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Clemens solid in first Major League start

HOUSTON -- The Astros endured their 87th loss of the season Tuesday night, which may lead you to believe they've gotten used to watching other teams shake hands or don't expect to win each and every time they come to the ballpark.

Many of the players who are performing in key roles weren't around to suffer many of the lumps the team took in the first half of the season and are more enthused about their future than they are worried about a team headed toward another 100-loss season.

It didn't take enhanced vision to look through a disappointing 4-3 loss to the White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field to see why the Astros believe their future is in good hands with youngsters like starting pitcher Paul Clemens, outfielder Robbie Grossman and third baseman Matt Dominguez leading the way.

"We're having fun," said Grossman, who went 3-for-5 to extend his hitting streak to 14 games. "That's all this game is about, coming to the park and having fun. We're getting to the point we expect to win every night, and I'm excited."

Clemens, called up from a short stint at Triple-A Oklahoma City to make his first Major League start, threw six solid innings and Grossman and Dominguez each had three hits, but the Astros' bullpen again couldn't protect the lead.

Veteran Erik Bedard, who was moved from the rotation earlier this week to make room for Clemens, gave up three runs in the eighth inning to allow the White Sox to come back from a 3-1 deficit for their ninth win in their last 11 games.

"It's different," Bedard said about coming on in relief for only the sixth time in his career. "It's going to take a little time to get used to, but I did the best I can."

The Astros' 25th blown save of the season cost Clemens a win. He held the White Sox to one run and four hits and gave a strange postgame interview in which he tried to limit himself to short answers.

What was the key for you today?

"Executing my pitches," he said.

Frustrated?

"No, I feel good," he said.

Excited to come back and see everybody?

"Mmm hmm," he said

What did you try to work on in Triple-A?

"Just executing my pitches," he said.

Astros manager Bo Porter was pleased with the effort of Clemens, who struggled while making 30 appearances out of the bullpen earlier this year before being sent down. He was the third Astros pitcher to make his first Major League start in the past six weeks (Jarred Cosart, Brett Oberholtzer ).

"Clemens did a tremendous job," Porter said. "He did a good job of battling. His command was not there the whole night and [he] ran into a little bit of trouble, but he was able to make some good pitches to get out of some tough situations."

Porter said he gave the ball to Bedard in an effort to try to let him finish the game. He worked a scoreless seventh and had a 3-1 lead in the eighth after Chris Carter came through with an RBI single.

"He's obviously built up because he had been starting all year, and you look at where we're at with their lineup and the number of lefties in it," Porter said. "He's able to get lefties and righties out, and you feel pretty good that Erik Bedard had the ball in that situation."

The White Sox rallied in the eighth, cutting the lead to 3-2 on an RBI single by Paul Konerko and taking a 4-3 lead on a bases-loaded single by Jordan Danks, who went 3-for-4 to extend his career-high hitting streak to nine games.

"I'm feeling good at the plate and I was really happy that [manager] Robin [Ventura] let me stay in there at the end," Danks said. "I know there was a lefty going and a lot of times I don't get to face guys like that, especially with guys in scoring position. But I always like to be that guy. Even if you don't come through, you always want to be in that situation. It was very cool."

Dominguez, who's hitting .395 (17-for-43) with three doubles, four homers and nine RBIs in the team's last two road trips, drove in a run in the fourth inning with a bloop double and put the Astros ahead, 2-1, in the sixth with a two-out RBI single.

Grossman matched his career high with three hits and has the longest active hitting streak in the Major Leagues. He's batting .365 (23-for-63) with five doubles, nine RBIs and seven runs scored during his streak.

"[He's] a confident guy who made the necessary adjustments he needed to make to straighten out his swing and straighten out his approach, and he is reaping the benefits of his adjustments," Porter said.

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