Mercifully, time finally ran out for the Houston Astros, who lost their 15th straight game Sunday afternoon to close a franchise-worst 51-111 regular season. Hey, it could have been worse.
Like a punchy boxer saved by the bell, the Astros won't have a chance to tie the infamous 1899 Cleveland Spiders for the worst losing streak to end a season – 16 games — in Major League Baseball history. The Astros tried to keep their season going with free baseball, but dropped their finale to the New York Yankees, falling 5-1 in 14 innings at Minute Maid Park.
The Yankees, too, probably felt relief that their season was over. Mariano Rivera didn't play in the final series, preferring to end his spectacular career at Yankee Stadium on Thursday. Left-hander Andy Pettitte ended his career Saturday with a final solid outing in his hometown. Robinson Cano, a free agent reportedly looking for $305 million, sat out Sunday. And his future isn't the only unsettled one in the Bronx.
The Astros are another kind of enigma entirely.
Astros batters struck out 19 times to set a new MLB single-season record with 1,535 strikeouts (six more than Arizona in 2010). On that note, you don't get to be that bad collectively unless you have some individual performances worth forgetting. Chris Carter delivered with 212 strikeouts all by himself, the most since Mark Reynolds went 223 times in '10, and Adam Dunn K'd 222 times in 2012.
The Astros are the 12th team to lose 111 games, the first since the 2004 Diamondbacks. The 2003 Tigers lost 119 but, from 1970 to 2000, nobody lost as many as 110. Few teams have lost as many as the Astros have the past three seasons combined, via the Associated Press:
The Astros' 324 losses over three years matched the 1917 Philadelphia Athletics for third most in major league history behind the 1962-64 New York Mets (340) and the 1963-65 Mets (332), according to STATS.
It's not quite the Spiders, who went 20-134 in 1899. And yet, if owner Jim Crane and GM Jeff Luhnow are able to turn the 'Stros around — and the minor leagues look promising — it will be a rebuilding job of historic proportions.