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MLB: First-place Astros, White Sox square off to start second half

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A pair of first-place teams will square off when the Houston Astros visit the Chicago White Sox to open a three-game series Friday night.

Chicago has a healthy eight-game lead in the American League Central, while Houston comes out of the All-Star break with a 3 1/2-game edge over the Oakland Athletics in the West.

Both the White Sox and the Astros are aiming for a strong second half to get into the playoffs and pursue a World Series run. Chicago is on the rise after losing in the wild-card round last season, and Houston is looking for its second championship since 2017.

“If everything goes well, we are going to have full steam ahead in the second half,” White Sox right-hander Lance Lynn said. “That’s what it’s all about. When you have an opportunity to make the playoffs and make a run at things, that’s why we play. The older you get in this game, the more you cherish those opportunities.”

The teams met for a four-game series in Houston in June, with the Astros winning all four games by a combined margin of 27-8. Chicago’s last win against the Astros was Aug. 14, 2019.

The series will include the two winningest managers active in the majors today: Chicago’s Tony La Russa, who is No. 2 on the all-time list with 2,782 victories; and Dusty Baker, who is No. 12 all-time with 1,947 victories.

The White Sox will go for their sixth win in a row after ending the first half on a five-game streak. They scored six or more runs in each of their past four games and have averaged 5.1 runs per game this season.

Chicago right-hander Dylan Cease (7-4, 4.11 ERA) hopes to benefit from that type of run support as he makes his 19th start of the season. The 25-year-old already has set career highs in victories, starts, innings (92) and strikeouts (117) this season.

Cease has started against the Astros twice in his career, going 0-2 with a 7.71 ERA. He has given up 11 runs (eight earned) on nine hits in 9 1/3 innings. He has walked seven and struck out six.

The Astros will counter with right-hander Lance McCullers Jr. (6-2, 2.94 ERA), who is set to make his 15th start. McCullers took a hard-luck loss his last time out, allowing two runs in seven innings against Oakland.

In five career starts against the White Sox, McCullers is 3-1 with a 2.37 ERA. He has issued seven walks and struck out 33 in 30 1/3 innings.

Houston dropped three straight games before finishing the first half with an 8-7 win against the New York Yankees. Houston trailed 7-2 in the ninth before rallying for the victory.

“We got a couple of men on base and we believed in each other,” Astros catcher Martin Maldonado said. “We know how good of a team we are and (we) are really, really happy how much our team has accomplished this first half.”

–Field Level Media

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