Here are Astros limited, but powerful options to course-correct pitching

END OF THE LINE

The Astros are back on track with two critical wins over the Boston Red Sox, and while Justin Verlander was in classic form on Tuesday night (6 scoreless innings, 9Ks), Cristian Javier struggled through 5 innings once again on Monday.

JV's win over Boston was the first scoreless start from a starting pitcher since Framber Valdez through a no-hitter against the Guardians on August 1.

Fortunately for Houston, the Astros came away with a victory in Javier's start, but his issues are clearly not behind him. So what can the team do at this stage in the season? We're well past the trade deadline, so the answer will have to come internally.

It would be one thing if it were just a player or two showing some fatigue during the dog days of summer, but it's been pervasive across the entire rotation outside of JP France, and now hopefully Verlander.

JV said after the game that he made some mechanical adjustments that seem to have made a big difference for him, giving him more command and velocity with his fastball, and better action on his breaking-pitches. Verlander's always thinking about pitching, and this tweak to his mechanics was effective.

Which has us wondering, where are the pitching coaches in all of this? How much of the blame do they deserve for the current slump in the starting rotation? Much has been made of the injuries the Astros have sustained as reasons for the current state of the rotation, but without these injuries, JP France never gets to show what he can do in the big leagues. And one could argue he's pitched better than Jose Urquidy, or Luis Garcia have ever pitched.

Plus, the Astros aren't the only ones dealing with injuries to their pitching staff. The Tampa Bay Rays have lost 4 of their 5 starters to injury this year.

A controversial alternative

Finally, if things continue in this manner and the Astros still make the postseason, how will JP France be deployed? Dusty Baker loves his veterans, but he has to consider starting JP if he pitches like this moving forward. We're not saying he should start over JV or Framber, but it's hard to argue against him being the third or fourth starter come playoff time.

But will Dusty actually do it? Only time will tell.

Be sure to check out the video above as we lay out everything mentioned above and much more!

Watch or listen to the Stone Cold 'Stros podcast every Monday afternoon!

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Raners defeat the Astros, 4-2. Composite Getty Image.

Josh Smith homered twice with four RBIs to lead the Texas Rangers to a 4-2 win over the Houston Astros on Sunday.

Smith had a two-run shot in the first and added another one with two outs in the eighth to push the lead to 4-1. It’s the first multi-homer game of the 26-year-old’s career.

The Rangers won the last two games of the series after dropping Friday’s opener 6-3. They also got a 2-1 victory Saturday thanks to Nathaniel Lowe’s RBI single in the 10th inning.

Jake Meyers cut the lead to 1 with a solo home run in the third but the Astros went 0 for 9 with runners in scoring position to fall to 50-46 entering the All-Star break.

Texas starter Max Scherzer allowed four hits and a run with six strikeouts in four-plus innings in his fifth start of the season.

Jon Singleton walked before a single by Jeremy Peña with no outs in the ninth. There was one out in the inning when Singleton scored on a groundout by Joey Loperfido to cut the lead to 4-2. Trey Cabbage grounded out to end it and give Kirby Yates his 16th save.

Ronel Blanco (9-4) permitted two hits and two runs with five strikeouts in six innings. He settled down after his tough first inning and retired the last 12 batters he faced.

Marcus Semien singled to start the game but was out at second when Corey Seager grounded into a foreceout. Smith gave the Rangers an early lead with his towering shot to the second deck to make it 2-0.

Meyers opened Houston’s third with a shot to the seats in left field to cut the lead to 2-1. Jose Altuve singled with two outs and stole second base but Scherzer struck out Alex Bregman for the third out.

The Astros had a shot to tie it or take the lead in the fifth. Peña and Meyers both singled before Loperfido walked to load the bases with no outs in the inning and chase Scherzer. Josh Sborz (2-0) took over and escaped the jam by striking out Mauricio Dubón before retiring Altuve on a pop up and Bregman on a groundout to end the inning.

Seager walked with two outs in the eighth before Smith connected again to give him 10 home runs this season.

Altuve reached on a fielding error by Smith with one out in the eighth before Bregman singled off José Leclerc. Jacob Latz took over and struck out Yordan Alvarez before Yainer Diaz grounded out to leave Houston emptyhanded again.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Rangers: 3B Josh Jung (fractured right wrist) swung 15 times off a tee using a regular bat Sunday. Manager Bruce Bochy said he would continue increasing his activity during the break as he nears a rehabilitation assignment.

Astros: RHP Justin Verlander (neck discomfort) threw a bullpen session of 25 pitches Sunday. Manager Joe Espada said he looked “really good” and would throw another bullpen session during the break.

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