Updated: June 18, 2014 6:23AM
HOUSTON — What does it say about the White Sox that, even after their 7-2 series-opening victory against the Astros, they have records of 10-8 against above-.500 opponents and 11-14 against below-.500 opponents?
It says what everything else about the Sox seems to indicate — that they’re an enigmatic team, capable of playing a lot better than they were heading into Houston but also just bad enough to be dangerous to themselves.
“We’ve been scuffling a little bit lately,” second baseman Gordon Beckham said, “but this happens on a day-to-day basis in the big leagues. Sometimes you’re hot, sometimes you’re not.”
It’s understandable that the Sox haven’t exactly been killing it. They’ve had their share of injuries, most notably to ace Chris Sale, who should be back in the rotation soon. Of course, this was a last-place team a season ago, too — a loser of 99 games.
Then again, that team didn’t have Jose Abreu anchoring its lineup. Abreu has been slowed the last several days by a sore left ankle. He has been able to persuade manager Robin Ventura to keep him in the lineup, even if that means having him DH instead of playing him at first base — and even if that means watching him limp down the basepaths.
“It looks [bad],” Ventura said, “but compared to where he was, he’s actually feeling pretty good.”
Even if Abreu has to rest that ankle for a night or two at some point, the Sox can do a whole lot better than the two wins and five losses they churned out over the week between their third consecutive victory over the sad-sack Cubs and the start of this series against the worst team in the American League. They certainly can do better than the 12 runs they scored over the last five of those seven games.
Friday brought a breakthrough, with Adam Dunn’s three-run homer in the sixth inning erasing a 2-0 deficit. Beckham and Conor Gillaspie added run-scoring hits during a three-run eighth inning that put the game away.
“I don’t think we’ve jumped out on a team early yet,” Dunn said. “I don’t know why that is, but at some point, we feel it’s going to happen. We just don’t know what inning.”
Lefty Jose Quintana (2-3) made it through five contentious innings for his first victory in his last seven starts.
NOTE: Chris Sale, who last pitched for the Sox on April 17 before being sidelined with a strained flexor tendon in his throwing arm, made a successful rehab start Friday with Class AAA Charlotte. Sale threw 68 pitches over four innings, allowing one hit and no runs and striking out 11. Robin Ventura said Sale won’t be rushed back, but the left-hander told reporters he was ready to return to the big club.
“I felt good, felt loose,” Sale said. “I was able to throw all my pitches for strikes. . . . I’m ready. I’m excited. This was definitely a step in the right direction.”