How these last hopes for Astros must repair unlikeliest of foundational cracks

FIXING THE ASTROS

How these last hopes for Astros must repair unlikeliest of foundational cracks
Can the Astros turn this season around? Composite Getty Image.

The Houston Astros are coming off another crushing series loss and now sit 7.5 games behind the division leading Seattle Mariners.

And while things haven't been going well for the club this year, some areas of the team are showing improvement. Despite all the injuries to the starting rotation, the pitching has been excellent as of late.

Hunter Brown and Spencer Arrighetti appear to be developing into quality back of the rotation starters. Which is key with the injures to Jose Urquidy and Cristian Javier.

Alex Bregman seems to have found his power stroke at the plate, but now that he's hitting, Jose Altuve, Kyle Tucker, and Jeremy Pena are struggling. It's just been one of those years for the Astros. They can't seem to get hot at the same time.

And when the pitching and hitting give the bullpen a late-game lead, they've struggled to hold it. Josh Hader and Bryan Abreu seem to have overcome their early season issues, but Ryan Pressly is another story. His command has been a problem for most of the year. His walks per nine innings (3.2) haven't been this high since 2015. When he makes a mistake, there's often a runner on base, which has cost the Astros several games.

Look at the bright side

One possible saving grace for this team is their schedule. If they can start stacking up series wins against the Cardinals, Angels, Giants, Tigers, and White Sox, maybe they can get back to .500 and put themselves in striking distance of the Mariners.

Be sure to watch the video above for the full discussion!

Catch our weekly Stone Cold ‘Stros podcast. Brandon Strange, Josh Jordan, and Charlie Pallilo discuss varied Astros topics. The first post for the week generally goes up Monday afternoon (second part released Tuesday) via The SportsMap HOU YouTube channel or listen to episodes in their entirety at Apple, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.

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We're thinking they're back! Composite Getty Image.

Coming off an impressive three-game sweep of the Orioles, the Astros finally look like they've turned a corner as they are only two games under .500 with the lowly Rockies coming to town for a two game set this week.

Houston's offense appears to be firing on all cylinders, and the insertion of Mauricio Dubon and Joey Loperfido in the everyday lineup seems to be paying huge dividends

Dubon has now started in fourteen straight games, and Loperfido has been in the lineup in every game since rejoining the team. Manager Joe Espada has done a nice job of riding the hot hand, and knowing when to give players a day off. Both Dubon and Lopefido should be penciled in the lineup regularly, at least until Kyle Tucker returns from injury.

Jeremy Pena is a perfect example of Espada seeing a player struggling and giving him a day off to help get him back on track. The results speak for themselves, as Pena was crushing baseballs over the weekend instead of swinging at sliders in the dirt.

And let's not forget to credit the pitching. Hunter Brown looks like a dominate top of the rotation starter, Ronel Blanco should be an All-Star, and Framber Valdez may have had his best performance of the season on Sunday.

It will be interesting to see how they navigate the starting rotation with only four healthy starters currently on the team. Justin Verlander reportedly still hasn't resumed baseball activities.

Shawn Dubin could also be an option should they need him to make a start. Hopefully, Luis Garcia will be ready to go in late July because the Astros have several pitchers that will be asked to throw more innings than ever before.

Addition by subtraction

It's hard not to notice how well the team has played with Jose Abreu out of the picture. The club is 7-2 since they parted ways with Abreu, and the squad has a much younger and more athletic feel with Loperfido and Dubon consistently playing.

While we certainly can't blame all the team's struggles on Abreu, they appear to be playing with a different energy now. Look no further than Loperfido's amazing catch in the first inning of the opener against Baltimore. That play ended up setting the tone for the entire series.

What should we expect from the red-hot 'Stros moving forward? Be sure to watch the video above to hear the full conversation!

Catch our weekly Stone Cold ‘Stros podcast. Brandon Strange, Josh Jordan, and Charlie Pallilo discuss varied Astros topics. The first post for the week generally goes up Monday afternoon (second part released Tuesday) via The SportsMap HOU YouTube channel or listen to episodes in their entirety at Apple, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.

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