Angry fans showered Turner Field with debris in disgust at a contentious umpire decision during the St Louis Cardinals' 6-3 defeat of the Atlanta Braves on Friday in the first ever one-game National League wildcard showdown.
Trailing 6-3 in the eighth inning with two men on, the Braves appeared to have the bases loaded when Andrelton Simmons's pop up fly to shallow left fell between Cardinals fielders Pete Kozma and Matt Holliday.
But left field umpire Sam Holbrook ruled Simmons's hit an infield fly and an automatic out, prompting the incensed sellout crowd to hurl bottles and other debris on the field, sending the players and umpires searching for cover.
"I just stopped, I didn't want to get too close I didn't want him (Kozma) to feel my presence," Holliday told reporters, trying to explain why neither fielder went for the catch.
"I think he thought he heard me with the wild crowd and he turned and all of a sudden I was looking at him and he was looking at me.
"As an infielder, once I see the back of his hand I stop."
Following a 20-minute delay, the players returned to the diamond with the Braves playing the remainder of the game under protest.
The Cardinals closer Jason Motte immediately walked Brian McCann to load the bases but ended the threat by striking out Michael Bourn.
Motte was back in the ninth to record the final three outs but not without some drama, Chipper Jones starting a two-out rally with a broken bat single that was the last of his 19-year career.
Freddie Freeman then slammed a ground rule double, bringing Dan Uggla to the plate.
But there was no fairytale comeback, as Uggla grounded out to second to end the contest.
Joe Torre, Major League Baseball's executive vice president of baseball operations, addressed the protest after the game explaining the Braves' protest had been rejected.
"In looking at the rule, there's 24 hours you have to make the report," said Torre. "In the circumstances, I think, it just didn't make sense for that to take place.
"So after the game, I made sure I talked to both (Braves general manager) Frank Wren and Fredi (Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez) to let them know that I was disallowing the protest. I wanted to make sure they heard it from me.
"I like the one-game playoff. It's a Game Seven. This was an exciting game. I mean, I'm sorry about the controversy. It's certainly not something we ever planned on."
The World Series champion Cardinals had little time to enjoy their historic win, as they raced off the field amid more debris-tossing from fans.
The Cardinals head home to host the NL East champion Washington Nationals in the opening game of the best-of-five divisional series on Sunday.
While the first ball thrown by Atlanta starter Kris Medlen is on its way to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, the Braves are headed for vacation, their season brought to an abrupt end by the Cardinals for a second straight season.
The Cardinals are no strangers to the one-and-done format.
Last year, St Louis clinched the lone wildcard berth ahead of the Braves on the final day of the season and then rode the momentum all the way to a World Series win.
St. Louis starter Kyle Lohse (16-3), 0-4 in nine post-season appearances, picked up his first career playoff win surrendering two runs on six hits while striking out six and walking one in 5 2/3 innings of work.
Holliday contributed a home run to the St. Louis effort that was aided by three costly errors from the NL's top defensive team in the regular season.
David Ross brought the Turner Field crowd to its feet with a two-out, two-run blast in the second inning, taking Lohse over the wall in left.
Cardinals bats came to life in the fourth, Allen Craig getting things started by doubling off the wall in left to score Carlos Beltran.
Yadier Molina then grounded out into a fielder's choice to bring another run before David Freese's sacrifice fly scored Craig to nose St. Louis in front 3-2.
Holliday added to the St. Louis lead in the sixth by crushing a solo shot into the stands in deep left, silencing the crowd that included former-U.S. president Jimmy Carter and businessman Ted Turner.
The Cardinals kept up the pressure in the seventh, with Adron Chambers scoring on Andrelton Simmons's throwing error to home, followed by an RBI single from Matt Carpenter.
The Braves pulled one back in the bottom of the inning, Michael Bourn hitting into a fielders' choice, cashing in Jose Constanza, who had led off the inning with a triple.
(Reporting by Steve Keating in Toronto; Editing by Ian Ransom)