McCullers, Brantley help Astros beat White Sox 7-1

Lance McCullers Jr. pitched seven sparkling innings, and the Houston Astros defeated the Chicago White Sox 7-1 on Friday night in the opener of a weekend series between AL division leaders.

Michael Brantley homered and Myles Straw drove in three runs as the Astros improved to a big league-best 43-22 against teams with a .500 or better record — including a 5-0 mark versus the White Sox. Yuli Gurriel added three hits and two RBI.

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McCullers (7-2) surrendered hits on each of his first two pitches: a leadoff triple for Tim Anderson that extended his hitting streak to 13 games, and an RBI double for Yoán Moncada. But that was it for Chicago against the right-hander, who struck out 10 and walked two.

The White Sox won five in a row before the All-Star break, closing out a 6-3 road trip.

But they were outplayed again by the Astros, who rolled to a four-game sweep in their first meeting of the season last month in Houston.

While the Astros have played well against baseball’s best teams, the White Sox dropped to 16-25 against adversaries that currently have a .500 or better record.

Dylan Cease (7-5) struck out 10 in 5 2/3 innings for Chicago. The right-hander permitted three runs and six hits in his first loss in nine home starts this season.

Cease caught a bad break when Anderson looked to second on Jose Altuve’s two-out grounder to shortstop with a runner on first in the third. Second baseman Leury García wasn’t on the bag and Altuve was credited with an infield single.

After Brantley was hit by a pitch, Gurriel lined a two-run double into right field.

Brantley added a two-out solo drive in the fifth, and the Astros broke it open with four more two-out runs in the seventh. Straw had the big blow, a three-run double to right that made it 7-1.

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