Jeff Roberson/AP Images

There’s a decent chance the NL Wild Card ultimately comes down to this:

The Giants, and Cardinals both won last night as they chase the wild card, and we’ll never know if the Cardinals should have, because the way they did win only came about thanks to incompetence on the part of the Reds and the umpiring crew. A Yadier Molina double should have been a ground-rule double, crew chief Bill Miller admitted, and Matt Carpenter should have been placed at third base with two outs instead of scoring the winning run.

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Let’s watch it again:

The ball bounced over the wall in right, striking the MOLottery.com ad. The Busch Stadium ground rules are confusing, but this is pretty clear:

The top of the low wall, labeled “2,” is in play. The ad board behind it is out of play.

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But no one noticed. The Reds didn’t challenge for video review until it was too late, and by the time they did, the umpires had hightailed it off the field.

“In this situation, Bryan Price did not come up on the top step [of the dugout],” crew chief Bill Miller told a pool reporter. “We stayed there. I waited for my partners to come off the field. I looked into the dugout, the Cincinnati dugout, and Bryan Price made no eye contact with me whatsoever and then, after 30 seconds, he finally realized. Somebody must have told him what had happened, and we were walking off the field.”

As it turns out, the 30-second time limit to challenge plays didn’t even apply here. For the final play of the game, a challenge must be lodged immediately. So where the hell was Price?

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Price said the replay room was calling the phone in the dugout, but over the roar of the crowd and the fireworks, Price couldn’t hear it. Only after someone ran down the tunnel to the clubhouse to yell that it should be challenged, did Price go out onto the field.

Replays show that Price was out of the team’s dugout just 32 seconds after Miller signaled Carpenter was safe. By that time, the four umpires — Miller, Barry, Tony Randazzo and Brian Knight — had left the field. Price went through the stands to the umpire’s suite, where he asked Miller about the play.

So why not challenge it immediately, if you’re Price? Why wait for a phone call? You have literally nothing to lose.

(The corollary is that this is a dumb MLB rule, and the smart thing to do is to challenge literally every walk-off play, because there is no drawback. Also: “immediate” feels like such a squishy descriptor. I’m doubtful that, on a potentially controversial end like this, the umpires couldn’t wait 32 seconds, and couldn’t have considered that “immediate” if they had wanted to. “It’s a terrible rule,” Price said. “I mean, that’s ridiculous.”)

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The Reds have until noon today to lodge a formal appeal of the game, though Cincinnati president of baseball operations Walt Jocketty said he isn’t sure on what grounds they would appeal.

The Giants came back to win last night, keeping them one game up on St. Louis for the second wild-card spot. (The idle Mets are one game up on San Francisco for the first spot.) There are just three games left in the regular season. MLB is no doubt strongly hoping that last night’s debacle does not end up mattering.