By KRISTIE RIEKEN
AP Sports Writer
HOUSTON (AP) — Johnny Cueto and Reynaldo López combined for a three-hitter and Luis Robert tied a career-high with four RBIs as the Chicago White Sox jumped on Justin Verlander early and cruised to a 7-0 win over the Houston Astros on Saturday.
Cueto (1-3) allowed two hits and struck out five in a season-high seven innings to get his first win since July 29 with San Francisco.
“Johnny set the tempo,” manager Tony La Russa said. “He’s an artist out there … that’s just high, high major league pitching.”
Robert tied a season best with three hits and José Abreu drove in two runs as the White Sox built a 7-0 lead after four innings to get their fourth win in five games.
Cueto allowed a leadoff single to Jose Altuve and walked a batter in the fourth and sixth innings.
But Houston didn’t get another hit until Alex Bregman singled with no outs in the seventh. He was erased when Yordan Alvarez grounded into a double play before Cueto retired Kyle Tucker to end his day.
Houston manager Dusty Baker, who managed Cueto in Cincinnati, raved about the right-hander.
“When he’s on with his stuff, he’s as tough as anybody,” Baker said. “He knows how to pitch.”
López yielded one hit in two scoreless innings to complete the shutout.
Verlander (8-3) entered the day tied for the MLB lead with eight wins, but had a rare sub-par start in what has been a splendid season in his return after missing almost two years after Tommy John surgery.
He allowed nine hits and seven runs — four earned — in a season-low 3 2/3 innings to snap a two-game winning streak.
“Those hitters at this level are really good, too,” Verlander said. “So I think this might just be a situation where you give credit where credit is due.”
Houston’s tough day at the plate came a day after the team scored 10 runs in the sixth inning to tie a season high with 13 runs in a win in the series opener.
La Russa was impressed with the way his team bounced back after Friday’s loss.
“It’s a very resilient, tough minded, tough heart, tough guts club,” he said. “We hung in there. That’s why they have my total respect and admiration. That’s an example today. We put that game behind us.”
Seby Zavala singled to open Chicago’s third and Danny Mendick singled with one out. The White Sox loaded the bases on a single by Andrew Vaughn before Robert’s single on a liner to right field scored two to make it 2-0.
Abreu then hit a double to left field to send two more home and extend the lead to 4-0.
A single by Josh Harrison got things going for Chicago in the fourth and Adam Engel singled with one out. Altuve then let Vaughn’s grounder to second roll through his legs, and Robert hit a two-run double that chased Verlander. He was replaced by Phil Maton and he retired Abreu to end the inning.
White Sox: 3B Yoán Moncada was out of the lineup after leaving in the third inning Friday night with tightness in his left hamstring. La Russa said Moncada was having an MRI Saturday.
Astros: Baker said Alvarez suffered an undisclosed injury on his final swing in the seventh inning and that he was being evaluated. … SS Aledmys Díaz left the game after five innings with discomfort in his left shoulder. … RHP Jake Odorizzi, who has been out since May 16 with a left leg injury, threw 35 pitches off the mound before the game. Odorizzi said he felt good and could begin a rehabilitation assignment soon.
CLIMBING THE CHARTS
Verlander had three strikeouts to give him 3,094 in his career, moving him past CC Sabathia (3,093) for 16th on the all-time list.
White Sox RHP Michael Kopech (2-2, 1.92) opposes Cristian Javier (3-3, 3.20) in the series finale Sunday. Kopech returns after leaving his last start Sunday in the first inning with discomfort in his right knee.
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