HOUSTON — After a typically rocky start, White Sox right-hander Lucas Giolito gathered himself and smoothed things out.
After walking George Springer on four pitches and hitting Alex Bregman, Giolito got out of the first inning — an inning in which he carried a 10.06 ERA — with a double-play ground ball from Yuli Gurriel and went on to pitch a season-high 7 1/3 innings against the defending World Series champion Astros in the Sox’ 2-1 loss Sunday.
The Astros completed a four-game sweep and sent the Sox home with a 2-8 record on their road trip. But it ended on a positive note for Giolito, whose up-and-down performances, 6.93 ERA and 54 walks against 54 strikeouts entering the game made him look like one of the worst starting pitchers in baseball.
Not so Sunday.
‘‘I realized in the first inning, ‘OK, the four-seamer is not really doing what I want, so sink it in and mix it up, throw a lot of off-speed pitches and keep ’em off-balance,’ ’’ said Giolito, who lowered his ERA to 6.59 by allowing two runs, three hits and three walks.
‘‘Confidence in myself has never gone down. It’s just the feel for things and sometimes just working a little too fast, too anxious, whatever it is.’’
A home run by Jose Altuve leading off the fourth was the Astros’ first hit. They got their second run on a suicide squeeze by Marwin Gonzalez that scored Gurriel in the seventh. The Sox got their run against Dallas Keuchel (6-8) on a sacrifice fly by Tim Anderson that scored Yoan Moncada, who had singled, in the seventh.
The Sox (30-60) finished 0-7 against the Astros, the first time in franchise history they’ve gone winless in a season series against a team. But Giolito’s start left them heading home on a decent note.
‘‘What a great outing for Lucas,’’ manager Rick Renteria said. ‘‘He was really calm, composed.’’
Garcia’s hamstring tightens
Right fielder Avisail Garcia left with tightness in his right hamstring in the sixth and is ‘‘probably day-to-day,’’ Renteria said.
Garcia, who suffered a Grade 2 tear of the same hamstring in late April, has been the Sox’ best hitter since coming off the disabled list. He has six homers and 10 RBI in his last 11 games.
‘‘We made a precautionary decision to get him out of there and let [trainer Herm Schneider] start with him,’’ Renteria said.
Garcia has been playing through tightness in both hamstrings.
‘‘We weren’t going to push it,’’ Renteria said. ‘‘He’s had it lingering a little.’’
Moncada’s all right — for now
Renteria continues to move the switch-hitting Moncada from the leadoff spot, where he bats against right-handers, to sixth or seventh against left-handers, as he did against Keuchel. Moncada was batting .153/.215/.236 in 79 plate appearances right-handed before going 1-for-3 against Keuchel.
Renteria said he might consider moving Moncada higher in the lineup to get him more at-bats right-handed, but not yet. He also said it’s too early in his career for Moncada, 23, to give up batting right-handed, his natural way.
‘‘I don’t think he’s got enough at-bats at this point for us to determine that,’’ Renteria said. ‘‘My eyes tell me he has the skill set to hit from both sides of the plate. I could be wrong, but I don’t even consider eliminating one side at this point at all. It’s not even in the recesses of my mind right now. He has plenty of time to figure out how to manage that side.’’