When Brian McCann returned to his locker, Derek Lowe shouted across the room: "Great off day, Mac!"

A great off day, indeed.

McCann came off the bench in the ninth inning to tie it with a pinch-hit, two-out homer, then hit a two-run shot in the 11th to lead the Atlanta Braves past the visiting Houston Astros, 3-1, yesterday.

"If the game is close, I know I'm the first one off the bench to hit," the All-Star catcher said. "I'm ready for that. I know that's my role when I'm not playing."

The Braves were trailing 1-0 and down to their final strike in the ninth when McCann drove a 1-2 pitch the opposite way, the ball just clearing the wall in left-center.

He stayed in the game behind the plate and, two innings later, ended it with his fourth homer of the season - a towering drive down the rightfield line, just inside the foul pole against Jeff Fulchino (0-2).

Cory Gearrin (1-1) escaped a bases-loaded, one-out jam in the top of the 11th, helped by a disputed call, and was rewarded with his first career win.

McCann was taking one of his regularly scheduled days off, but he wound up leading the Braves to their fourth straight win. Mark Melancon blew the save in the ninth, ruining a brilliant performance by Wandy Rodriguez. The Astros starter pitched five-hit ball over eight scoreless innings but the Astros' beleaguered bullpen couldn't hold it.

Brett Wallace broke up a scoreless duel between Rodriguez and Lowe with a seventh-inning homer.

In other games:

* At Cincinnati, A throwing error by Kerry Wood (1-3) allowed two runs to score and Chris Heisey hit tiebreaking sacrifice fly in the eighth inning that led the Reds over the Chicago Cubs, 7-5.

* At Denver, Carlos Gonzalez' two-run single off Javier Lopez capped a four-run eighth-inning rally and the Colorado Rockies defeated the San Francisco Giants, 5-3.

* At Phoenix, Miguel Montero and Gerardo Parra each knocked in two runs and Daniel Hudson (4-5) struck out six over seven innings to lead the Arizona Diamondbacks over the San Diego Padres, 6-1.

* At New York, The Mets vs. Florida Marlins game was postponed because of rain. It will be made up July 18, an off day for both teams.

In other news, the Mets announced they will put third baseman David Wright on the disabled list with a stress fracture in his lower back before tonight's game against Washington.

* At Washington, The Nationals vs. Pittsburgh Pirates game was postponed by rain. The Nationals said the game will be rescheduled soon.

Noteworthy

* St. Louis Cardinals manager Tony La Russa didn't like what Cincinnati Reds broadcaster Marty Brennaman has to say about his team on Monday night.

Brennaman criticized St. Louis starter Chris Carpenter and pitching coach Dave Duncan on air, a day after the Reds beat the visiting Cardinals 9-7 to sweep their three-game series.

Brennaman called Carpenter a "whiner and excuse-maker" after Carpenter had complained about the condition of the mound. He also referred to Duncan as "infantile." Duncan was among the Cardinals yelling at Reds closer Francisco Cordero during the game.

La Russa noted that Brennaman is in the broadcasters' wing of baseball's Hall of Fame.

"He earned the right to get into the Hall of Fame," La Russa said. "And now he ought to keep earning that respect instead of abusing it."