THE LEFT TURN

NASCAR: Bank of America ROVAL 400 preview, predictions

Keep an eye on Chase Elliott this weekend. Photo by Jerry Markland/Getty Images.

It's the final race of the Round of 12 as the championship playoff picture continues to take shape. This race has a tendency to provide plenty of chaos and with the rain that could be on the way, we could be in for a wild weekend. With it being an elimination race, there is a great chance we see a lot of drivers do everything they can to try and advance. Come Sunday, 11 drivers will have to race as their season depends on it, as only 22 points separate second from ninth. This is shaping up to be a race to remember.

Last week Bubba Wallace finally breakthrough for his first career victory after rain halted the race. Overall, while the racing was pretty incredible, it seemed like everyone knew the race was not going to go its scheduled distance. Before the race was stopped there were multiple big wrecks taking out the likes of Alex Bowman, Chase Elliott, Tyler Reddick, and Kyle Busch. Even if the circumstances were unfortunate that the race couldn't be completed, this was a huge moment for the sport as Wallace becomes the first black driver since Wendell Scott in 1964 to win at the Talladega Superspeedway.

The battle for the eighth and final transfer spot is as tight as it's been all season. As I alluded to earlier, Kyle Larson who is second in points is only +22 points ahead of the ninth-place cut-off line. The only driver that is safe is Denny Hamlin after his huge win two weeks ago in Las Vegas. Currently, Kevin Harvick, Christopher Bell, William Byron, and Alex Bowman are the four cars out. The driver who is sitting on the bubble is Kyle Busch. After his abysmal 27th place finish at Talladega, he is now only nine points safe. To miss the round of eight would be a huge disappointment for a team that had championship aspirations. This is also a track where he's struggled immensely. In the three races here, Rowdy has yet to finish better than 30th. That won't cut it if he wants to move on to the next round.

It was an expensive day for Hendrick Motorsports as all four cars sustained crash damage. It started when Kyle Larson crashed in the tri-oval early in the race. It wasn't long before his teammates Alex Bowman and Chase Elliott joined him in a massive crash in turn four, then William Byron completed the superfecta after a fiery crash. For Larson, he has accumulated so many stage points that he will probably be okay, but for his teammates, this week is going to be dire. Alex Bowman is in must-win territory as he's 12th in points and 84 points back, William Byron also needs a victory as well to move on, so it's safe to say at least one of the Hendrick four won't make it.

With all that being said, the driver I have winning this week is Chase Elliott. When it comes to road courses, Chase has truly become the king of the road. In his past six starts, he's finished no worse than fourth. Last season he dominated this race as he scored 49 points and led 27 laps en route to his third consecutive victory at the Roval. After a bad week at Talladega, there is nothing better than rebounding with a victory. Look for him to be a threat for a four-peat this Sunday as he starts 8th.

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Boston's two grand slams in the first two innings were too much for Houston to overcome in ALCS Game 2. Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

After a win in ALCS Game 1 that had the prototypical fingerprints of this Astros team all over it, Houston returned to Minute Maid Park on Saturday, hoping to take a dominant 2-0 series lead if they could grab another victory. The Red Sox dashed those hopes very early, though, scoring eight runs across the first two innings to build the lead they would hold on to even the series.

Final Score: Boston 9, Astros 5

ALCS Series (Best of Seven): tied 1-1

Winning Pitcher: Nathan Eovaldi

Losing Pitcher: Luis Garcia

Houston met with disaster to start Game 2

You couldn't have drawn up a much better start for the Red Sox or a worse one for the Astros in Saturday's ALCS Game 2. Luis Garcia met early disaster in the top of the first inning, allowing a leadoff double, then got two outs while issuing two walks to load the bases. That brought up Boston's designated hitter, J.D. Martinez, to the plate, and he delivered a crushing blow to Houston, launching a grand slam to put the Red Sox up 4-0 before Houston could even get to the plate.

After a scoreless bottom of the inning by his offense, things got worse for Garcia in the top of the second, as after issuing a four-pitch walk to start the frame, he would become the center of a meeting at the mound with trainers, ultimately leaving the game with an injury. Houston opted to bring in Jake Odorizzi for the emergency call to the bullpen, but things did not start well for him either. He would put two of his own batters on base with two singles, then gave up the second grand slam in as many innings, this one to Rafael Devers to double Boston's lead to 8-0, doubling down on Houston's disastrous start to the game.

Odorizzi rebounded with a 1-2-3 third, but with one out in the top of the fourth allowed a solo homer to Kiké Hernández, his third homer of the series so far. He would still get the job done of eating up a few innings, finishing the fourth, and retiring Boston in order in the fifth, giving Houston just four more innings to cover with the rest of their relievers.

Astros get a few runs back

Over that span, Houston did trim the lead by three runs, getting an RBI double by Kyle Tucker and a two-RBI single by Yuli Gurriel in the bottom of the fourth, making it a six-run game at 9-3. Their next reliever was Blake Taylor in the top of the sixth, and he would keep the score where it stood by sitting down the three batters he faced that frame.

The Astros threatened again in the bottom of the sixth, getting two singles to put two aboard, but would come out empty, sending the game on to the seventh, where Taylor would remain on the mound. He faced three more batters, getting two out while allowing a single before Yimi Garcia would come in to get the third out.

Red Sox even the series as it shifts to Boston

Garcia returned in the top of the eighth, getting through that inning despite a walk and hit by pitch, stranding both runners. Boston's bullpen kept Houston from getting any closer in the bottom of the eighth, then Ryne Stanek came in for the Astros in the top of the ninth. Stanek allowed a leadoff double, but with a groundout and double play, held the score at 9-3. Yuli Gurriel and Jason Castro did their part to keep the Astros alive in the bottom of the ninth, each hitting solo homers to make it 9-5, but that's as close as they'd come, dropping Game 2 to tie the series at one game apiece.

Up Next: The ALCS now moves to Boston for the next three games after a day off on Sunday, with Game 3 on Monday at 7:08 PM Central. While the Astros have named Jose Urquidy as their starter, the Red Sox have not yet determined theirs.

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