NASCAR PREVIEW

Atlanta Motor Speedway is next up for the Monster Energy Cup series

Chase Elliot (No. 9 car) could finally get it done this week. Jerry Markland/Getty Images

This week The Monster Energy Cup Series heads to the Peach State for the Quick trip folds of honor 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway. This track is a one-and-a-half-mile oval with banking of 24 degrees. These high banked corners and multiple grooves around the track usually call for fast lap times and long green flag runs. In fact, in last year's race the first caution was not displayed until lap 86 and that was for the ending of stage one. This track is known for being a relatively clean race track that doesn't have many wrecks so more than likely there will be an abundance of green flag pit stops. Look for pit stops to be pivotal in deciding who wins this race and any mistake can be the all the difference.

It will be imperative that drivers watch their speed exiting and leaving pit row. Take last year ,for example :Kevin Harvick led a race high 292 laps and swept both stage one and stage two and victory appeared to be in his grasp. However,  after a late race caution came out for the stalled car of Austin Dillion on lap 311, Harvick was penalized for speeding on pit road. This ended any chances of victory for him although he was able to rebound for a respectable ninth place finish.

Weather may also be an issue this weekend. After looking at the forecast for the race it would appear as if there is an 80 percent chance of rain in the forecast for Sunday night and early Monday morning, so if you are a diehard NASCAR fan be sure to have your sick days or your tablets ready if you want to watch the race possibly on Monday. My predictions for this race are that it will be relatively uneventful early until towards the end. My winner of this week's race is Chase Elliott. As most NASCAR fans know Elliot has had a difficult time in his pursuit of his first win. I think this is the place where he gets it done. Not only has he run well at Atlanta, but it is also his home track. Elliott has finished an average of 6.50 here in both of his starts and even though he hasn't led a lap here yet, I think that this week will be different. Look for the Napa Chevrolet to be up front.

My dark horse driver for this week is Ricky Stenhouse Jr. After a disastrous conclusion at Daytona, I think that he has a good chance to have a good finish. While yes, his average at the track is 19th in the last few races he has steadily improved his results. In 2016 he finished 15th, he then backed it up the next year with a 10h-place finish the next year and this year he will get a top five and maybe in contention for a victory at the end of the race. Look for him and his teammate Trevor Bayne to have good results this weekend. Overall, I think this race will have an uneventful beginning with long green flag runs, but when it comes down to the final stage the racing will get closer and the sense of urgency will ramp up. This track is known for classic finishes such as Carl Edwards and Jimmie Johnson in 2005 and of course Kevin Harvick and Jeff Gordon in 2001. If you have the patience to sit through the long runs, you won't be disappointed with the outcome It should be an entertaining race.

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

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Houston couldn't keep up

Astros fall to Blue Jays as Toronto gets homer-happy

Houston's bats couldn't keep up with Toronto's Saturday night. Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

With an offensive clinic in the opener on Friday night, which helped them handily defeat the Blue Jays, the Astros returned to Minute Maid Park Saturday with a chance to secure another series. Toronto had other plans, though, reversing roles with Houston by getting big home runs to even the series.

Final Score: Blue Jays 8, Astros 4

Astros' Record: 17-16, third in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Steven Matz (5-2)

Losing Pitcher: Cristian Javier (3-1)

Toronto flips the script and turns on their offense against Javier

Toronto flipped the script from the night before early in this middle game of the series, dealing damage to Cristian Javier, who so far in 2021 had been able to limit his amount of earned runs. After retiring the first four batters he faced, a one-out walk in the top of the second set up the Blue Jays' first hit of the night, a two-run home run by Cavan Biggio, giving them a 2-0 lead over Houston.

After a leadoff home run made it a 3-0 score, Javier would deal with the fallout of more walks in the top of the third, issuing two to set up a two-out two-RBI double to give the Jays a commanding 5-0 advantage. Javier would battle back and complete five full innings, getting one out into the sixth before a walk would prompt Dusty Baker to make the call to the bullpen. His final line: 5.1 IP, 4 H, 5 ER, 4 BB, 8 K, 2 HR, 91 P.

Alvarez keeps mashing as Houston tries to claw back into it

Javier would exit with at least some runs on the board in support of him, with Yordan Alvarez hitting a two-run opposite-field homer in the bottom of the fourth to cut the lead to three runs. Alvarez accounted for another run in the next inning, coming through with an RBI-single to make it 5-3, which is where the game stood as Andre Scrubb would take over in the top of the sixth.

Scrubb finished that inning for Javier and returned for a 1-2-3 seventh to keep it a two-run game. Bryan Abreu was the next reliever, and he, too, was able to retire the Blue Jays in order in the top of the eighth. The Astros continued to chip away at Toronto's lead, getting another run in the bottom of the inning on an RBI by Yuli Gurriel to make it 5-4 heading to the ninth.

Toronto evens the series

Brooks Raley entered to try and keep it a one-run game with a clean inning, but instead, two runners would reach on a walk and error before Joe Smith would enter to try and strand them. Instead, a two-out home run put the game back out of reach at 8-4, with Houston coming up empty in the bottom of the inning, setting up a rubber match in the finale.

Up Next: This series's third and final game will be an afternoon start of 1:10 PM Central on Sunday. Zack Greinke (2-1, 3.76 ERA) will try to add more wins to his record for Houston, while Nate Pearson will be making his 2021 debut for Toronto.

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