HOUSTON — It’s not easy navigating through a Houston Astros lineup that includes Jeremy Peña, Alex Bregman, Yordan Alvarez and Kyle Tucker, along with new addition José Abreu.
The Chicago White Sox starters have been up to the task for the first three games of the season.
Lucas Giolito allowed three runs (two earned) on five hits with six strikeouts and one walk in five innings in front of 37,519 on Saturday at Minute Maid Park. He didn’t factor in the decision in the 6-4 Sox loss.
Tucker broke a 3-all tie with a two-out RBI single against reliever José Ruiz in the seventh as the Sox dropped their second straight.
“Obviously the outcome is not what we want, but I like the way we played,” manager Pedro Grifol said. “If we play like that, we’re going to be all right.”
It starts with the starters.
Giolito followed Thursday’s Dylan Cease gem and Friday’s strong outing from Lance Lynn with a solid performance.
“Dylan set the tone with a masterful performance, and Lance did his thing (Friday), gritty as ever,” Giolito said. “It’s hard to say I’m pleased with how I pitched because I didn’t get through six innings. I liked how the ball was coming out, how the pitches were, missed a few times, got away with some, didn’t get away with (some). That’s how it goes.
“The big thing going into the next outing is pour more into the zone, be efficient (and) get weak contact.”
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Cease allowed one run on two hits and struck out 10 in 6⅓ innings Thursday on opening day. He retired 19 straight during a stretch in a game the Sox won 3-2 with the help of Andrew Vaughn’s two-run double in the ninth.
Lynn has struggled recently against the Astros, entering Friday 0-5 with an 8.80 ERA in his last five starts against them. He was 0-6 with a 6.28 ERA in his last six at Minute Maid Park.
That changed Friday when Lynn allowed two runs on three hits with six strikeouts and four walks in 5⅔ innings. The two runs came via a Tucker homer in the sixth. Lynn exited after the home run with a one-run lead, and the Astros scored three the next inning on the way to beating the Sox 6-3.
“Starting pitching has been good, it’s been really good,” Grifol said. “I said it in the spring, these guys have the makings of and the ability to do some nice things for us. We need them. We need their innings. They’re doing a nice job.
“I liked the way (Giolito) battled. He gave up those two runs early and just kept grinding, kept battling and got us five (innings).”
Giolito gave up two runs in the first, although the RBI singles from Tucker and Chas McCormick weren’t hit particularly hard.
“The first inning, they’ve got a good approach, getting the bat to the ball, found a bunch of holes on me,” Giolito said. “Unfortunately gave up two runs there. Started to lock it in a little bit more. I felt it was getting better as the outing went on.”
Giolito also gave credit to the defense, which included a spectacular leaping catch from center fielder Luis Robert Jr. to rob Tucker of extra bases in the third.
The Sox used the long ball to take the lead as Yoán Moncada hit a solo homer in the second and Seby Zavala a two-run home run in the fourth, giving the Sox a 3-2 edge. The Astros tied the game in fourth when David Hensley reached on a Moncada throwing error and scored on a two-out Peña double.
Like Friday, the Astros found more two-out success against the Sox bullpen. Reliever Joe Kelly gave up two-out singles to Alvarez and Abreu. Ruiz entered and Tucker worked a full count before driving in Alvarez with the single to right.
“I took (Kelly) as far as I was comfortable taking him,” Grifol said. “That’s the first time Joe has finished an inning (getting the final out of the sixth) and gone back out (for the seventh) in a long time. And it was one of those where I went out to see if he was OK, and I told him ‘I’ll give you one more hitter.’
“I respect the fact that he was willing to get the out and then go back out, which he hasn’t done in a while. I trust (Ruiz ). Obviously he made good pitches and balls found holes. But I took Kelly as far as I was comfortable taking him and he was next-man up.”
The Astros scored twice more in the eighth. The Sox scored once in the ninth on an RBI single from Eloy Jiménez. Moncada batted with two on and two outs, hitting a liner just foul before striking out to end the game.
“The right guys were up at the plate, and I liked the effort,” Grifol said. “We played until the last out, and we got the winning run to the plate. It just didn’t happen.”