Series Preview

Astros-Diamondbacks series breakdown: Greinke returns to Arizona

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PROBABLE STARTERS

Tues. Aug 4: Cristian Javier (0-0, 1.35 ERA) vs. Madison Bumgarner (0-1, 4.09)

Wed. Aug 5: Lance McCullers Jr. (1-0, 5.40) vs. Robbie Ray (0-2, 8.64)

Thurs. Aug 6: Zack Greinke (0-0, 5.00) vs. Zac Gallen (0-0, 2.70)

STORYLINES

  • Is Cristian Javier for real? Javier won Astros minor league pitcher of the year in 2019, and followed his award winning season with an award winning performance in his first career start. Javier filled in masterfully for the injured Justin Verlander, matching Dodgers phenom Dustin May tit-for-tat. The Astros came out on the losing end of that game, but Javier left a great first impression.
  • Who can step up in the bullpen? The bullpen will be a story all season long. Blake Taylor has solidified himself as a reliable option, but can anybody even name a reliable second option? Take note of this hypothetical pitching staff:

Gerrit Cole

Justin Verlander

Wade Miley

Colin McHugh

Jose Urquidy

Roberto Osuna, Will Harris, Joe Smith, Hector Rondon, Brad Peacock, Chris Devenski, Joe Biagini, Cionel Perez

All of those arms were available to the Astros last season. Whether it be free agency departure, legitimate baseball-related injury, or COVID-related reasons, none of the above are currently available to the Astros. Keep in mind, those are 13 pitchers listed, which is what the Astros would usually carry in a normal season. It is no longer the Astros staff of yesteryear.

  • Can the Astros bats get going? The Astros offensive woes are overstated, as the team is still top 10 in MLB in offensive statistics like OPS, AVG, and Runs Scored, but the production hasn't come from the likes of Springer, Bregman, and Altuve for the most part.
  • Greinke's return to Arizona. Chase Field will certainly be a raucous environment, as -- oops. The stadium will be silent, but the cardboard cutouts could get rowdy as Zack Greinke makes his return to Arizona, where he led the Diamondbacks pitching staff for three-and-a-half years. It'll have been 371 days since the Astros acquired Greinke when he toes the rubber on Thursday. My, does it feel like 3,071 days ago.

PREDICTIONS

It's crazy to say that a series 10 games into the season is make-or-break, but the Diamondbacks are only 3-7, and a losing series would be a crushing blow for a team that came into the 2020 season with high expectations. Expect the Diamondbacks to come out energized and ready to go. Madison Bumgarner saves his best performances for big moments, Robbie Ray is a talented pitcher that's gotten off to a rough start, and Zac Gallen has been one of baseball's breakout stars over the last year. The Astros bats will have their hands full to say the least. Combine that with the fact that Arizona's offense that's due to break out in a big way gets to face an injured and overtaxed Astros pitching staff, and the deck is stacked against Houston. Arizona will take two of three.

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Martin Truex Jr. won his 2nd race of the season last week. Photo via: Wiki Commons.

NASCAR returns to the Commonwealth of Virginia for the Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond Raceway. This is the first of two races here at this track as they will race on Sunday afternoon. This will be different from the normal night race they usually have here as this will definitely affect the racing surface considering how much the sun could make the track slick. It should be a fun race come Sunday.

Last week, Martin Truex Jr. passed Denny Hamlin to capture his second win of the season after rain moved the race to Sunday. He became the first driver to win multiple races after a fierce battle with his teammate Denny Hamlin. The race was filled with tons of wrecks including a fifteen car pileup including Brad Keselowski and Kyle Busch. It was one of the better races of the season as there was lots of beating and banging.

The race was not without controversy but not the kind you would expect. Early in the race Rick Ware Racing teammates Cody Ware and James Davison were involved in an altercation. The two were battling towards the back of the pack when Ware decided to drive through his teammate in turn four. The race got much worse for Cody Ware as he was involved in three more cautions all throughout the race. Many people around the sport were quite perturbed by his antics including broadcaster Mike Joy as he was audibly annoyed after Ware spun out later in the race. Many have questioned if the fifth-year driver should even be in the car and overall I can understand why some of those people think that. In his five years of driving, he has finished on the lead lap one time. I hope that he is able to figure it out and find success in the future, but this was not a good look.

The slump continues for two-time champion Kyle Busch

Throughout the race, Busch was running okay for the most part but towards the closing laps of the race he and Chris Buescher got together triggering a fifteen car pileup. Despite all this, he was able to rebound to a respectable tenth place finish. This has been more than likely the toughest stretch of his career since his championship in 2019. Many would say that the omission of Practice and Qualifying has really affected his performance. Whatever the issue is, this team really needs to find some speed, or he could be in danger of missing the playoffs. I look for this team to bounce back considering how talented he is.

Prediction

The driver that I have winning this week is Kyle Larson. This has been an incredible rebound season for Larson as he currently sits fourth in points. He is also second in laps led only to Denny Hamlin. Richmond has been a great track for him as it fits his driving style perfectly as he can run the outside line and find grip where others can't. This track is also rather sentimental to him considering he won his first pole award here during his rookie season in 2014. While he may not have the results he would want he has always been extremely fast here and even won back in 2017. I look for him to capture his second victory of 2021 come Sunday.

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