Game Report: Cardinals 4, Reds 3

By Rob Rains

The Cardinals won a game they should not have won Thursday night, at least according to the rule book, and might go to the playoffs because of it.

After blowing a 3-2 lead in the top of the ninth because of a “non play” by Randal Grichuk, Yadier Molina doubled in Matt Carpenter with two outs in the bottom of the inning for the winning run – but the end of the game was a lot more complicated than that.

The basic problem was that Molina’s hit bounced over the left-field wall, and should have been ruled a ground-rule double, which would have forced Carpenter to stop at third base. The umpires ruled incorrectly that the ball was in play, however, and then said the Reds did not indicate immediately that they wanted to challenge the call. The umpires left the field before the Reds made that determination.

The umpires could have reviewed the play on their own, without a Reds challenge, but did not.

“If we would have thought that the ball had gone out, we would have gotten together as a crew and talked about it ourselves,” crew chief Bill Miller explained to a pool reporter. “None of us here saw the ball hit the signage.”

The Reds contended they could not hear their dugout phone ringing with the call from their video personnel telling them to ask for a review because of the crowd noise. By the time they knew they needed to challenge it, the umpires had left the field.

“There was no siren or blinking light to let you know so the umpires give our team 10 seconds at the culmination of the play,” said Reds manager Bryan Price. “I mean 10 seconds to decide if you want to challenge it or not. You had four umpires on the field that didn't see it hit the back fence. How are we below field level supposed to see where the ball hit against the wall? In 10 seconds, how are we supposed to decide in 10 seconds?

“You couldn't hear anything and then all of a sudden someone was screaming 'the ball hit the top of the back wall’, which would have made it a ground rule double. By this time the umpires were off the field because i guess they say they waited 10 seconds. I chased them down and by that time they refused to come back out because they're upholding a rule that's in place.

“It’s a terrible rule. How do you let a game, any game but for this matter it's got playoff ramifications, let it end because you won't wait more than 10 seconds on the field: That’s ridiculous. That's a game ending play and we're supposed to do above and beyond what we do on every other play before the last play. At the end you want to get the call right.”

Miller said the umpires did look at a replay of Molina’s hit after the game.

“We did look at it,” he said. “It appears that the ball hit above the fence. And hit the signage above the left-field fence.”

The Reds indicated they likely will not file an official protest, even though they have until noon Friday to do so, because of the likelihood Major League Baseball would rule that the challenge did not come “in time” even though it is debatable what “in time” means.

“I'm not blaming the umpires,” Price said. “The system of saying 10 seconds? It's not in place at any other time of the game, the 10 second rule. You have to decide if you're going to stop play you have more time than that. You have a 10 second time limit, that's ludicrous.”

The ruling really doesn’t mean anything to the Reds – except for possibly affecting the order of the first few picks in next year’s amateur draft – but could have a major impact on whether the Cardinals or Giants – and even perhaps the Mets – emerge as the wild card teams in the National League.

Because of the Cardinals' win, the Giants had to win Thursday night to maintain their one-game lead over the Cardinals for the second wild-card spot, and they did, defeating the Rockies 7-2. Both teams have three games to play. If they tie, there would be a one-game playoff on Monday in St. Louis.

Before the play that ended the game, here is how the rest of the game broke down:

At the plate: The Cardinals built a 3-1 lead on a solo homer by Jedd Gyorko in the second, an RBI groundout by Alex Reyes in the fourth and a solo homer by Yadier Molina in the fifth … Gyorko’s homer was his team-leading 28th of the year and was his first in 62 at-bats … They missed chances to add to their lead when Carpenter was left stranded after a leadoff double in the seventh and when pinch-runner Kolten Wong was left on third in the eighth when Tommy Pham struck out … The Cardinals improved their record to 20-8 when they hit two or more homers at home, and 49-13 overall when they hit two or more homers … Mired in a 7-for-95 slump, Brandon Moss did not start for the second time in the last 13 games. He was replaced by Jose Martinez, who was 0-for-2 with a walk.

On the mound: Alex Reyes allowed just one run in six innings, walking two and striking out six … The Reds cut the lead to 3-2 in the eighth when Joey Votto led off with a double off Zach Duke and scored on a single by Adam Duvall … Kevin Siegrist was able to get out of the jam and preserve the one-run lead but the Cardinals were not so fortunate in the ninth. Grichuk misplayed a fly ball by Ramon Cabrera, letting it go over his head for a leadoff double, and after getting the next two outs, Cabrera scored the tying run on a slow roller to third. It was Oh’s fourth blown save of the season.

Key stat: For the second night in a row the Cardinals failed to get a hit with a runner in scoring position, going 0-for-10. Combined, they were 0-for-18 in the two games.

Of note:
Unless he has to pitch in relief on Sunday or in a tiebreaker game on Monday, Reyes will still be eligible for the 2017 Rookie of the Year award. He has pitched 46 innings this season, and a pitcher retains rookie status until he passes 50 innings … Gyorko’s homer was estimated at 456 feet, the longest by a Cardinal at Busch this season. The previous longest homer had been 452 feet, by Moss, on June 30.

Looking ahead: The Cardinals will host the Pirates in the final series of the season beginning Friday night. Carlos Martinez will pitch against Tyler Glasnow. The Giants will be home to the Dodgers for three games beginning Friday night.

Follow Rob Rains on Twitter @RobRains