Astros Collapse Against Braves Sends Stat Geeks Scrambling

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If you happen to be on the wrong end of a tough loss in baseball, the last words you want to hear are "Elias Sports Bureau." The mere mention of that group should elicit the same queasiness with a losing baseball team that the Internal Revenue Service does with tax cheats, the Federal Bureau of Investigation does with criminals, or that RottenTomatoes.com does for Rob Schneider.

It means that whatever misery you are feeling at the end of that loss is about to be magnified tenfold because your collapse was probably historical.

That's where the Astros come in. On Tuesday. At historical.

In a season that up until yesterday had seen the bullpen blow a baffling ten out of 15 save opportunities, a few of the flameouts spectacular in nature, the Astros tossed number 11 onto the pile when Atlanta Braves pinch hitter Brian McCann jacked a two-strike pitch for a game-tying home run against Astros reliever Mark Melancon, tying the game at one.

That wasn't the historic part. Those things happen. To the Astros, they actually happen semi-weekly. The historic part was allowing that same guy, McCann, to hit a walkoff home run off of Jeff Fulchino a couple innings later.

The same guy, off the bench cold, hitting a game-tying, pinch-hit home run in the bottom of the ninth and then a walk-off shot in extra innings. When was the last time that happened?

Well, funny you should ask! You know who can tell you? The Elias Sports Bureau! According to them, the last and only time this had happened in Major League history was on August 27, 1949, when Jeff Heath of the Boston Braves accomplished the feat against the Cincinnati Reds. (It's a Braves thing!)

Of course, the Astros probably could have steered clear of any of this mess if they had just shown a little moxie in the situational-hitting department. Twice late in the game the Astros had the bases loaded and less than two outs, but one time Carlos Lee popped out and the second time, in the eleventh inning, J.R. Towles grounded into a 6-4-3 double play.

(Towles is now 0 for his last 24 at-bats. Seriously, you'd rather see Stevie Wonder as a crossing guard in front of your kid's school than see Towles come up for your baseball team with runners on base.)

After that, McCann just needed one more at-bat to finish what he started in the bottom of the ninth. Walk-off home run. Ball game over. Braves win.

The Astros now have the worst record in the National League, the worst ERA in the National League, and are on pace to blow more than 40 saves this season. To top it off, they lead the majors in errors.

These are your Astros.

Listen to Sean Pendergast on 1560 The Game from noon to 3 p.m. weekdays and follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanCablinasian.

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