Early struggles too much to overcome for White Sox
Noesi allows four runs in first as comeback bid falls short in Houston
HOUSTON -- It wasn't Hector Noesi's rough first inning in the Astros' 6-5 victory over the White Sox on Saturday at Minute Maid Park that made catcher Tyler Flowers realize his hurler could be in for a rough day.
Flowers already had an inkling during the pregame warmup in the bullpen.
"Yeah, [he was] just up in the zone," Flowers said after the game. "He was kind of having a hard time even warming up just getting that feel of whatever pitchers do to get it down. He had it some in the bullpen, but then a couple of them were up.
"We knew it would be a battle to get him to stay on top and be down in the zone. Eventually he got it, pretty much after the first inning."
As for that first inning? Pretty much nothing went right for Noesi and the White Sox in the first seven batters faced.
Noesi allowed a single, triple, walk and homer all before recording an out. And following a Matt Dominguez groundout, there was another single and another walk.
Yet, the right-hander limited that first-inning damage to four runs and gave the White Sox a chance over his next five-plus innings of work. Noesi said after the loss, which dropped him to 0-9 over his last 11 starts overall, that the adjustment was about staying closed upon delivery.
"I feel like my head was going back every time I went to home plate, but after that I figured it out and I just tried to be better than what was the first inning," Noesi said. "It wasn't good, the first inning."
"He stubbed his toe coming out of that first inning," said White Sox manager Robin Ventura of Noesi. "Guys were on, swinging the bat, all that stuff. After that, he composed himself and really battled and got us to a point where we at least had a shot at it. He pitched well after that first inning."
Jose Altuve singled to open the game, followed by George Springer's triple to center, the walk to Dexter Fowler and Jason Castro's three-run blast to right. But that run total held up until the fifth, when Fowler opened the inning with a line drive homer to left.
Moises Sierra actually bailed the White Sox out of greater first-inning trouble with a diving catch down the right-field line on a Marwin Gonzalez pop fly with runners on second and third. The White Sox seemed to build off of that moment and scored twice in the second against Houston starter Jarred Cosart.
Cosart walked three in the frame and yielded runs on sacrifice flies from Alexei Ramirez and Sierra. The damage could have been worse, but Alejandro De Aza was caught trying to advance from second to third on Sierra's lineout to right.
Instead of having runners on first and second and two outs for Gordon Beckham -- who has hit safely in 11 of his last 12 games -- the inning was over.
"That's just bad baserunning," Ventura said of De Aza. "You can't ever make the third out at third base."
The White Sox put two on with two outs in the fifth, courtesy of singles from Dayan Viciedo and Adam Dunn, but Cosart retired Ramirez on a pop up to qualify for the victory. He lasted just five, giving up three runs, with Beckham scoring on Jose Abreu's groundout in the third.
"Obviously, I battled," Cosart said. "That's our job, to try and keep the team [in it] for as many innings as we can. I didn't have the six, seven, eight like I want, but getting through that fifth was huge, and for [Houston manager] Bo [Porter] to have confidence to leave me out there for that last batter was big."
Abreu, who has been limping for the first two games of this series due to ongoing soreness in his left ankle, was pinch-hit for by Paul Konerko in the seventh inning. Ventura noticed something off with Abreu during an at-bat in the fifth, and Abreu said there was more pain in the ankle on Saturday than Friday. He will be re-evaluated prior to Sunday's series finale.
Kyle Farnsworth gave up two runs in the eighth during an ineffective Astros debut, with De Aza's sacrifice fly and Beckham's two-out single scoring one each. But after Farnsworth walked the No. 9 hitter in Sierra, Darin Downs came in and retired Conor Gillaspie on a foul pop up to end the threat.
Chad Qualls pitched a perfect ninth for his third save, which included a matchup with Konerko to start the frame that evoked memories of Konerko's grand slam off the hurler in Game 2 of the 2005 World Series. Ultimately on Saturday, that first inning hole was too much for the White Sox to overcome.
With Chris Sale due back from his rehab assignment for a strained flexor muscle in his left arm within the next week to 10 days, Noesi didn't completely help his cause to stay in the rotation. But he certainly didn't hurt it either by giving up five earned runs over six-plus innings and 109 pitches, while striking out six.
"A lot of people fold up in that situation and want to get out of the game," Flowers said. "Whatever the fix was, he stuck with that and started executing pitches."