Chris Sale needed help to get his 14th win by the season's halfway point, and he got it from a couple surprising sources.
Dioner Navarro drove in four runs and J.B. Shuck completed the hardest half of the cycle, powering the White Sox past some early Sale stumbles and too many outs on the basepaths.
This could've been a frustrating loss, because Sale traded leads with Doug Fister early when he had the superior stuff. But Navarro -- DHing today -- had multiple leads in his bat, and Sale eventually found a groove enough to hold the second one.
The White Sox had threatened to take control of the game multiple times, but Navarro was out at home on a contact play after his second-inning triple, and Adam Eaton ran into outs in the third (he slipped rounding third and still tried to make it home when Joe McEwing told him to stay) and fifth (thrown out at third on a not-too-wild pitch when Todd Frazier told him to stay). But while Eaton's poor baserunning kept the Sox scoreless the first time, the Sox covered for him the second time around.
Eaton made the first out at third base after he and Jose Abreu started the inning with singles. Todd Frazier reset the runners with a walk, after which Alex Avila struck out to threaten the rally. That's when the Sox benefited from the batted-ball luck they didn't get on Friday. Carlos Correa gloved Brett Lawrie's grounder in the hole, but had nowhere to go with it, loading the bases. Navarro then spanked a curveball past a diving Marwin Gonzalez, scoring two and giving the Sox a 5-4 lead.
Back in the second inning, Navarro came through with a two-run triple to right center, which took the lead back from the Astros after a first-inning Jose Altuve solo shot.
Sale squandered that lead in the third. He created a mess by walking Danny Worth and taking forever to throw to first on Jake Marisnick's bunt, resulting in a single. Worth moved to third on a lineout and scored on a safety squeeze sac bunt to tie the game, and back-to-back singles by Altuve and Correa gave Houston a 4-2 lead.
J.B. Shuck cut into the lead the following inning by jumping on a high Fister fastball with two outs, and he's the offense's other hero.
Fast forward to the eighth, when Avisail Garcia singles with two outs off Michael Feliz. That was the first damage off Feliz over three ridiculously effective innings -- he struck out seven -- but A.J. Hinch went to the bullpen anyway for a lefty, as though Shuck's demands it. In came the inferior Tony Sipp, and Shuck foiled the move by poking a 0-2 fastball into the nook in left center for an RBI triple. Sipp then got ahead of Tim Anderson with two strikes, but Anderson shot his changeup into left for an RBI double.
That gave Sale a 7-4 lead, and Sale and the bullpen used the cushion. Sale, who had retired 10 out of 11 and found his strikeout slider, allowed a leadoff single and a hard grounder that got past Frazier for a two-base error. Nate Jones minimized the damage by allowing the Astros nothing more than a sac fly, preserving a two-run margin.
David Robertson then gave up a solo shot to A.J. Reed with two outs in the ninth, but he still had one more run to work with. He then struck out Colby Rasmus to convert his 22nd save.
*Sale is now 14-2 with a 2.93 ERA, and his line had peripherals in its favor (7 IP, 6 H, 5 R, 4 ER, 1 BB, 9 K, 1 HR).
*Avila was the only White Sox without a hit, but he walked twice. The Sox knocked out Fister one out short of the fifth, having put 14 baserunners on his count.
*They went 5-for-15 with runners in scoring position this time.
Chris Sale is good for this. Carlos Gomez is good for this. Together, they're great for this. pic.twitter.com/FNAnWOqGeq— Phenomenal Source (@SouthSideSox) July 2, 2016