By Bruce Levine–

CHICAGO (CBS) — Flying high and on an upward trajectory just a week ago, the White Sox have been trending the wrong way since. After a 5-3 loss to Houston at U.S. Cellular Field on Wednesday night, Chicago has now dropped six of its last seven games, with the starting pitching again struggling when Chris Sale or Jose Quintana isn’t on the mound.

White Sox right-hander Mat Latos registered his fourth consecutive poor start, allowing five runs, all earned, in 5 1/3 innings on 11 hits and two walks. Latos’ outing included giving up long solo homers to Colby Rasmus in the fifth inning and Juan Castro in the sixth.

After starting the season with four straight wins and a 0.74 ERA, Latos has lost his form. He’s given up 18 runs, 36 hits and 10 walks in his past 20 2/3 innings, raising red flags as to what he can provide moving forward.

Latos now carries a 4.00 ERA and 1.47 WHIP for the season, while striking out 22 in 45 innings.

“There was a little bit of everything,” Robin Ventura said of Latos’ outing. “Some that dropped in that were not really hit hard. Ultimately it was the homer that ends up getting you that you want back.”

After starting 0-2 in a 10-game homestretch that also includes series against division foes in the Royals and Indians, the White Sox have lost four in a row.

“It sucks,” Latos said of some tough-luck bloop hits. “That is a part of the game, and you can’t do much about them. You are just trying to throw low in the zone and get them to hit the pitches you want them to hit. I had a lot of jam base hits. There isn’t anything you can do about that. The pitching line looks like crap — five innings, five runs, 11 hits. The positives were a lot of weak base hits. I am tired of giving up runs, frustrated and can’t do anything about it.”

To his credit, Latos has reinvented himself as a command pitcher after having a 95-mph fastball earlier in his career when he was in San Diego and Cincinnati.

“Early command, walking guys, he got in some trouble early,” Ventura said. “You just can’t give them that many opportunities. The top of that lineup is tough. Anytime you start leaving guys (on base), they are going to cash them in.”

The latest slump by division-leading Chicago has tightened up the AL Central race. With a win against Cincinnati on Wednesday, Cleveland pulled within 2.5 games.

The White Sox do have the luxury of having their ace in Sale on the mound in the series finale against the Astros on Thursday night. Sale has won all eight of his starts this season.

“I like him out their no matter what,” Ventura said. “I like him whether we have won or lost. I like him anytime he is going out there.”

After such a strong start to the season, the White Sox pitchers have a 5.45 ERA in their last seven games.

Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.