All-around effort guides Houston Astros past Chicago White Sox

By Brian Hedger, The Sports Xchange  |  May 19, 2016 at 1:17 AM
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CHICAGO -- It was only two wins, but the Houston Astros hope their back-to-back victories against the Chicago White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field represent the start of a much-needed hot streak.

After taking the series-opening game in 11 innings on Tuesday, the Astros followed it up with Wednesday with a 5-3 win that gave them a chance to string together three straight victories for the first time in their first 41 games.

The Astros, who went 8-18 in their first 26 games, are 9-6 in their past 15 contests. They hope to keep the momentum rolling by sweeping the White Sox on Thursday in the series finale.

"Records are a cumulative," Houston manager A.J. Hinch said. "Ours isn't pretty or where we want it to be right now, but that doesn't mean we're not a good team. I like our team. I'll take our team against any of these guys."

The past two days, the Astros looked more like the team that qualified for the postseason last year, receiving positive contributions from every part of the roster.

Jose Altuve went 3-for-4 with two RBIs to extend his hitting streak to 10 games, and Jason Castro went 2-for-3 and scored three runs. Starter Doug Fister (4-3) threw a solid 6 1/3 innings, and closer Luke Gregerson bounced back from a blown save on Tuesday to earn his ninth save in 12 opportunities.

"It's not many games yet, but it's a good start for the guys to get some confidence going and get on a roll," Gregerson said. "I know they still have it in them to come back late in games and win ballgames, or jump out to quick early starts like (we) did today and just hopefully carry that through the rest of the season."

The White Sox (24-16) are in the midst of their first extended losing streak, now at a season-high four. They are still first in the American League Central but have dropped six of their past seven games.

"It hasn't been clicking lately, but you get that and it looks different," Chicago manager Robin Ventura said. "Right now, it's not clicking, but they'll keep grinding away."

Mat Latos (5-1) started for Chicago and delivered his third consecutive poor outing. Latos allowed five runs on 11 hits in 5 1/3 innings. He walked two, struck out three and served up solo home runs to Colby Rasmus and Castro. Latos has given up 43 hits in his past 26 2/3 innings.

"The line looks (bad) ... but the positive on it is all the weak base hits and it's just part of the game," Latos said. "It (stinks). It's not the way that I want to go. I'm tired of giving up runs, frustrated and can't do (anything) about it."

Chicago's Jose Abreu went 2-for-4 with two RBIs. Melky Cabrera was 2-for-4 with an RBI triple, and Adam Eaton added two hits.

Trailing 5-1 after five innings, the White Sox pushed runs across in the sixth and seventh to pull within two runs. Cabrera tripled home Todd Frazier from first in the sixth to make it 5-2, and Abreu's second RBI single sliced the deficit to 5-3 in the seventh.

That was as close as they would get thanks to Will Harris working a scoreless eighth and Gregerson pitching a shutout ninth.

In the Astros' half of the eighth, Dan Jennings walked the first two hitters he faced to bring George Springer up with a chance to extend the lead. Instead, Springer hit into a 5-4-3 triple play to end the inning. It was the White Sox's second triple play of the season and second at U.S. Cellular Field. Their first was April 22 to end the seventh inning of their 5-0 win against the Texas Rangers.

Neither starter was sharp to begin the game. Each allowed a run in the first inning. After the first, Fister settled into a good rhythm while Latos continued to labor. The Astros plated solo runs in the second and fourth to build a 3-1 lead and had seven hits off Latos to that point.

Rasmus led off the fifth with a solo homer to make it 4-1, and Castro did the same to push it to 5-1 starting the sixth. Rasmus also saved two runs in the bottom of the fifth with a difficult running catch to end the inning.

"It's just the team effort all the way around," Fister said. "(We're) putting great at-bats together, and that's the kind of ball that we play."

NOTES: White Sox 3B Todd Frazier got back into the starting lineup Wednesday after missing the series opener against the Astros on Tuesday because of a stomach virus. ... Chicago RHP Nate Jones (bruised left foot) is dealing with soreness after being hit by a batted ball in the seventh inning Tuesday, but he remains available to pitch. ... Houston INF Marwin Gonzalez (sore foot) was not in the starting lineup after going 0-for-5 and playing all 11 innings of the Astro's 6-5 win Tuesday. ... Houston manager A.J. Hinch is trying to get back to a five-man rotation, so RHP Chris Devenski will be used exclusively out of the bullpen through at least the weekend and possibly longer. ... The Astros' starters for their weekend series against the Texas Rangers will be RHP Lance McCullers on Friday, RHP Mike Fiers on Saturday and LHP Dallas Keuchel on Sunday. ... Houston LF Tony Kemp and 3B Colin Moran each made their first major league starts Wednesday. Kemp went 2-for-3 and doubled for his first major league hit.

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