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Bedard outduels Sale, Astros beat White Sox

The SportsXchange

HOUSTON -- It wasn't until May 11 that Houston left-hander Erik Bedard pitched the necessary five innings required to earn a victory as a starter, a significant step along his path of preset limits on pitches and innings.

On Friday night, Bedard continued an impressive run by Houston starters and eclipsed the 100-pitch plateau for the first time this year in the Astros' 2-1 victory over the Chicago White Sox at Minute Maid Park.

Bedard (2-3) allowed one earned run and three hits while striking out six over six innings, amassing a season-high 104 pitches in the process. The Astros were hesitant to extend Bedard earlier this season given his injury history, but his recent run indicates he is done with limitations.

"I think he's definitely getting stronger," Astros manager Bo Porter said of Bedard. "Obviously early in the year, we understood coming into it that he had some injury history. I was very cognizant of making sure that we built him up properly.

"With a lot of communication with him, a lot of communication with (pitching coach) Doug (Brocail), I think our training staff has done a great job (and) he's done a great job with our strength and conditioning program. And he's now probably feeling about as good as he's felt in a lot of years."

During the past 28 games dating to May 15, Houston starters have allowed just 57 earned runs over 171 innings for a composite 3.00 ERA. On this occasion the Astros' uneven bullpen didn't squander the lead as Jose Cisnero and Travis Blackley set the table for Jose Veras' 12th save.

White Sox left-hander Chris Sale (5-5) was brilliant in defeat, allowing two unearned runs and striking out 14 over eight innings. His strikeout total, which included seven called third strikes, was one off his career best of 15 set May 28, 2012, against the Tampa Bay Rays. Sale threw a career-high 124 pitches in recording his third career complete game.

"You don't want to hang your head," Sale said. "Obviously it's disappointing, but at the end of the day these guys are grinding it out and not giving anybody anything. I know everyone in here is fighting and grinding, and that's the main goal."

Chicago (28-36) went 1-7 on its previous road trip and opened a 10-game trip that will include stops in Minnesota and Kansas City. The Astros (24-44) won their second consecutive game following a six-game skid.

Two fifth-inning errors by White Sox shortstop Alexi Ramirez -- one fielding, one throwing -- led to both Houston runs.

Ronny Cedeno reached to open the frame when Ramirez bobbled a grounder. Cedeno advanced into scoring position on a Sale wild pitch and scored when Ramirez uncorked an errant throw to second base attempting to erase Trevor Crowe, who had walked, for the third out. Crowe scored the second run on a Jose Altuve infield single to gave the Astros a 2-1 lead.

"It's obviously frustrating to lose when you get a pitching performance like that," White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. "Chris threw great. They just had an inning where they scored a couple runs and never hit the ball out of the infield. It's a tough one as far as the way he pitched."

Chicago had grabbed a 1-0 lead in the fourth inning when first baseman Paul Konerko doubled, advanced to third on a Carlos Corporan passed ball, and scored when Adam Dunn lifted a sacrifice fly to right field.

But Bedard responded by retiring nine of the last 11 batters he faced.

"I'm just being more consistent with the strike zone, throwing more strikes and keeping the ball down," said Bedard, who worked at least six innings for the fourth time in six starts. "As a starter, you always want to keep the ball in the zone and keep it down and mix it up so they don't get good wood on it."

NOTES: The White Sox and Astros squared off at Minute Maid Park for the first time since Chicago claimed Games 3 and 4 and completed a sweep of the 2005 World Series. ... With the White Sox scheduled to start John Danks, Hector Santiago and Jose Quintana in the final three games of this four-game series, the Astros will face four consecutive left-handed starters in a single series for the first time since July 13-15, 1989, when the Philadelphia Phillies sent Bruce Ruffin, Dennis Cook, Terry Mulholland and Larry McWilliams to the mound in succession.

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