    Allen Craig #21 of the St. Louis Cardinals is greeted by Yadier Molina #4 and teammates after Craig scores in the fourth inning against the Atlanta Braves during the National League Wild Card playoff game at Turner Field on October 5, 2012 in Atlanta, Georgia.

  • St Louis Cardinals v Atlanta Braves

    Allen Craig #21 of the St. Louis Cardinals is greeted by teammates after Craig scores in the fourth inning on a sacrifice fly by David Freese #23 against the Atlanta Braves during the National League Wild Card playoff game at Turner Field on October 5, 2012 in Atlanta, Georgia.

  • St Louis Cardinals v Atlanta Braves

    Country singer Travis Tritt performs the national anthem before the Atlanta Braves take on the St. Louis Cardinals in the National League Wild Card playoff game at Turner Field on October 5, 2012 in Atlanta, Georgia.

  • St Louis Cardinals v Atlanta Braves

    David Freese #23 of the St. Louis Cardinals hits a run-scoring sacrifice fly in the fourth inning against the Atlanta Braves during the National League Wild Card playoff game at Turner Field on October 5, 2012 in Atlanta, Georgia.

  • St Louis Cardinals v Atlanta Braves

    Chipper Jones #10 of the Atlanta Braves looks on prior to his first at-bat against the St. Louis Cardinals during the National League Wild Card playoff game at Turner Field on October 5, 2012 in Atlanta, Georgia.

  • St Louis Cardinals v Atlanta Braves

    Martin Prado #14 of the Atlanta Braves plays the ball off the wall after Allen Craig #21 of the St. Louis Cardinals hits a RBI double in the fourth inning during the National League Wild Card playoff game at Turner Field on October 5, 2012 in Atlanta, Georgia.

  • St Louis Cardinals v Atlanta Braves

    Kris Medlen #54 of the Atlanta Braves reacts after allowing a sacrifice fly in the fourth inning hit by David Freese #23 of the St. Louis Cardinals during the National League Wild Card playoff game at Turner Field on October 5, 2012 in Atlanta, Georgia.

  • St Louis Cardinals v Atlanta Braves

    Manager Fredi Gonzalez #33 of the Atlanta Braves talks with home plate umpire Jeff Kellogg after Andrelton Simmons #19 of the Atlanta Braves is hit in the head by the ball and is called out for running inside the base path on a throw by Kyle Lohse #26 of the St. Louis Cardinals in the fourth inning during the National League Wild Card playoff game at Turner Field on October 5, 2012 in Atlanta, Georgia.

  • St Louis Cardinals v Atlanta Braves

    David Freese #23 of the St. Louis Cardinals throws the ball to first base on a bunt an infield single by David Ross #8 of the Atlanta Braves in the fourth inning during the National League Wild Card playoff game at Turner Field on October 5, 2012 in Atlanta, Georgia.

  • St Louis Cardinals v Atlanta Braves

    Kyle Lohse #26 of the St. Louis Cardinals fields the ball and throws out Michael Bourn #24 of the Atlanta Braves at first base in the fifth inning during the National League Wild Card playoff game at Turner Field on October 5, 2012 in Atlanta, Georgia.

  • St Louis Cardinals v Atlanta Braves

    Daniel Descalso #33 of the St. Louis Cardinals attempts to turn a double play as Freddie Freeman #5 of the Atlanta Braves slides into second base as Dan Uggla #26 is safe at first in the eighth inning during the National League Wild Card playoff game at Turner Field on October 5, 2012 in Atlanta, Georgia.

  • St Louis Cardinals v Atlanta Braves

    Andrelton Simmons #19 of the Atlanta Braves turns a double-play in the seventh inning against Matt Carpenter #13 of the St. Louis Cardinals during the National League Wild Card playoff game at Turner Field on October 5, 2012 in Atlanta, Georgia.

  • St Louis Cardinals v Atlanta Braves

    Carlos Beltran #3 of the St. Louis Cardinals is greeted by Chris Carpenter #29 after scoring in the fourth inning on a double by teammate Allen Craig #21 against the Atlanta Braves during the National League Wild Card playoff game at Turner Field on October 5, 2012 in Atlanta, Georgia.

  • St Louis Cardinals v Atlanta Braves

    Jose Constanza #13 of the Atlanta Braves hits a triple in the seventh inning against the St. Louis Cardinals during the National League Wild Card playoff game at Turner Field on October 5, 2012 in Atlanta, Georgia.

  • St Louis Cardinals v Atlanta Braves

    A security official stands on the field as Atlanta Braves personnel pick up trash on the field during the eighth 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.

  • St Louis Cardinals v Atlanta Braves

    Atlanta Braves officials pick up trash on the field as security stand by during the eighth 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.

  • St Louis Cardinals v Atlanta Braves

    An Atlanta Braves official picks up trash on the field during the eighth 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.

  • St Louis Cardinals v Atlanta Braves

    A security official shouts to fans to not throw trash on the field during the eighth inning of the National League wild card playoff baseball game between the Atlanta Braves and 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.

  • St Louis Cardinals v Atlanta Braves

    Matt Holliday #7 of the St. Louis Cardinals is greeted at the dugout after hitting a solo home run in the sixth inning against the Atlanta Braves during the National League Wild Card playoff game at Turner Field on October 5, 2012 in Atlanta, Georgia.

  • St Louis Cardinals v Atlanta Braves

    Matt Holliday #7 of the St. Louis Cardinals rounds the bases after he hits a solo home run in the sixth inning against the Atlanta Braves during the National League Wild Card playoff game at Turner Field on October 5, 2012 in Atlanta, Georgia.

  • St Louis Cardinals v Atlanta Braves

    Chipper Jones #10 of the Atlanta Braves sits in the dugout before taking on the St. Louis Cardinals in the National League Wild Card playoff game at Turner Field on October 5, 2012 in Atlanta, Georgia.

  • St Louis Cardinals v Atlanta Braves

    Jason Heyward #22 of the Atlanta Braves sits on the end of the dugout before taking on the St. Louis Cardinals in the National League Wild Card playoff game at Turner Field on October 5, 2012 in Atlanta, Georgia.

  • Wild Card Game - St Louis Cardinals v Atlanta Braves

    Kris Medlen #54 of the Atlanta Braves pitches in the third inning against the St. Louis Cardinals during the National League Wild Card playoff game at Turner Field on October 5, 2012 in Atlanta, Georgia.

  • St Louis Cardinals v Atlanta Braves

    David Ross #8 of the Atlanta Braves is greeted by his teammate in the dugout after hitting a two-run home run in the second inning against the St. Louis Cardinals during the National League Wild Card playoff game at Turner Field on October 5, 2012 in Atlanta, Georgia.

  • Wild Card Game - St Louis Cardinals v Atlanta Braves

    Kris Medlen #54 of the Atlanta Braves pitches in the first inning against the St. Louis Cardinals during the National League Wild Card playoff game at Turner Field on October 5, 2012 in Atlanta, Georgia.

  • St Louis Cardinals v Atlanta Braves

    Umpire Sam Holbrook, right, listens to Atlanta Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez, left, after a call during the eighth inning of the National League wild card playoff baseball game against the St. Louis Cardinals, Friday, Oct. 5, 2012, in Atlanta. The game was stopped after officials decided Braves' Andrelton Simmons was out on the infield fly rule.

  • St Louis Cardinals v Atlanta Braves

    Atlanta Braves fans hold up a sign saying 'Win One For The Chipper' for Chipper Jones #10 of the Breaves during the National League Wild Card playoff game against the St. Louis Cardinals at Turner Field on October 5, 2012 in Atlanta, Georgia.

  • St Louis Cardinals v Atlanta Braves

    Dan Uggla #26 of the Atlanta Braves greets teammate David Ross #8 after Ross hits a two-run home run in the second inning against the St. Louis Cardinals during the National League Wild Card playoff game at Turner Field on October 5, 2012 in Atlanta, Georgia.

  • St Louis Cardinals v Atlanta Braves

    David Ross #8 of the Atlanta Braves hits a two-run home run in the second inning against the St. Louis Cardinals during the National League Wild Card playoff game at Turner Field on October 5, 2012 in Atlanta, Georgia.

  • St Louis Cardinals v Atlanta Braves

    Atlanta Braves pitcher Kris Medlen, right, tosses the ball to Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman (5) as St. Louis Cardinals' Matt Holliday, left, heads back to first base during the National League wild card playoff baseball game on Friday, Oct. 5, 2012, in Atlanta. Holliday was safe.

  • St Louis Cardinals v Atlanta Braves

    St. Louis Cardinals first baseman Allen Craig, right, tosses an Atlanta Braves' Martin Prado-hit ball to Cardinals starting pitcher Kyle Lohse for an out during the National League wild card playoff baseball game on Friday, Oct. 5, 2012, in Atlanta.

  • St Louis Cardinals v Atlanta Braves

    St. Louis Cardinals starting pitcher Kyle Lohse (26) works during the first inning of the National League wild card playoff baseball game against the Atlanta Braves, Friday, Oct. 5, 2012, in Atlanta.

  • St Louis Cardinals v Atlanta Braves

    Atlanta Braves right fielder Jason Heyward makes a catch on a ball hit by St. Louis Cardinals' Yadier Molina during the second inning of the National League wild card playoff baseball game on Friday, Oct. 5, 2012, in Atlanta.

  • St Louis Cardinals v Atlanta Braves

    Former United States President Jimmy Carter watches the first inning of the National League wild card playoff baseball game between the Atlanta Braves and the St. Louis Cardinals, Friday, Oct. 5, 2012, in Atlanta.

  • St Louis Cardinals v Atlanta Braves

    Atlanta Braves' David Ross reacts with teammates after hitting a two-run home run during the second inning of the National League wild card playoff baseball game against the St. Louis Cardinals, Friday, Oct. 5, 2012, in Atlanta.

  • St Louis Cardinals v Atlanta Braves

    Atlanta Braves' David Ross (8) watches his two-run home run during the second inning of the National League wild card playoff baseball game against the St. Louis Cardinals, Friday, Oct. 5, 2012, in Atlanta.

  • St Louis Cardinals v Atlanta Braves

    St. Louis Cardinals' Allen Craig is brushed back off the plate by Atlanta Braves pitcher Kris Medlen during the third inning of the National League wild card playoff baseball game on Friday, Oct. 5, 2012, in Atlanta.

  • St Louis Cardinals v Atlanta Braves

    St. Louis Cardinals third baseman David Freese (23) picks up a bunted ball hit by Atlanta Braves' David Ross during the third inning of the National League wild card playoff baseball game on Friday, Oct. 5, 2012, in Atlanta. Ross was safe at first base.

  • St Louis Cardinals v Atlanta Braves

    Atlanta Braves catcher David Ross comes through home plate on teammate Andrelton Simmons' bunt during the fourth inning of the National League wild card playoff baseball game against the St. Louis Cardinals, Friday, Oct. 5, 2012, in Atlanta. Simmons' bunt was ruled out and Ross went back to first base.

  • St Louis Cardinals v Atlanta Braves

    Atlanta Braves fans hold a sign during the fourth inning of the National League wild card playoff baseball game between the Braves and the St. Louis Cardinals, Friday, Oct. 5, 2012, in Atlanta.

  • St Louis Cardinals v Atlanta Braves

    St. Louis Cardinals' Matt Holliday (7) reacts to his solo home run with teammate Yadier Molina (4) during the sixth inning of the National League wild card playoff baseball game against the Atlanta Braves, Friday, Oct. 5, 2012, in Atlanta.

  • St Louis Cardinals v Atlanta Braves

    St. Louis Cardinals' David Freese (23) hits a sacrifice fly, bringing in teammate Allen Craig, during the fourth inning of the National League wild card playoff baseball game against the Atlanta Braves, Friday, Oct. 5, 2012, in Atlanta.

  • St Louis Cardinals v Atlanta Braves

    Atlanta Braves third baseman Chipper Jones (10) fields a ball hit by St. Louis Cardinals' Yadier Molina during the inning of the National League wild card playoff baseball game on Friday, Oct. 5, 2012, in Atlanta. Molina was out at first.

  • St Louis Cardinals v Atlanta Braves

    St. Louis Cardinals' Adron Chambers, left, crosses home plate after a bad throw from Atlanta Braves shortstop Andrelton Simmons (not shown) as Braves catcher David Ross, right, tries to make the catch during the seventh inning of the National League wild card playoff baseball game on Friday, Oct. 5, 2012, in Atlanta.

  • St Louis Cardinals v Atlanta Braves

    Atlanta Braves third baseman Chipper Jones, left, reacts after a throwing error during the fourth inning of the National League wild card playoff baseball game against the St. Louis Cardinals, Friday, Oct. 5, 2012, in Atlanta.

  • St Louis Cardinals v Atlanta Braves

    St. Louis Cardinals' Matt Holliday (7) hits a solo home run during the sixth inning of the National League wild card playoff baseball game against the Atlanta Braves, Friday, Oct. 5, 2012, in Atlanta.