White Sox salvage finale of series with Astros

MoiseKapenda Bower, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

HOUSTON -- The Chicago White Sox had done just enough this series to come close, to lose by margins best described as narrow and frustrating.
On Monday night they finally fashioned a rally that yielded a favorable result, turning a four-run sixth inning into a 4-2 win over the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park to salvage the finale of this four-game set.
On the heels of five one-run losses over their previous six defeats, including the opening three games of this tightly-contested series, the White Sox (29-38) secured the lead early enough on Monday night to rely on their top relievers: right-handers Jesse Crain and Addison Reed.
With two outs and center fielder Alejandro De Aza aboard following a leadoff single, Astros right-hander Bud Norris (5-7) surrendered three consecutive seeing-eye singles, with designated hitter Paul Konerko driving in De Aza and third baseman Conor Gillaspie loading the bases.
On his 24th pitch of the sixth, Norris surrendered a bases-clearing triple to Dayan Viciedo, who chased Brandon Barnes up Tal's Hill in center. Norris went from flirting with a shutout to falling into a 4-2 hole.
He went six innings, allowing four runs on eight hits while striking out four.
"(Norris) was good," White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. "We got lucky with the placement of some balls, but again when you put guys in situations with a lot of guys on it becomes different."
With the Astros (26-45) threatening in the seventh, Crain struck out J.D. Martinez and Chris Carter to strand runners on the corners. Crain worked a scoreless eighth inning and matched J.J. Putz's club record for the longest streak of consecutive scoreless appearances with his 27th.
Reed earned his 20th save with a perfect ninth. He was making his first appearance since blowing a save June 11 against the Toronto Blue Jays, an outing that ended his string of nine consecutive save conversions.
"We needed to turn things around," Crain said. "Obviously we've been struggling and getting this one and avoiding the sweep was big, and hopefully we start a new win streak and win tomorrow (in Minnesota)."
White Sox right-handed reliever Nate Jones (3-4) allowed three hits while striking out three over 1 1/3 scoreless innings, stifling an Astros rally with his strikeout of Carter with two runners on in the fifth inning.
"That one inning got them the four runs, but at the same time, we had an opportunity to get right back in it and failed to get the big hit," Astros manager Bo Porter said.
Astros catcher Jason Castro enjoyed a surprisingly torrid weekend against left-handed pitching, and he continued that run against White Sox starter Jose Quintana, collecting two additional extra-base hits.
After hitting home runs in consecutive games against White Sox southpaws John Danks and Matt Thornton, Castro drilled an opposite-field double to left-center field in the first inning Monday night. That hit scored Jose Altuve from first base and supplied Houston with a 1-0 lead.
Castro repeated his success in the third inning, this time smoking a double to right field that missed clearing the wall by a couple of feet. Barnes, who opened the frame with a single and advanced to third base on a steal of second and a throwing error by White Sox catcher Hector Gimenez, scored on Castro's double, doubling the Astros' lead to 2-0.
Given his run of excellence at Minute Maid Park, Norris appeared to have ample run support. He posted a 2.28 ERA over his first eight home starts, and worked five shutout innings before stumbling in the sixth.
"I felt a lot of those balls could have gone my way," Norris said. "(Adam) Dunn's went right up the middle. Konerko's was a comebacker up the middle. I missed the next one (the Gillaspie single) and, boom, there it is. It's very frustrating like that. I worked around a couple situations, but that one I could not get out of, and they put pressure on me."
NOTES: White Sox right-hander Jake Peavy, out since June 5 because of a fractured rib, has yet to receive clearance to begin physical activity. He said sneezing and heavy breathing are still causing him discomfort. ... The Astros announced the signing of second-round pick Andrew Thurman, a right-handed pitcher from UC Irvine. Thurman, 21, was selected 40th overall in the draft. He will report to short-season Tri-City of the New York-Penn League on Tuesday.