But still thinking he snagged the ball on the fly, Kelly threw on to first, completing what he believed was a double play.
The ball was thrown back to Kelly by first baseman Allen Craig, and seconds later, after being alerted by his teammates that the pair of Royals runners had both moved up 90 feet and stayed there, Kelly threw to second base. Rafael Furcal stepped on the bag for what the Cardinals believed was another out.
That's because during the sequence, home-plate umpire Kerwin Danley signaled that Kelly had caught Hosmer's ball on a line drive.
"I wanted a call of 'no-catch' or 'catch.' I was trying to signal, 'Give me something,'" crew chief Dana DeMuth, who was at second base, explained afterward to a pool of reporters. "Kerwin just gave something without knowing it was a catch. He wasn't 100 percent sure."
But based on that call, the Cardinals had seemingly turned their first triple play since 2005. The entire St. Louis team filtered into the dugout.
Only, it wasn't.
Royals manager Ned Yost sprinted from his dugout to argue that the ball had bounced before landing in Kelly's glove. That meant that Kelly's throw to first to get Hosmer should have resulted in just a one-out groundout. Gordon and Getz would have been correct to advance.
The umpires gathered together on the infield grass to discuss what had transpired.
"[Danley] realized he didn't really have a catch, that he didn't see it," DeMuth said. "That's why we got together. Plainly, it was a mistake by us. But we did the right thing by getting it right."
DeMuth came out of the huddle and signaled that Gordon and Getz were safe.
"When [Hosmer] hit the ball, you could see [Kelly] short-hop the ball," Yost said. "The other umpires saw it. And that's what we want them to do -- we want them to get it right. I applaud them for doing that."
Matheny actually agreed with that call -- "I think the ball hit the ground, and after I saw it later, I know it did," he said -- but the skipper found the reversal of it to be unfair. That led him out of the dugout and into an impassioned discussion with DeMuth and Danley for several minutes.
What bothered Matheny was that Danley's out call could have affected what Kelly did next. By seeing Danley motion that Hosmer was out on a line drive, Kelly believed he was doubling up Getz at first base.
Without that signal, Kelly could have tried to start a more traditional double play by throwing to second base. In other words, the reversal of the call not only took away the triple play, but the umpires also took away a potential double play from the Cardinals as well.
"The response [from the umpires] was that they just wanted to get the call right," Matheny said. "I can appreciate that, but not necessarily to our expense. Everything needs to be taken into consideration. If that call is made, that completely changes the intent of what we have to do with the next play.
"When the kid comes up with the ball and is ready to make the play, he's looking for a quick call so that will then tell him what he's going to do next. That was the issue."
Matheny continued to ask for a second out to be awarded.
"I said, 'We're going to get the right call here. But I'm not going to give you two outs," DeMuth said. "Mike even said, 'I want you guys to get back together and figure out a way to give me two outs. That's all I want.' I couldn't laugh, but he did say that.
"If [Kelly] would have just turned and gone to second [with the ball], Mike might have been in the game until the end. And Mike would have got his two outs.'"
Matheny's discussion with Danley turned even more heated after Matheny engaged him again as he headed toward the dugout. Seconds later, Matheny was ejected.
"I just didn't feel right leaving the argument," Matheny said. "It seemed like our guys were getting short-ended there. I know they were trying to get the call right, and I appreciated that, and I like that part of the game where they come together. But I don't think it's that clear on that particular play."
He returned to the dugout, then emerged one last time to ask if the game could be played under protest. According to rule 4.19 in the Major League Baseball rule handbook, a game can be protested "when a manager claims that an umpire's decision is in violation of [MLB] rules."
A manager cannot protest a judgment call, and Matheny was told that this fell in that category.
The Cardinals' defense eventually retook the field, and with two out, Mike Moustakas drove home a Kansas City run with a single. It was the only run scored in the inning.
Danley was receiving IVs and being treated for dehydration after the game and was unavailable for comment.