Astros drop game one of three to Angels

Astros daily report presented by APG&E: 2 hits from the 5-4 loss

Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

Riding a five-game winning steak, the Astros were back at home on Friday night after a day off looking to go into the All-Star break with another series win and sweep. Here is how the first of three games went:

Final Score: Angels 5, Astros 4

Record: 55-33, first in the AL West.

Winning pitcher: Felix Pena (6-2, 4.72 ERA).

Losing pitcher: Justin Verlander (10-4, 2.98 ERA).

1) Verlander's struggle with home runs continues

After two quick innings to start the game, Justin Verlander would watch more balls leave the yard in the third inning, making it five straight games with a home run allowed as well as at least three earned runs after a two-run home run by Kole Calhoun then later a solo home run by Shohei Ohtani.

Verlander looked to be back in control after that, until the top of the sixth inning when he allowed a solo home run to lead off the inning, extending the Angels' lead to 4-2. The night didn't come without a highlight, though, as Verlander would get enough strikeouts to pass up Jim Bunning to take over 18th place on the all-time strikeout leaders list.

He would end up still getting through seven innings to save the bullpen's arms. Verlander's final line: 7 IP, 7 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 1 BB, 6 K, 3 HR.

2) Unable to close the gap

Michael Brantley was looking in All-Star form in his first at-bat, getting a solo home run to put Houston ahead 1-0 in the bottom of the second inning. After Los Angeles scored three runs on homers of their own in the top of the third, the Astros trimmed their lead to one run when Yuli Gurriel scored Brantley on an RBI-groundout, making it 3-2.

The Angels extended their lead back to 4-2 in the sixth inning, and the Astros wasted a chance in the bottom half of the inning, getting runners on second and third with no outs, loading the bases with two outs, but coming away empty handed. Hector Rondon took over for Justin Verlander to pitch the eighth, but he too would fall victim of a Los Angeles home run, giving up a solo shot to Mike Trout to make it a 5-2 game.

The Astros got a shot in the arm in the bottom of the eighth, getting two more RBIs from Yuli Gurriel who continued his monster pace of late with a two-run home run to trim the lead to 5-4. Josh James was next out of the bullpen and pitched the ninth, a scoreless inning to keep it a one-run game.

Up Next: The Astros will be part of another nationally-televised Saturday evening game on FOX tomorrow at 6:15 PM. The probable starters are Gerrit Cole (8-5, 3.28 ERA) for the Astros going against Andrew Heaney (1-2, 5.40 ERA) for the Angels.

The Astros daily report is presented by APG&E.

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After a short turnaround, the NASCAR Cup Series heads to their Mecca at Charlotte Motor Speedway for the famed Coca-Cola 600. Of all the races in NASCAR, after Daytona this race may be the most important race on the schedule. The tradition started back in 1959 when former driver and hall of famer Curtis Turner teamed up with Burton Smith to build the track and upon its completion, they decided to make the first race at the new track on the same day as the Indy 500. In an effort to draw fans, they made the race 100 miles longer and from there the rest was history. This year's rendition will be somber though as no fans will be permitted to enter due to Covid-19, but even in this time of unrest it will be a relief to continue to see our heroes take on NASCAR's longest race.

For the first time, NASCAR pulled off it's first midweek race and it was a doozy. For most of the race there was a wide range of characters who were up front. Clint Bowyer set the tone early as he went on to win the first two stages but after getting caught in traffic he fell back. To make matters worse, Bowyer was involved in an accident that ended any chance of victory. While it wasn't the outcome he would have hoped for, to see how well he ran is a sign of good things to come for the Kansas native. I look forward to seeing how he rebounds.

With Bowyer out of it, the attention shifted to Chase Elliott. All night it seemed like he had the second best car and looked to be on his way to another victory but after the caution for Bowyer, Elliott lost a ton of track position after a bad pit-stop. This left the sports most popular driver stuck in traffic, but he was able to make his way back to second. In the final laps, he was easily the best car and appeared to be on his way past Denny Hamlin to take the victory but Kyle Busch had other ideas. The defending champion made a sudden right hand turn and veered into Elliott sending him head on into the wall.

It was safe to say that Elliott was not pleased as he gave Busch the one finger salute as he drove by under caution. The race was not able to resume as Mother Nature intervened giving Hamlin his second win of the season. Many fans and experts alike were critical of Busch's stunt, Jeff Gordon was quoted as saying "Not sure what that was all about." When the race was over, Busch was confronted by Elliott's Crew Chief Alan Gufston. When it was said and done security had to be called to separate the two. While it might not have been intentional, Busch has opened up a can of worms in the future for retaliation. It will be fun to watch what happens next.

Overall, the response to NASCAR's midweek race was overwhelmingly positive as it was the third highest watched event on television. As NASCAR continues to be fluid, more and more people are becoming interested. NASCAR journalist and reporter Adam Stern tweeted that more than thirty percent of the viewers of Sunday's race were new viewers. Even though we may not always agree with the way NASCAR does things, I have to say they have done an outstanding job at putting this schedule together. I hope that in the future, NASCAR continues this new tradition.

Moving on to Charlotte, The driver I have winning this weekend is Chase Elliott. In every race this season, Chase has been a force to be reckoned but has simply run into circumstances he can't control. At Vegas before the shutdown, he seemed to have the race in hand until a flat tire ended any chances of victory. Two weeks later at Phoenix, he led ninety-three laps until fading to a seventh place finish and with a new-found fire lit under him after Darlington, Elliott will be like a bull in the china shop come Sunday. While he has been great at every track he has run at, he has been especially fast at Charlotte. He currently has a 10.60 average finish there and has consistently led laps. This week, I think Elliott will get redemption and claim his sixth career victory in one of NASCAR's crown jewels. Look for him to take his #9 Napa Camaro to victory lane.

(All stats and information used in this article is brought to you by the good folks at driveraverages.com and Racing-Reference.com the best website for all NASCAR stats)

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