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“It just sailed on me,” Jones said, wishing he would’ve double-clutched to make a more accurate toss.

That is the beauty and angst of the new winner-take-all wild card game. One hundred sixty-two games came down to a series of mistakes that destroyed one season and extended another.

The Cardinals, who slipped into the final postseason berth by two games and wouldn’t have qualified under the old system, took advantage of Jones’ mistake to score three runs. Other baffling moments abounded, from Braves catcher David Ross appearing to strike out, home plate umpire Jeff Kellogg granting him a late time out and, on the next pitch, hitting a two-run home run.

Holliday bashed a solo home run to left field off Braves starter Kris Medlen in the sixth to extend the error-aided lead. The 26-year-old Medlen emerged as the Braves‘ surprise ace and the team had won his previous 23 starts, dating back to 2010. Since joining the rotation July 31, Medlen rolled up a 0.97 earned-run average and held opponents to a .191 batting average over 12 starts.

But the Cardinals, boasting the NL’s top offense in a slew of categories, touched Medlen for six hits. Two came off his trademark changeup, which batters hit just .097 against this season.

“We’ve got a lot of games like this this season,” Matheny said. “Those close games where things just don’t go smoothly, I think they develop character. I think they develop perseverance.”

After hard-throwing reliever Jason Motte finished off the Cardinals victory in the ninth inning, the barrage of trash resumed. As refuse flew, fans chanted, “We want Chipper!”

And the Cardinals were already making a racket in their clubhouse, alive.