Houston Astros much-needed dramatic turnaround must start with this

FIRST THINGS FIRST

The Houston Astros got everything they needed from Justin Verlander on Monday night, as the team was able to secure a critical win over the Mariners.

Starting pitching has been the biggest issue of late for Houston, with Framber Valdez and Hunter Brown both getting lit up by the Royals over the weekend.

Hopefully, Cristian Javier and Framber Valdez can follow the blueprint JV provided and give the team a legit chance to win their next two games in Seattle.

As we look ahead to the next series, JP France seems like the likely starter on Friday, but after that things get murky. If Saturday is a must-win game for Houston, Verlander seems like the most logical choice on 4 days rest. Then they must decide if they want to use Valdez on short rest, or go all hands on deck with a bullpen game.

At this point, it's hard to imagine Hunter Brown making another start this season. Brown has surrendered 6 earned runs or more in 3 of his last 4 starts. His ERA for the season is now over 5.

But it's not just Brown and, to a much lesser extent, JP France causing concern for the Astros rotation. There's no way around it, all these guys have regressed.

Verlander (2022 ERA 1.75, 2023 ERA 3.32)

Javier (2022 ERA 2.54, 2023 ERA 4.64)

And Framber's ERA has gone up about 1/2 a run (2.82-3.39).

But it's not all on the pitching. The defense has taken a step back this year, and what about the coaching? Shouldn't the coaches be accountable for some of this?

If not, then why do they them?

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

Don't miss Stone Cold 'Stros (an Astros podcast) every Monday on SportsMap Houston's YouTube channel.

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How Texans' CJ Stroud got the last laugh on Panthers entire organization

When Bryce Young and CJ Stroud were drafted with the first two picks of the NFL Draft, we knew they would be compared to one another for years to come.

And here we are just 11 games into the season and one quarterback has already seen his head coach fired. Panthers owner David Tepper spoke to the media on Wednesday and discussed his decision to fire Frank Reich, and also set the record straight on how they arrived at the decision to draft Young.

In so many words, Tepper basically blamed the Texans for how the top of the draft played out. He mentioned Stroud by name and said the Panthers were ready to draft him at No. 2 overall until the Texans backed out of the three-team trade with the Bears.

Tepper made a point of saying everyone in their building had Bryce Young as the top player on their draft board, despite rumors about Frank Reich preferring Stroud.

CJ Stroud and the Texans have been so much better than Bryce Young and the Panthers that Tepper clearly felt it was necessary to defend himself, and the decisions he's made for the organization.

In the end, the person that gets the worst end of the deal is Bryce Young. Coaching changes can be very difficult on young quarterbacks. And it looks like he'll have to learn a new offense in his second year when the Panthers hire a new coaching staff.

How fortunate we are as Texans fans to have DeMeco Ryans and CJ Stroud leading the team moving forward.

With all of this in mind, is there a reason Texans fans haven't fully bought in to the new-look Texans? JJ Watt was a guest on The Pat McAfee Show this week and was asked about the team's inability to fill the stadium on Sundays.

As a former player for the Colts, McAfee always thought Houston had the loudest and best fans in the NFL. And while the Texans are 9th in attendance this year according to ESPN, even CJ Stroud has asked for the fans to fill the stadium.

So there is something to it. You can see the empty seats in photos. So why aren't the Texans packing NRG with a shiny new franchise QB?

We believe the recent history of the team is why fans are slowly coming back. McAfee wasn't here for:

Bill O'Brien cussing at fans during games

Trading DeAndre Hopkins away for next to nothing

The Jack Easterby disaster

Deshaun Watson allegedly blaming ownership for why he wanted out

The Deshaun Watson scandal

Firing back-to-back coaches after one season, and the list goes on.

Don't miss the video above for the full conversation!

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