HOUSTON -- The short-handed White Sox finally got out of their own way on Friday night to win a tightly contested ballgame.
Two-out, run-scoring hits by Geovany Soto and Adam LaRoche helped the White Sox overcome a number of mistakes and key absences in a 6-3 victory over the Houston Astros in 11 innings at Minute Maid Field.
Three innings after he replaced Jose Abreu -- who left with a finger injury that is likely to keep him out Saturday -- Soto’s two-run, opposite-field double off Tony Sipp helped the White Sox win for only the fourth time in 12 tries. David Robertson pitched an inning for his 10th save, part of 4 2/3 scoreless frames by a restricted bullpen.
“Got a little messy there, limited on who we could use and mixing and matching,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “We started moving guys all over the place, just trying to figure out who you got and who’s available.
“It was a nice win. These guys battled, but I think you look at team wins you’ll have at some point and this is a big one because it was a bit of a MASH unit.”
Abreu left the game in the eighth inning with a swollen right index finger he injured two weeks earlier and headed to the hospital after the game for X-rays. Initially, Tyler Flowers moved from catcher to replace Abreu before Ventura elected to remove the designated hitter and insert Adam LaRoche at first base for the bottom of the 11th. Then there was the bullpen, which was without Zach Duke and Jake Petricka as the White Sox played a doubleheader Thursday and had 15 games in the past 14 days.
But somehow the White Sox found a way to beat the first-place Astros despite their limitations and a gaggle of early mistakes. After Dan Jennings (1-1) pitched out of a jam in the bottom of the 10th, retiring Houston’s 3-4 hitters with two aboard, a White Sox offense that stranded 11, including nine in the first five innings, went to work.
Carlos Sanchez drew a one-out walk and Adam Eaton singled off the lefty Sipp, the Astros’ seventh reliever of the game. Melky Cabrera struck out before Soto drove a 1-1 fastball to deep right to score both runners. LaRoche then singled to right to score Soto.
“To come in here and win the first game is important,” said third baseman Gordon Beckham, who earlier tied the game in the eighth inning with a solo homer and had two RBIs. “So far it’s been a pretty long trip, a lot of moving around and probably a lot of sore bodies out there with yesterday’s doubleheader and then tonight’s longer game. We’ve just got to keep scrapping.”
Robertson called the victory needed.
The White Sox didn’t play as if they wanted it early, tacking two unearned runs onto the record of starting pitcher Carlos Rodon. Rodon, who had walked 15 in his previous 16 innings, looked sharp and walked none over 6 1/3 innings. He struck out five and allowed eight hits.
But Conor Gillaspie misplayed a grounder into an RBI single in the fourth inning -- runner Evan Gattis moved into scoring position on a Tyler Flowers passed ball -- and in the sixth, Abreu flipped a ball high to Rodon, who was over to cover the base, which allowed Houston to take a 3-2 lead. Melky Cabrera also had a throwing error in the sixth that setup the go-ahead run.
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The White Sox offense wasn’t up to par, either, as it had trouble converting myriad chances against young Astros starter Lance McCullers. The White Sox stranded two in the first inning, three in the second, another in the third and left the bases loaded in the fifth.
The White Sox scored in the third inning when Conor Gillaspie struck out but the ball bounded away and catcher Hank Conger’s throw to first hit Gillaspie in the back, which allowed Alexei Ramirez to score.
Beckham also had a pinch-hit sacrifice fly in the fifth inning with the bases loaded to tie the score at 2. Though Ventura wasn’t certain that Robertson would be available to pitch, the closer had no doubt he would pitch once his teammates pulled ahead in the 11th.
“I felt good today so I was ready to take the ball,” Robertson said. “We needed this win and we grinded it out.
“We just played so many tight ballgames lately, so many grinder games and to come out on top of one like this is nice.”