Houston’s bullpen struggles in 6-3 loss to White Sox
HOUSTON (AP) — Houston’s bullpen was the weak link for a second straight game, a streak not reflective of its early season dominance.
In a 6-3 loss to the Chicago White Sox on Friday night, relievers surrendered the lead in the eighth inning and gave up the deciding runs in the 11th.
“It’s tough because these guys have been so good the entire season that any blemish is going to look a little more magnified,” Houston manager A.J. Hinch said. “These guys pitch with the game on the line. They’re making a few little mistakes and getting burnt.”
Houston’s bullpen entered Friday with the second-best ERA in the American League at 2.13, behind Kansas City’s 1.84.
After rookie starter Lance McCullers left in the fifth inning, seven Houston relievers combined for 6 2/3 innings, allowing four runs on four hits and four walks.
Geovany Soto hit a go-ahead, two-run double off Tony Sipp with two outs in the 11th. The hit dropped in front of the wall in right field to put Chicago up 5-3. Soto entered the game in the eighth inning for an injured Jose Abreu.
Adam LaRoche followed with an RBI single to push the lead to 6-3.
In Wednesday’s 5-4 loss to Baltimore, Sipp allowed a go-ahead homer to Chris Davis in the eighth inning.
Dan Jennings (1-1) got the last two outs of the 10th for the win and David Robertson allowed one hit in a scoreless 11th for his 10th save.
Josh Fields (2-1) walked two in 1 1/3 innings for the loss. He was replaced by Sipp after a one-out walk in the 11th inning.
Gordon Beckham led off the eighth inning with a home run to center field off Chad Qualls to tie it at 3. Beckham drove in a run with a sacrifice fly in the fifth.
“It kind of just humbles you a little bit realizing this game is not as easy as we make it look at times,” Qualls said. “Just one bad pitch pretty much that whole inning. The first pitch he just kind of ambushed me right out of the gate and hit a homer.”
Chris Carter drove in two runs and rookie Preston Tucker had two doubles for the Astros, who lead the American League with a 30-19 record.
White Sox rookie starter Carlos Rodon allowed eight hits and three runs — one earned — in a season-high 6 1/3 innings.
McCullers yielded five hits and two runs — one earned — with a season-high seven strikeouts in 4 1/3 innings for the Astros in his third major league start.
Jose Altuve singled before a double by Tucker to start the sixth inning. Carter hit a sacrifice fly that sent Altuve racing home to tie it at 2. Tucker advanced to third on an error by Melky Cabrera on the play.
The Astros took the lead when Luis Valbuena reached and Tucker scored on an error by Abreu. Abreu made a diving stop to grab the ground ball, but his throw to first was high and Rodon couldn’t make the play.
White Sox: Abreu was replaced at first base in the eighth inning with irritation in his right index finger. ... OF Avisail Garcia missed his fifth straight game after leaving Monday’s game with inflammation in his right knee. He did some running on Friday before the game and manager Robin Ventura thought he looked good.
“It was very encouraging watching him run around ... looks like it would be (Saturday) to have him start again,” Ventura said.
Astros: Houston starter Scott Feldman was placed on the 15-day disabled list after arthroscopic surgery on his right knee on Friday. He is expected to be out about six weeks. Left-hander Brett Oberholtzer, on the disabled list with a blister on his left index finger, is scheduled to be activated and take Feldman’s spot in the rotation on Monday.
NICE CATCH, SKIP
Flowers flipped over the railing into the camera bay adjacent to the White Sox dugout chasing a foul ball in the fourth inning. But he was saved from a hard fall when Ventura leaned over, grabbed him and held him over his shoulder until others came to help him to his feet.
Ventura had an ice pack wrapped on his lower back after the game, a product of catching the 6-foot-4, 245-pound catcher.
“He’s very heavy and it doesn’t feel very good ... I think I might have saved his life,” Ventura joked.
That was the second mishap with a foul ball in the game for Flowers, who got a cut on the bridge of his nose when a foul ball bounced off his mask in the first inning.
Evan Gattis was the batter on both plays.
Houston left-hander Dallas Keuchel looks to get back on track after his career-best, eight-game winning streak dating to last season was snapped in his last start. He opposes Jose Quintana on Saturday. Keuchel threw his first complete game of the season, but the Astros fell 4-3 to Baltimore.
Keuchel leads the American League by holding batters to a .190 average and is tied for second in wins with six.