CHICAGO -- The Astros lost two players to the disabled list and two more to illnesses during their series against the White Sox, who are in first place in the American League Central. With the help of a former South Sider, the obstacles surrounding the beleaguered club didn't matter.
The Astros entered the series with a 6-19 road record, and hadn't traveled to U.S. Cellular Field since 2007. So with the series on the line, they turned to starter Lucas Harrell, a former White Sox Draft pick who pitched with the club for parts of two seasons before being claimed off waivers by Houston in July of last year.
Harrell went 7 1/3 innings, and the Astros tallied nine runs through six innings to earn their first road-series victory of the season and provide their starter his first win against his former team in an 11-9 victory.
"I've played with half those guys for two, three-plus years," Harrell said. "Some of those guys I played with a whole lot. You know their tendencies, you know what they work on when they were in the cages. You try to go to those things, and hopefully they're not hitting it."
Harrell allowed five runs and struck out five. The right-hander threw 110 pitches and improved to 2-0 with a 3.46 ERA against the AL this year.
"Any time a guy has a good sinker and locates to the other side of the plate, away to a righty, that guy usually has success that day," said White Sox first baseman Paul Konerko. "You know he can throw it to arm side, in on a righty with that sinker, but he was throwing some strikes away, and that kind of keeps you honest."
Houston won the series with the same long-ball formula it used on Friday night. The Astros drilled a season-high four home runs on Sunday after launching three in a series-opening 8-3 win. For the first time in three games, none of those home runs were hit by shortstop Jed Lowrie.
After a J.D. Martinez long ball in the second inning, center fielder Justin Maxwell crushed a two-run shot to the second deck in left field in the fifth, smashing the ball an estimated 461 feet for his sixth home run of the year. The homer was upheld by review.
"We talked about this before we came over here, that it's a good hitting ballpark," said manager Brad Mills. "When it gets warm like this, it kind of elevates that."
Maxwell got on base in his first three at-bats, notching two hits and scoring twice in that span. He also contributed defensively, running into the wall to make a catch on a fly ball off the bat of Alejandro De Aza in the fifth.
First baseman Brett Wallace added his second home run of the series -- and season -- to start a five-run sixth inning, which tied Houston's season high for runs in an inning. Wallace said he focused on regaining his power during his stint at Triple-A by using his legs more, staying through the ball and driving it.
"It's definitely fun when you can take that from [batting practice] or the Minor Leagues and come up here and keep doing that," Wallace said.
Second baseman Jose Altuve poked an RBI single in the sixth and reached third base on a single by left fielder Brian Bixler. Altuve then scored on a successful double steal, marking the first steal of home for the Astros since Kazuo Matsui stole home on May 19, 2009, against Milwaukee.
"Before the play, I was watching Bixler and he was ready, so [third-base coach Dave] Clark told me to be ready to go," Altuve said. "So I saw the catcher throwing and didn't hesitate and went to home plate."
Altuve followed two innings later with a two-run home run to left field, posting a multihit game for the seventh time in his past 11 games. The last Astros player to steal home and homer in the same game was Jeff Bagwell in 1993.
Just as the Astros looked like they would cruise to victory, leading 11-4 in the eighth inning, the bullpen nearly spoiled Harrell's day.
Reliever Wilton Lopez allowed a two-run home run to Konerko in the eighth inning. Fernando Rodriguez took over in the ninth and walked the first two batters he faced. After a strikeout, Orlando Hudson cranked his first home run since signing with Chicago to put the White Sox within two runs, but Brett Myers entered and closed it out to earn his 15th save.
"We'll get a decent night's rest and a good restful day tomorrow," Mills said. "It's a very good time for that day off."
Rowan Kavner is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.