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Chicago White Sox can’t recover from a 1st-inning deficit, dropping the series to the Houston Astros with their 5th loss in 7 games

Lucas Giolito wanted to set the tone early and build momentum for the Chicago White Sox against the Houston Astros.

“I failed to do that,” Giolito said.

Four batters in Sunday, the Sox found themselves in a three-run hole. They never dug out, losing 4-3 in front of 18,347 at Guaranteed Rate Field.

“Three-run first inning, just horse(bleep),” Giolito said. “I’ve just got to be better early. Set the tone early. Because I know as I get deeper in the game I’m going to get better. Come out early firing and go from there, keep the momentum on our side.

“I just didn’t do it today.”

A late rally came up short for the Sox (14-28), who dropped two of three in the series.

“We dug ourselves a hole early and we couldn’t muster that last run,” manager Pedro Grifol said.

Mauricio Dubón and Alex Bregman began the game with back-to-back singles. Yordan Alvarez drove them home with a double and advanced to third when Tim Anderson’s throw to the plate skipped away from catcher Seby Zavala.

Alvarez scored on Kyle Tucker’s sacrifice fly to right.

“Probably the worst I felt physically this year,” Giolito said of the first. “Stuff wasn’t crisp at all. But despite that, I’m a pitcher, I’m able to command the baseball and I wasn’t doing either in the first inning.

“The innings after I did a better job of sequencing up with Seby and commanding pitches to get quick outs and a few strikeouts. But the first inning was just a mixture of bad stuff and bad location, and an offense like that is going to make you pay early.

“You make 30 to 32 starts in a year, some days you have it. I had it my last start. I’m a little frustrated that I didn’t carry that same physical energy into this one, but it doesn’t matter. You’ve got to go out and battle with what you have. I did that later in the game. I’ve got to be much better in the first inning.”

Giolito retired 16 of the last 19 he faced, allowing two singles in the third and a solo homer in the fourth to Yainer Diaz that gave the Astros a 4-0 lead.

Giolito allowed the four runs on seven hits with six strikeouts and no walks in six innings.

“He left a couple of pitches over the plate (in the first) and they hit him,” Grifol said. “After that he settled down. He looked strong after that. He pitched. He did a really good job.”

Luis Robert Jr. hit a solo homer in the fourth, his 11th of the season. Robert has homered in three straight games and has a 1.442 OPS in 13 May games.

“The results that I’m getting right now are part of all the work that I’ve been doing,” Robert said through an interpreter. “That’s really the only thing you can control, just the work that you can do.

“Sometimes you work hard and the results are there. Sometimes you keep working hard and the results aren’t there. But you still have to work.”

Jake Burger, activated from the injured list Sunday after missing time with a strained left oblique, hit a two-run homer in the sixth to cut the deficit to one run.

“I was fortunate to get that first knock on a good slider away (for a single in the second),” Burger said, “and then (Astros starter Hunter Brown) threw that curveball in there (in the sixth) and I was able to make good contact. It was good after having 10 days off to get back in and contribute any way I can.”

The Sox had power hitters up again in the eighth after reliever Bryan Abreu hit Yoán Moncada with a pitch to begin the inning. Robert struck out, Gavin Sheets flied to right and Burger struck out to end the inning.

The Sox were retired in order in the ninth — with Chas McCormick making a diving catch to rob Anderson for the final out — and have lost five of seven.

“Really wanted to win this series, and the reason we lost is because of my first inning,” Giolito said. “Killed momentum for us. Handed it all over to the other side and then we had to play coming out of a hole. So obviously very frustrated with that.

“But now we move on, off day (Monday) and go win the next series.”