HOUSTON -- Considering the handful of times that Astros starter Jarred Cosart has pitched well this season and hasn't been able to add to his win total, getting a victory against the White Sox while not at his best helped make up for the previous lack of run support and blown saves that he's endured.
Cosart struggled with his command through most of his five innings and watched the bullpen hold on for dear life in the eighth on the way to an Astros' 6-5 win over the White Sox on Saturday afternoon at sunny Minute Maid Park.
"For him to have to battle the way he had to battle with a lot of deep counts, and didn't really have his command, and make it through five innings and be in position to win the game, you have to walk away and say to yourself, 'Wow,'" Astros manager Bo Porter said. "He continued to make pitches and not fold. That's good for his maturation."
In each of his three no-decisions this year, Cosart left the game in line for a win only to watch the bullpen lose the lead. He left with a 5-3 lead on Saturday and saw the White Sox get to within a run, but this time Chad Qualls closed it out in the ninth inning for his third save.
Cosart allowed three hits and seven runs in five innings and has a 2.64 ERA in his last five starts.
"You can go out and have great stuff ... and you end up not factoring in the decision or losing the game," Porter said. "Or you can come out on a day like today and not have your best stuff and not have your command and be the winner."
The Astros banged out a season-high 11 hits for the sixth time in seven games, getting a big contribution from the top three hitters in the batting order. Jose Altuve, George Springer and Dexter Fowler combined to go 7-for-13 with five runs scored, but it was the cleanup hitter who had the biggest swing.
Jason Castro's three-run homer capped a four-run first inning that gave the Astros a big lead against White Sox starter Hector Noesi.
"It wasn't good, the first inning," Noesi said. "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."
The first inning could have turned out much worse for Noesi had Moises Sierra not made a diving catch in right field to rob Marwin Gonzalez of a hit to end the inning and strand runners at second and third.
"If that ball falls, now you're talking about 6-0 and it's a different ballgame," Porter said. "We may get into their bullpen a whole lot earlier. Give their starter credit. He gave up four in the first and he battled to go as long as he went to save their bullpen."
Cosart breezed through the first inning before his control went awry. He said he had trouble working up a sweat on a windy day that saw little humidity, which made gripping the ball more difficult. He doused his head with water to try to recreate the sweat and find his grip.
"I've just got to make adjustments when the elements aren't like they usually are, so I was able to pour water on my hair so I can get some moisture out there," he said. "The third through fifth I felt a lot better, and the fourth and fifth I actually broke out the new pitch and had two strikeouts with it."
The new pitch is a one-seam fastball that Cosart had been experimenting with recently. He also threw two changeups using a new grip shown to him by pitching coach Brent Strom.
"I commanded [the one-seam] better than I did my regular fastball today," Cosart said. "Just get back in the groove in the next bullpen and go up to Seattle and try and work all four pitches in there, and from the get-go keep attacking the strike zone. That's been the story of the year, and when I do that I have a lot more success than when I don't."
Cosart's wildness nearly got the best of him in the second as he walked three batters in the inning and threw a wild pitch. The White Sox managed a pair of runs on sacrifice flies by Alexei Ramirez and Sierra to get within two runs, 4-2.
In the third, Gordon Beckham doubled and scored on a grounder to cut the lead to 4-3, but Fowler's third homer of the season in the fifth inning pushed the Astros' lead back to 5-3.
"The guys are swinging the bats well and just trying to get good pitches to hit," said Fowler, who has reached base safely in 15 consecutive games, including seven in a row via a walk.
Springer, who tripled home Altuve and scored in the first, singled to start the seventh and scored from second on a Fowler single to put the Astros ahead, 6-3. The run proved to be huge considering the White Sox rallied for a pair of runs in the eighth off new Astros reliever Kyle Farnsworth.
The Astros did get airtight relief work from Josh Fields, who threw a scoreless sixth inning, and Tony Sipp, who threw a 1-2-3 seventh inning and has retired all 20 batters he's faced since joining the Astros. Darin Downs bailed out Farnsworth by getting the final out in the eighth and stranding a pair of runners.