HOUSTON -- Lately, when at home, the Astros love to wait until the ninth inning. The Astros hit multiple walk-offs during their last homestand, so when they entered Thursday's ninth inning trailing by one run, what was forthcoming seemed predictable.
Houston defeated the White Sox, 4-3, at Minute Maid Park on Yuli Gurriel's game-winning single to right field.
"I'm very happy about it," Gurriel said shortly after the first Major League walk-off hit of his career.
This rally was helped by two players who hadn't played until the ninth and a slumping slugger in need of offense productivity. Tony Kemp and Marwin Gonzalez, both out of Thursday's lineup, drew a walk and singled, respectively, as pinch-hitters before George Springer put aside a massive slump to knock a game-tying RBI single. Gurriel's bases-loaded single scored Gonzalez from third.
"First off, I think the inning starts with an excellent at-bat by Tony Kemp," said Astros manager AJ Hinch. "He's a little spark plug for us that continues to put up really good at-bats. ... A lot of good in that inning.
"Yuli should get as much praise as anybody to end the game. But [I am] really proud of George and Marwin to get in on the party."
Thursday's starting pitchers were sharp. Houston's Justin Verlander racked up 10 strikeouts over seven innings of two-run ball, facing the minimum through five frames. Chicago's Carlos Rodon stalled the Astros' offense until the fifth, when Jose Altuve fired a two-run homer onto the train tracks beyond left-center field. The better bullpen would deliver a win.
Astros reliever Chris Devenski, who pitched the eighth inning, allowed a go-ahead solo homer to Leury Garcia. Garcia's shot put the White Sox ahead by one until the Astros woke up in the ninth.
Verlander, who has not recorded a loss to the White Sox since 2014, dazzled through seven innings and allowed four hits with no walks. The Astros ace was tagged for two runs in the sixth, a half-inning after Altuve's moonshot, which had snapped a scoreless tie.
Altuve's homer, his eighth, was a 417-footer that peaked at a height of 118 feet, per Statcast™'s projected distance. Altuve scored Alex Bregman, who doubled in the previous at-bat.
"If we can just hang in there with teams," Hinch said, "we have some of these late-inning heroics."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Rodon's pitch count soared into the 100s in the sixth inning, when the White Sox lefty walked Tyler White and Max Stassi with one out. For the second time, the Astros -- who drew nine walks -- grounded into an inning-ending double play and couldn't cash in for a big inning.
"I felt like we had first and second virtually every inning," Hinch said. "A couple double plays, that continues to be an Achilles' heel for us. I don't know if we're leading the world in them, but it feels like it."
• The Astros have recorded a walk-off hit in each of their past four series at Minute Maid.
• Gurriel is hitting .420 with runners in scoring position this season, which leads the American League.
HE SAID IT
"Oh, you feel good. You feel like you're able to contribute. I think that this team has done a heck of a job these last three weeks that I haven't been a part of. It's tough. But you know what, it's not about me. It's about the team." -- Springer, on his game-tying single amid a weeks-long slump
Lance McCullers will make his 18th start of the season at 7:10 p.m. CT Friday against the White Sox at Minute Maid Park. McCullers' start will be on extended rest. The righty has not pitched since June 28, a calendar week between starts. The Astros will face Chicago right-hander Reynaldo Lopez in the second meeting of a four-game series.