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White Sox try for sweep of struggling Astros

CHICAGO -- Even with the Houston Astros possessing the American League's best record and a sizable lead in the West Division, manager A.J. Hinch knows his team can't afford to look too far into the future.

Hinch admitted the Astros, who have taken a hit because of injuries, aren't playing their best baseball. But, as the Astros close out their series with the Chicago White Sox on Thursday, Hinch said focus is key.

"I don't think we can look too far ahead or not take ourselves too seriously with how we're going to compete," Hinch said Wednesday before his team dropped a 7-1 decision to the White Sox. "Getting healthy and staying healthy is key. We've got to get our pitching on track.

"I think we have the opportunity to worry about ourselves and try to get ourselves right and try to tighten some of the things that we haven't done well, but the games need to be played and we need more wins in order to build momentum into what can possibly happen."

The Astros got a huge component of their offense back Wednesday when leadoff hitter George Springer returned after missing 13 games with a left quadriceps injury. Hinch credited the Astros' offensive depth as the reason Houston has been so successful this season.

But Hinch said the league will push the Astros to prove their mettle. That will start Thursday when the White Sox attempt to sweep the Astros after earning their first series victory in nearly six weeks with Wednesday night's victory.

Chicago hadn't won a series since it claimed two of three games against the Rangers, June 30 and July 1-2.

Left-hander Carlos Rodon (1-4, 4.66 ERA) will take the mound for the White Sox while Houston will counter with Brad Peacock (10-1, 3.20). Rodon is 1-0 with a 1.47 ERA in three starts versus the Astros.

Peacock has won his last seven decisions and has demonstrated the kind of consistency Hinch said will be critical if the Astros hope to translate their regular-season success into a lengthy playoff run. He won his only start against Chicago, in 2014.

While the Astros' immediate future is bright, the White Sox remain in the midst of a rebuild, in which young players are getting their opportunity to find their way. But, while veterans such as first baseman Jose Abreu understand the focus on the long-term, they admit that the losing can get frustrating.

"It's difficult because we don't come here to lose. I am sure we'll be better down the road, but this is the hardest part of this process right now," Abreu said, according to the Chicago Sun-Times. "We know there are tough pills to swallow in order to feel good later. You need drugs if you are sick to feel better later. That's how I see it."

While the White Sox have struggled throughout Abreu's career when they haven't finished above .500, this year's struggles have made the day-to-day more aggravating than in the past.

But manager Rick Renteria likes how his team is playing now.

"It's great to have these two victories here," he said after Wednesday's win. "They've been few and far between, but it hasn't been because we haven't tried."

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