Rodon in control, White Sox defeat Astros in 11

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HOUSTON – White Sox manager Robin Ventura overheard pitching coach Don Cooper reflecting on 2005 before the White Sox played the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park Friday night. Ventura offered Cooper, a uniformed holdover from the Sox’ team that won the World Series here, a small towel.

“You were a little choked up there,’’ Ventura said with a sly grin.

There were no tears in Cooper’s eyes but it’s clear he savors the moments as much as the Sox’ fan base.

“The next year we came back and won 90 games and didn’t get in, and you realize how difficult it is to be the last team standing,’’ Cooper said.

These 2015 Sox, who are recognizing the 10-year anniversary of the storybook season that culminated with a four-game sweep of the Astros, are finding it hard to stand at .500. Their 6-3 victory against a revitalized Astros team that had tied a franchise record with a 30-18 start left the Sox at 22-25. The Sox are 3-3 on an 11-game road trip with two games left in Houston and three against the Texas Rangers.

Geovany Soto, subbing into the game for Jose Abreu — who left with a irritation in his right index finger — doubled off the right-field wall to drive in two runs against Astros reliever Tony Sipp in the 11th, and Adam LaRoche drove in Soto to make it 6-3. Dan Jennings (1-1) struck out Preston Tucker and Evan Gattis with two runners on in the 10th to get the win, and David Robertson pitched a scoreless 11th for his 10th save.

Sox left-hander Carlos Rodon, coming off an eight-day break to make his fourth start, did what he could, not walking a single hitter — a noteworthy achievement considering he had walked 15 over his first three starts. He gave up eight hits and struck out four. Two of the three runs allowed by Rodon (3.45 ERA) were unearned.

“We’re looking to turn the walks into early contact or early strikes,’’ Cooper said before the game. “At the end of the first three pitches we’d like to be ahead or let make ‘em hit the ball.’’

Rodon left after 6 1/3 innings and 92 pitches trailing 3-2. He tried letting his defense help him, but that’s asking for trouble with the 13th-ranked outfit in the 15-team American League. The unearned runs were tallied because of a passed ball by Tyler Flowers (on a pitch well out of the zone, however) and then Chris Carter’s RBI single that glanced off the glove of third baseman Conor Gillaspie in the fourth; and first baseman Jose Abreu’s high flip to Rodon covering first that allowed the Astros’ third run to score.

The Sox got their own gift when catcher Hank Conger’s throw to first after a dropped third strike hit Gillaspie, allowing Alexei Ramirez to score from second in the third.

Gordon Beckham came off the bench to supply most of the Sox’ offensive punch. Beckham’s pinch sacrifice fly (for Gillaspie) in the fifth gave the Sox their second run, and Beckham connected for his third homer leading off the eighth inning against ’05 World Series figure Chad Qualls.

The Sox left five runners on during the first two innings against Astros rookie right-hander Lance McCullers and they left 10 on through nine innings.

There was concern that Rodon’s eight-day layoff — the Sox are monitoring his innings — would affect his command. If anything, it seemed to help.

“This last time I was kind of OK with [a layoff] because we need to do some side work,” Cooper said. “We need to get some work in there to work on a few things. Work on all of his pitches for strikes, work on being quicker to the plate to hold the running game, to address everything we’re seeing as things that need improvement. To have the two sidelines we did, I was happy with that.”

NOTES: First baseman Jose Abreu left the game during the eighth inning with irritation in his right index finger and was replaced by catcher Tyler Flowers. Geovany Soto took over behind the plate.

*Avisail Garcia (right knee) missed his fifth straight game but took batting practice and fielding work and appeared ready to return Saturday.

*Alexei Ramirez walked for the first time since April 19, spanning 143 plate appearances.

Email: dvanschouwen@suntimes.com

Twitter: cst_soxvan

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