HOUSTON — The White Sox went whoa-for-Houston.
Whoa as in, what just happened there?
“It was a good old-fashioned butt-whupping,” Sox left-hander Dallas Keuchel said.
Four games, four losses for a team that had rolled into town on the heels of taking two of three from the Rays in a matchup of the teams with the best records in baseball.
Four starts, three bad ones from perhaps the best rotation in the game, including Keuchel’s 2 2⁄3 innings of six-run ball in the World Series and Cy Young winner’s much-anticipated homecoming, which turned into an 8-2 loss Sunday to complete a four-game sweep by the red-hot Astros. With his parents sitting in the front row, Keuchel had three unearned runs pinned on his line because of a botched rundown by the Sox’ infield, but he walked four and allowed seven hits.
The Sox were outhit 14-3, closing the door on a series in which they were outscored 27-8.
“We just got beat,’’ manager Tony La Russa said, making no excuses for his team’s play. “We know we can play better, and we will. Recognize where we could have been better, hold ourselves accountable and see them again in July.”
A botched rundown, with too many throws and capped by shortstop Tim Anderson’s drop, loomed large in the middle of a five-run Astros third inning in which Keuchel faced nine batters. Three of them walked, including Jose Altuve with the bases loaded.
“I wasn’t around the zone as much as in the previous couple of outings,” said Keuchel (6-2, 3.98 ERA), who was 2-0 with a 1.42 ERA in his first three starts in June.
With Thursday call-up Zack Burdi pitching for the third time in the series, a ball that should have been the third out in the fifth fell between right fielder Jake Lamb and second baseman Danny Mendick with center fielder Brian Goodwin also converging, costing a run when Michael Brantley followed with a single.
A series gone bad went from bad to ugly.
“You can’t pinpoint one thing or another,” Keuchel said. “Everything was bad.”
The Astros even tried to jump-start the Sox’ dim offense. Right-hander Lance McCullers (4-1, 2.90 ERA) walked the leadoff batters in the fourth, fifth and sixth innings, but Yasmani Grandal, Yermin Mercedes and Yoan Moncada immediately followed them by hitting into double plays.
It was that kind of day, and that kind of series for the Sox.
“Just one of those four-game series where you face a good team that’s hot, and you are not really doing anything good on your end,” Keuchel said. “Besides Carlos [Rodon’s start in a 2-1 loss] Friday, we were out of it pretty quick in those other three games. That’s not a good recipe for success, especially with a hostile environment.”
The Astros won their seventh in a row. Keuchel pitched for them seven seasons, then a half-season with the Braves before signing a three-year, $55.5 million contract with the Sox before the 2020 season.
The Minute Maid Park crowd gave him a warm ovation after La Russa pulled him in the third.
“That’s special,” Keuchel said. “That’s another thing that I’ll keep with me probably the rest of my life. Obviously, I did not want it to be the third inning where I got any sort of ovation, that was not my intention whatsoever. I did not expect anything like that.”
If his teammates were expecting Keuchel to call them out after a loss as he did last season, it wasn’t happening. The Sox are off Monday before playing two games in Pittsburgh.
“If we’re not ready to go on Tuesday, then something might be said,” Keuchel said. “But I fully expect us to come ready to go on Tuesday. We’ve played a really hard schedule, and we’ve played some really, really good ball mixed in now with the last four days. But by no means does this series really dictate what we’re going to do going forward, or that somebody needs a talking-to or whatever.”