CHICAGO (AP) — Pitcher Collin McHugh gave the Houston Astros a chance to complete a three-game sweep of the Chicago White Sox on Thursday night. Baseball's hottest pitcher wouldn't let that happen.

Chris Sale went the distance with a masterful four-hitter, becoming the first major league pitcher since 2008 to win his first nine starts of the season, as the White Sox beat the Astros 2-1 on Thursday. The victory snapped Chicago's season-high four-game losing streak.

Yet as dominant as Sale was on this night, McHugh (4-4) matched the lefty pitch for pitch much of the way. He allowed two runs and five hits in seven innings to take the loss, his first after three straight wins.

"It's probably the best stuff I've had," said McHugh, who walked one and struck out a season-high eight. "My body's felt good all year, but the stuff tonight was probably my best this year."

Sale walked none and struck out a season-high nine en route to his second straight complete game. No other pitcher has more than seven victories in the big leagues this season.

"Everything went for strikes -- change-up, slider, fastball, sinker," said Jose Altuve, who had one of the hits. "No matter the count or the situation, he went out and attacked the hitter. We gotta give him credit. Right now, he's the best pitcher in the league and he shut us down."

The Arizona Diamondbacks' Brandon Webb had been the last to post a 9-0 record in his first nine starts. The last White Sox to accomplish the feat was Eddie Cicotte in 1919, when he won 12 in a row.

Sale said 9-0 "is cool. I enjoy it. I enjoy snapping the skid we were in even moreso than that."

Houston broke the shutout bid in the eighth, when Evan Gattis clubbed the first pitch for a home run. The blow came in his first start of the season at catcher.

Sale lowered his earned run average to 1.58, second to teammate Jose Quintana (1.54) in the American League. He retired the first five batters, allowed a single to Gattis in the second inning then mowed down the next 12 before Altuve singled in the sixth.

"Sale came as advertised," Houston manager A.J. Hinch said. "Probably as good of stuff as we've seen all season.

We just couldn't scratch anything across early.

"Collin matched him. We saw a really well-played game."

Jerry Sands' two-out single staked Chicago to a 1-0 lead in the second. The hit scored Todd Frazier, who had opened with a single and stole second base.

Alex Avila hit a sacrifice fly for the second run in the seventh.

Chicago threatened to break on top in the first, but George Springer leaped high to snare Jose Abreu's drive before it cleared the fence.

VENTURA CHANGES SOX

Chicago manager Robin Ventura shuffled the lineup in an attempt to snap his team out of its funk. Carlos Sanchez replaced slump-ridden 2B Brett Lawrie, who did not start for the first time this season, while Jerry Sands filled in for DH Avisail Garcia. Sanchez batted second and SS Jimmy Rollins slid down to sixth in the order.

"Every team is going to go through a stretch like this," Ventura said. "How they respond, obviously, you pay close attention to it as far as personalities, how they interact, how they come to the ballpark ... All that is stuff you look at."

TRAINER'S ROOM

Astros: OF Carlos Gomez (bruised ribcage) could resume baseball activities early next week. Hinch planned to discuss a workout schedule with the veteran when the team returned home.

White Sox: RHP Nate Jones was available out of the bullpen. He left the game on Tuesday after being struck on his left foot by a line drive.

UP NEXT

Astros: RHP Lance McCullers (0-0, 9.64) is scheduled to open a three-game series against the Texas Rangers on Friday. The start will be his second of the season after a bout with shoulder soreness.

White Sox: Quintana (5-2, 1.54) will get the start versus the Kansas City Royals in the first game of a three-game set on Friday. The left-hander has a 1-6 record in 18 career starts against the division rivals.