HOUSTON — Mired in the worst slump of his career, George Springer has been trying everything to break out of it.
His latest tactic came on Thursday night when he swiped reigning American League MVP Jose Altuve's bat to use in the ninth inning.
The change worked, with Springer hitting an RBI single in Houston's two-run rally that helped lift the Astros to a 4-3 win over the Chicago White Sox.
"My bat wasn't seeming to work, so I figured I would try somebody else's bat so I went with the hit king. I went with (No.) 27," he said of Altuve, who has led the AL in hits the last four seasons and is in first place this year. "It's mine now, but it has his name on it."
The Astros trailed by 1 when Joakim Soria (0-3) walked pinch-hitter Tony Kemp with no outs in the ninth before advancing to third on a single by pinch-hitter Marwin Gonzalez. Springer snapped an 0 for 8 slump and tied it at 3-3 with his RBI single to shallow center field. It was a much-needed hit for the World Series MVP who has been struggling lately, going 6 for 70 since June 15.
"I didn't execute my pitches when I needed to," Soria said.
Manager A.J. Hinch noted that Springer's clutch hit was even more impressive considering the success Soria's had against right-handers this season.
"Tough matchup for any right-handed hitter, especially if you're carrying the weight of 65, 70 at-bats that players do when they go through what George has gone through," Hinch said.
Alex Bregman walked to load the bases and Altuve struck out before Yuli Gurriel sent a ball over second baseman Yoan Moncada's head into right field to start the celebration.
Altuve hit a two-run homer in the fifth inning to help Houston to the victory.
Justin Verlander bounced back from his last start where he allowed nine hits and five runs — both season highs — in a loss to Tampa Bay with a solid outing. He yielded four hits and two runs and struck out 10 in seven innings.
Joe Smith (3-1) allowed one hit in a scoreless ninth for the win in his first appearance since June 6.
Omar Narvaez homered with two hits and Leury Garcia's solo shot in the eighth inning put the White Sox up 3-2.
The score was tied at 2-all with one out in the eighth when Garcia sent a fastball from Chris Devenski into the bullpen in right-center to put the White Sox on top.
Chicago trailed 2-0 when Narvaez got Chicago within one with his solo homer to right field off Verlander to lead off the sixth. Moncada singled with two outs in the inning and Chicago tied it up when Yolmer Sanchez doubled to left field.
White Sox starter Carlos Rodon allowed five hits and two runs while tying a career-high with six walks in six innings.
Gurriel was on third base with one out in the eighth inning, but got caught in a rundown before Tyler White struck out to end the inning.
Rodon worked around singles by White and Jake Marisnick in the second inning and a pair of walks in the third. Houston couldn't get anything going on offense until Bregman doubled with one out in the fifth inning and Altuve followed with his eighth homer of the season to make it 2-0.
Chicago's Avisail Garcia went 0 for 4 with a strikeout to end his career-high 14-game hitting streak, which was the longest active streak in the majors.
Astros: Manager A.J. Hinch said SS Carlos Correa (back stiffness) is unlikely to come off the disabled list before Monday and he wouldn't speculate on Thursday about whether he'll return before the All-Star break. "I don't know how the next 11 days are going to go," Hinch said. "I know he's probably not going to play this series. We'll get to Monday and ask me again."
White Sox: SS Tim Anderson left the game with one out in the bottom of the eighth inning after being plunked on the left forearm by Devenski in the top of the frame. He looked to be in quite a bit of pain, but remained in the game and stole second base before leaving in the bottom of the inning. "It's always the next day, the after effects of a blow like that," White Sox manager Rick Renteria said. "We'll re-evaluate him (Friday). He's day-to-day until I know more."
THEY SAID IT
Narvaez on homering off Verlander after going 0 for 5 in his career against the right-hander: "I had three years facing him and I haven't gotten any hits. It was kind of exciting."
Houston's Lance McCullers (9-3, 3.55 ERA) opposes Chicago's Reynaldo Lopez (4-5, 3.68) when the series continues on Friday night. McCullers allowed three hits in seven innings of a 1-0 win over Tampa Bay for his third straight win in his last start. Lopez yielded seven hits and two runs in 6 1/3 innings of a 10-5 win over Texas his last time out.