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White Sox out-slug Astros 13-9. Take Series 2-1

Two Gurriel homers and an Altuve dinger not enough to overcome pitching and defensive meltdowns.

MLB: Houston Astros at Chicago White Sox Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports

Fifteen hits and nine runs by the Astros offense were not enough to offset poor pitching and untimely defensive mistakes in this getaway day game in Chicago. The Astros were battling from behind most of the game, but after tying the score in the top of the eighth, were dealt the killer blow by a James McCann grand slam off Houston’s best relief ace, Ryan Pressly.

One must wonder if Brent Strom really is a wizard, and if his absence since August 4th has cast a jinx on the pitching staff. Since that time, Justin Verlander had his worst game of the season, an 8-7 loss to the Orioles in which he allowed nine hits in five innings.

And today Wade Miley suffered by far his worst meltdown of the season. Although only three of the seven runs he surrendered were earned thanks to faulty defense, he allowed nine hits and a walk in only 3.1 innings. None of the relievers sent in after Miley could hold the Sox either, culminating in the grand slam allowed by Pressly which put the game away in the eighth.

The Astros actually started the scoring in this game with an Alex Bregman double, which scored Michael Brantley, who blooped a lucky double on the left field base line right before Bregs’ hit.

In the top of the second the Astros went up 2-0 on Yuli’s first of two home runs of the game off the left field foul pole.

After that, it went downhill for the Stros.

Eloy Jimenez opened the Sox’ second inning with a routine grounder in which first baseman Gurriel failed to secure the throw from the shortstop. Jimenez would then score on Wellington Castillo’s double. Castillo would go to third on Adam Engel’s single to short left field, but another defensive miscue on this play cost the Astros. Castillo had overrun third and was a sitting duck, but Carlos Correa’s throw to third took a difficult hop, and Alex Bregman was unable to tag out Castillo.

This was followed by the biggest blooper of the game. Yolmer Sanchez attempted a sacrifice bunt, and when Miley attempted a scoop throw from his glove to get the advancing runner at home, the ball went over the head of catcher Robinson Chirinos, allowing both Castillo and Engels to score.

The White Sox added two more runs on consecutive singles by Jon Jay and Tim Anderson. The four-run inning came to a merciful end when Jose Abreu hit into a double play.

The Astros offense did not surrender however, scoring two in the third starting with consecutive singles by George Springer, Jose Altuve, and Michael Brantley to load the bases with no outs. But the Astros would only tie the score when Alex Bregman and Yordan Alvarez each got fielder’s choice ground ball RBI, and Robinson Chirinos struck out to end the inning with the bases loaded.

The White Sox would take the lead back in the fourth after Yolmer Sanchez’ lead-off walk, followed by a Jon Jay double which put runners on second and third and got Miley knocked out of the game.

Collin McHugh would limit the damage, allowing a Jose Abreu sac fly, but ending the inning with a strikeout.

Neither team would score in the fifth inning, the only full inning in which that happened. The Astros added a run in the top of the sixth on Gurriel’s second home run, his 25th of the year. The White Sox answered when, with two outs in the sixth, Collin McHugh allowed a double to Anderson. This chased McHugh, who was replaced by Joe Smith, who promptly allowed the runner to score on a Jose Abreu single.

The Astros fought back in the seventh when Jose Altuve, Michael Brantley, and Alex Bregman had consecutive singles leading to one run. Gurriel’s single would score Michael Brantley, the second run of the inning, bringing the Astros to within one run at 8-7.

The Sox would add a run to their lead on an Eloy Jimenez solo homer to center off Will Harris.

The Astros would actually tie the score in the eighth with a Jake Marisnick double followed by this Jose Altuve homer, his 22nd of the year.

The Astros failed to capitalize on a further scoring opportunity however, when Alex Bregman hit a sharp line out to second base with a runner on second, and Gurriel hit a sharp fly out to center with the bases loaded to end the inning.

However, the White Sox would strike the fatal blow off Houston’s bullpen ace, Ryan Pressly, who allowed two singles and a walk before James McCann came to bat with two outs. On an 0-2 count Pressly grooved a slider right into McCann’s barrel, giving the Sox an insurmountable four run lead.

The Astros would go down quietly in the ninth.

What seemed like the invincible strength of the Astros just two weeks ago has suddenly become a scary vulnerability. Justin Verlander just had his worst start of the year against a weak Orioles offense, a game the Astros lost. Miley got crushed today. Zack Greinke has not shown the ace calibre stuff that was advertised when he came to the Astros, and Gerrit Cole missed his start yesterday with a hamstring injury, the extent of which we still don’t know.

What once looked like a lights-out 7th-8th-9th inning bullpen trio, Harris, Pressly, and Osuna, has shown disturbing vulnerability of late, with Harris and Pressly giving up crucial homers today, and Osuna losing on a walk-off homer in his last appearance in Baltimore.

Pitching staffs, even the best, go through phases like this. Let’s hope they can right the ship soon. And that Strommie comes back ASAP.

This loss had to be particularly disappointing for some of the position players, who saw terrific performances go to waste. Altuve was three for five with a homer. Brantley was four for five with a double. Alex Bregman had two hits and three RBI and of course, Yuli stayed red-hot with three hits, three RBI, and two homers.

A very tired and overworked group of pitchers head off with the rest of the team to the West Coast to play the Oakland A’s, who may be getting to face the Stros at the perfect time.

Aaron Sanchez will take the mound for the third time for the Astros. He will face former Astro Mike Fiers.

Game time 9:07 CDT.

Box Score and videos HERE