Astros' small ball, rallies fall short

Houston unable to hold lead after chipping away at Sale in 3-run 3rd

Astros' small ball, rallies fall short

HOUSTON -- Knowing that they probably weren't going to be able knock around White Sox starter Chris Sale on Saturday at Minute Maid Park, the Astros resorted to some rare small ball in the third inning and wound up taking a two-run lead they couldn't hold.

The Astros scratched and clawed against Sale, including a pair of bunts in the third, but fell short on a couple of rallies in the eighth and ninth innings and dropped a 7-6 decision to the White Sox, snapping their four-game winning streak.

"You feel good at that time, but we still lost the game, but it didn't matter," first baseman Marwin Gonzalez said. "It's a good rally, it's a good inning, but we have a lot of game to go when we did it. We couldn't hold it. It happens."

Jose Altuve's towering homer in the first off Sale staked the Astros to a one-run lead, but it was the station-to-station baseball in the third that put them ahead, 4-2.

Altuve's solo home run

After Danny Worth led off the inning with a walk, Jake Marisnick put down a bunt single. Gonzalez's squeeze bunt with one out scored Worth, and Altuve followed with an RBI single to make it 3-2. Altuve, who took second base on the throw home, scored on a Carlos Correa opposite-field single to push the Astros' lead to 4-2.

Correa's RBI single

"We did a lot right that inning," manager A.J. Hinch said. "We had to manufacture some runs. We go into the game knowing you're probably going to play the infield in a lot, you're probably going to bunt a time or two, you're going to need to manufacture one run at a time, maybe deliver a big blow if you can.

"It was important for us to do that. Our baserunning was really good that inning. We took an extra 90 feet a couple of different times. Altuve did it, Correa did it, and that type of awareness is a good sign for us against a good pitcher, and I was proud of our guys to put up that. I like the opposite-field hit by Correa, and obviously Altuve always comes up with some positive to-do in his at-bat. It was a really good inning to put up a three-run inning against Sale to get a two-run cushion."

Hinch on 7-6 loss to White Sox

Alas, Sale sent down nine of 10 following Correa's single and was yanked after George Springer led off the eighth with a single and Gonzalez reached second on an error by third baseman Todd Frazier. Despite having runners at second and third and no outs, the Astros managed just one run in the eighth. A.J. Reed's pinch-hit homer in the ninth off closer David Robertson cut the lead to 7-6 -- typically enough offense to win.

Reed's first big league home run

"We have a lot of respect for Sale and Robertson at the end," Hinch said. "We get that home run by Reed, and it breeds a lot of confidence and a lot of belief you're one or two swings away from getting right back into it. … You go back to earlier parts of the game, and you wish you could have done more, but we also stranded a lot of their runners. We kept them close in the middle part of the game, but the tack-on runs are a sign of confidence."

Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.