Erik Bedard was part of the preseason punch line for the rebuilding 2013 Astros.

He’s an aging veteran starting pitcher whose last two years in the majors had been defined by multiple teams, an inflated ERA and dwindling big-league value. A gluteal strain before the regular season began only reinforced the idea the often-injured Bedard was nearing the end of a career that peaked in 2006 with Baltimore.

So much for the end of Bedard.

The crafty 34-year-old lefthander outmatched hard-throwing 24-year-old lefty Chris Sale on Friday night, guiding the Astros to a tight 2-1 victory over the Chicago White Sox at Minute Paid Park before an announced crowd of 20,496.

Bedard threw a season-high 104 pitches, striking out six while allowing just three hits and one unearned run in six strong innings. His gem helped the Astros outlast Sale, who struck out 14 in eight innings but gave up two unearned runs during a game-changing fifth inning.

Bedard improved to 2-3 this season with a 4.82 ERA. After being briefly demoted to the bullpen, he has allowed two or less runs in six of his last seven starts. Bedard owns a 3.40 ERA during the span, while an Astros club that has gone 14-14 during its last 28 games continues to ride a much-improved starting staff that has given up just 57 earned runs in the last 171 innings (3.00 ERA).

“He’s definitely gotten stronger,” Astros manager Bo Porter said. “Obviously, earlier in the year … we understood coming into it that he had some injury history, and I was very cognizant of making sure we built him up properly.

“He’s now feeling about as good as he’s felt in a lot of years.”

Bedard used 40 pitches just to get through the initial two innings and loaded the bases in the second. He struck out No. 9 hitter Tyler Flowers to end the threat, though, staying clean by mixing a mid-70s changeup and curve with a low-90s fastball.

Bedard had reached 58 pitches by the third. But the White Sox (28-36) only had one hit, no runs and had struck out three times.

“I’m just being more consistent with the strike zone, throwing more strikes and keeping the ball down,” Bedard said. “As a starter, you always want to keep the ball down and keep it low and try to mix it up so they don’t get good wood on it.”