Houston salvages a game against New York

Altuve walks off Yankees again to send Astros into All-Star break with a win

Jose Altuve hit yet another momentous homer against the Yankees in Sunday's series finale. Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images

Riding a twenty-inning scoreless streak including being shutout in the first two of this series, the Astros needed a momentum shift to head into the All-Star break on a positive note. It took until the very end of the game, but thanks to Jose Altuve, they'd have plenty to celebrate before a few days off.

Final Score: Astros 8, Yankees 7

Astros' Record: 55-36, first in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Ralph Garza Jr. (1-2)

Losing Pitcher: Chad Green (3-5)

Valdez struggles with the zone, lasts only four

Framber Valdez did not have great control of the strike zone in the series finale against New York on Sunday, as evident by back-to-back walks to start the game. He was able to work around them to avoid any damage, and did the same in the second by erasing two singles. New York got to him in the third, though, with two walks and an error allowing the Yankees to take the early 1-0 lead.

After a Martin Maldonado solo home run in the bottom of the third to tie the game, the Yankees quickly regained the lead with a solo shot to lead off the top of the fourth, though Valdez would finish the inning by erasing another walk. He came back out for the top of the fifth, but after a walk and two singles against the first three batters to bring in another run to make it 3-1, and which his pitch count rising, Dusty Baker would make the early call to the bullpen to bring in Andre Scrubb, who would stop the damage there by retiring all three batters he faced. Valdez's final line: 4.0 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 6 BB, 5 K, 1 HR, 91 P.

Yankees extend their lead against Houston's bullpen

After a 1-2-3 inning by Joe Smith in the top of the sixth to keep it a two-run game at 3-1, Kyle Tucker trimmed the lead to one with a two-out solo homer in the bottom of the inning. New York quickly regained the momentum, however, against Bryan Abreu in the top of the seventh, getting an RBI single to make it 4-2. The Astros' pitching staff continued to deal with walks, as Blake Taylor would take over in the top of the eighth and issue two, setting up a three-run blast which at the time looked like it had sealed the game for New York, making it a five-run game at 7-2. Ralph Garza Jr. would end up coming in and finishing the eighth and remained in the game for a scoreless top of the ninth.

Altuve does it again to cap off a six-run ninth

In the bottom of the ninth, the Astros tried to get a rally going, starting with leadoff man Yuli Gurriel reaching base, then moving to third on a double by Kyle Tucker. Both would score in the next at-bat, with Chas McCormick hitting a two-RBI double off the left-field scoreboard, making it 7-4, and keeping the Astros alive. Abraham Toro kept the train moving next, getting his own RBI double to make it a two-run game.

Houston brought in Jason Castro to pinch-hit for Robel Garcia in the next spot in the lineup, and he too would get a hit, bringing the go-ahead run to the plate. After New York notched the first out to try and get ahold of the game, Jose Altuve stepped to the plate against Chad Green, representing the winning run. Just like he ended the 2019 ALCS, Altuve sent the home fans into an uproar as he would hit a walk-off three-run home run to cap off the improbable six-run inning to give the Astros a win to avoid the series sweep and head into the break with a celebration, during which Altuve would not resist letting his teammates dispose of his jersey to reveal nothing but his tattood bare chest.

Up Next: The Astros will get some much-needed rest over the next four days, picking up after the All-Star break in Chicago on Friday to start a three-game series with the White Sox at 7:10 PM Central. Lance McCullers Jr. (6-2, 2.94 ERA) is expected to make the start for Houston, while Chicago has not yet determined their starter.

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NASCAR is coming to Texas! Photo via: Wiki Commons

It’s an All-Star weekend for the NASCAR Cup Series at Texas Motor Speedway. As most fans know, this race is extremely different from what we see on a usual Sunday. This race is an invitational event featuring the winners from the 2021 and 2022 seasons with a few qualifiers including past champions and past All-Star winners over the last ten seasons. As it does every year, the format for this race has changed. It will be divided into four stages, and the winner of each of the first three stages will take up the first three spots on the grid (as long as they finish 15th or higher). The final stage will be fifty laps and if there is no caution between laps 15-25, then the yellow will be thrown to stack everything up. Probably the most important and intriguing change to the format won’t take place on race day, but during qualifying. The field will be given one lap and the fastest eight will advance to the final round, where they will each face-off head-to-head in a bracket. Each paring will have a mandatory pit-stop before exiting, and the first car back to the finish line moves on. This is a unique way of deciding who starts where, I would not be surprised in the slightest if it comes back somewhere down the line in the future

Last week, Kurt Busch went on to score his first victory of the year. It didn’t come easy for the 2004 champion, he had to fend off Kyle Larson and his brother Kyle Busch. The race was marred by numerous tire failures, as it seemed drivers could only go 25-35 laps before running into an issue. Luckily for Kurt, the cautions fell at the right time and he was able to manage his tires as he dominated the race by leading a race-high 116 laps. This was the first win for the #45 car at 23XII racing, as now both Busch and his teammate Bubba Wallace both have victories. While it’s been a frustrating season for this team, this win couldn’t have come at a better time.

While Denny Hamlin and Michael Jordan celebrated their team win, Stewart-Haas racing was on the opposite end of the spectrum. All four of their cars finished outside the top ten, including their franchise driver Kevin Harvick. It’s worth noting that despite the disastrous day that he had, Harvick could bounce back with a respectable 15th-place finish. This team has a lot of questions regarding the future of their driver lineup. We know that next season Aric Almirola will retire, but after that who will fill the seat? Will it be their reserve driver Ryan Preece? Could it even be Kyle Busch? With these types of disappointing results from Harvick, many have wondered if he might decide to retire at the end of the 2022 season. This will be a team to follow in the coming months.

As we reach the dog days of summer, the infamous silly season is right around the corner. This is when the rumors start to become louder and louder about who will go next season and what rides will be available. As I mentioned earlier, Kyle Busch is easily the biggest question on the grid, with Mars leaving at season's end, can Joe Gibbs racing find him a sponsor to keep him in the #18 Toyota? There were reports on Thursday that the team was in negotiations with a “major tech company” to sponsor the car for one season. It’s clear that re-signing the two-time champion is the number one priority for Joe Gibbs and Toyota. TRD Executive David Wilson stated that losing him would be, “Unacceptable.” It will be interesting to see this story develop.

With that, the driver I have winning the All-Star Race this weekend is none other than Kyle Busch. Overall, it’s hard to find active drivers with better stats here at this track than him as he’s won here four times, the most among the field. He’s also led over 1,069 laps here, almost more than double the amount of the next closest driver (Martin Truex Jr with 674). When Jimmie Johnson stepped away from the sport in 2020, it was clear that the torch was handed over to Kyle as the best driver at this racetrack. He will be the driver to beat for the million dollars when the checkered flag falls.

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