May 12, 2023; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Houston Astros starting pitcher J.P. France (68) delivers against the Chicago White Sox during the first inning at Guaranteed Rate Field. Mandatory Credit: Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports
Not even a two-hour rain delay was enough to cool off J.P. France and the Houston Astros in Chicago on Friday night against the White Sox.
The Astros, led by the rookie pitcher, held the White Sox’s batters in check in their 5-1 victory.
France stifles Chicago
France gave up a solo home run in the second inning to Chicago center fielder Luis Robert Jr., which put the Astros in a 1-0 hole. It was the lone blemish for France throughout his entire outing.
In just his second career start at the MLB level, the 28-year-old France put together a quality start for the Astros (20-18). He pitched in 6.2 innings against Chicago. France struck out three White Sox batters and gave up just one earned run as he tallied his first career victory.
One of France’s most impressive moments from his performance on Friday came in the fifth inning against White Sox designated hitter Gavin Sheets.
The two players engaged in a 10-pitch battle that began with France falling behind 2-0 in the count against Sheets. France was able to cap off the duel against Sheets with a 75-mile-per-hour curveball for the swing and the miss.
Relievers Hector Neris, Bryan Abreu, and Ryan Pressly all pitched against Chicago (13-27) as well. They combined to pitch in 2.1 innings and gave up zero hits, zero earned runs, and struck out four.
Astros offense powered by RBIs
Houston tied the game in the fourth inning. The rally began with a leadoff walk from right fielder Kyle Tucker. He later stole second base, and when first baseman José Abreu grounded out to second baseman Elvis Andrus, it allowed Tucker to move up to third base.
Tucker was brought home to score on a sacrifice fly ball to the outfield by shortstop Jeremy Peña.
Houston took the lead in the fifth inning when Tucker doubled to left field, which allowed catcher Martín Maldonado to score from second base. He initially reached base by drawing a walk, and Bregman also drew a walk to move Maldonado to second.
Bregman stayed at third base following Tucker’s RBI double. Houston designated hitter Yordan Álvarez and Abreu could not extend the Astros’ 2-1 lead in the fifth inning.
Houston scored two runs in the sixth inning off a pair of RBI doubles from Maldonado and second baseman Mauricio Dubón to extend its lead to 4-1. Maldonado’s double allowed Julks to score, and Dubón’s double brought Maldonado home.
The insurance runs proved to be the difference in the game. Álvarez added a solo home run in the ninth inning to extend Houston’s lead to 5-1 for an added layer of protection.
News and Notes
• Tucker’s stolen base in the fourth inning was his sixth of the season.
• Julks stole his fourth base of the season in the fourth inning. He stole his fifth base of the year in the sixth inning.
• Center field Jake Meyers’ stolen base in the sixth inning was his fifth of the season.
• Outfielder Michael Brantley is being shut down indefinitely due to inflammation in his shoulder. Brantley was expected to return to the Astros in Anaheim against the Los Angeles Angels. Instead, he continues to be hampered by injury.
• Second baseman José Altuve began his rehab assignment with the Triple-A Sugar Land Space Cowboys on Friday night.
Outfielder Chas McCormick returned to the Astros lineup on Monday against the Angels. He then missed the rest of the series. Manager Dusty Baker said McCormick was available off the bench for Houston on Friday, according to the Houston Chronicle. While he did not play, Baker said he could be back in the lineup on Saturday.
The Astros face off against the White Sox in game two of the three-game weekend series. The game’s first pitch is set for 6:15 p.m. and will air on Fox. Brandon Bielak is expected to take the mound for Houston. He will face off against Chicago’s Dylan Cease.