THE LEFT TURN

NASCAR heads for Phoenix for the Fan-shield 500

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NASCAR wraps ups its Western swing this week as they head for Phoenix Raceway for the FanShield 500. This track has been a staple on the schedule since its opening in 1988 and will now play host to the season finale in November. The race on Sunday could be a precursor to what we see in the championship race. There should be a lot more attention on this race than there was prior.

Last week in California Alex Bowman went on to his second career victory after putting on a driving clinic. Throughout the day he led a whopping 110 laps and finished EIGHT seconds ahead of second place Kyle Busch. This was easily the most complete race I have seen him run in maybe his career. He has really begun to establish himself as an early championship favorite considering how competitive he has been this season. The success has really come at a great time for him considering that this is a contract year for him. If he can continue to run the way he does, it will be hard for Hendrick to let him go come season's end.

It was announced Monday that next season's new car will only have one lug-nut and many fans were NOT happy about it. The main criticism that people had was it was much too similar to F1 and how there aren't any cars on the road that have a single lug nut and honestly these sentiments are kind of ridiculous. I honestly have no idea why these fans continue to make such big deals out of things that won't really change much. Multiple experts have stated that using the traditional five lug-nuts would cause a safety issue that could possibly cause more wrecks or broken tires and certainly fans wouldn't want to see their favorite drivers go out with any mechanical issues. I applaud NASCAR for making this decision; they don't always make the right decision but this was something that they had to do. Overall, I think that there is a lot more positive than negative when it comes to this new car, the spoiler is much lower, there is less emphasis on down-force and from what many people are saying this car will be much more difficult to drive. During a test session, Willam Byron crashed one of the new cars, I also heard that Erik Jones also had issues with it as well so it should be interesting to see what happens.

The favorite coming into this week has to be Kevin Harvick. Every time the sport comes here, you can almost pencil him in as the winner considering he has won here nine times. For some reason, he has a real knack for this track. It could be because this is where the vetran cut his teeth here in the early days of his career in the NASCAR Southwest late model tour in the mid 90s so he could have leg up on the competition just from the amount of experience he has here. He will be hard to beat when the green flag drops.

The driver that I have winning this weekend is the driver I talked about earlier and that's Bowman. As we know this team's success has been one of the more pleasant surprises of the 2020 season. I think that this week, they will continue to shine and go to victory lane for a second consecutive week. Over time, this team has really begun to mesh not just on the track but off it as well as they all plan to get victory tattoos. It has really been a treat to see this driver mature into a race winner. This track is also special to him considering it's his home track. Look for Bowman to stay hot and go to victory lane again on Sunday.

(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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Houston loses in San Francisco

Astros drop back-and-forth middle game to Giants to even series

Houston's offense couldn't keep up with the Giants on Saturday. Photo by Elsa/Getty Images.

With the impressive win in the opener to start the series, the Astros entered Saturday's middle game against the Giants with an opportunity to not just secure the series but surpass San Francisco for the best record in the league. They'd have to wait to take that crown, as the Giants would out-slug the Astros to even the series.

Final Score: Giants 8, Astros 6

Astros' Record: 64-41, first in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Jay Jackson (2-0)

Losing Pitcher: Blake Taylor (2-3)

Teams trade blows early, Giants chase Greinke out early

The teams traded blows early in this one, with the Giants tagging Zack Greinke with six runs, all on homers. The first was a solo shot in the bottom of the second to start the scoring before hitting one in each inning through the fourth: two-run blasts in the third and fourth, then a go-ahead solo shot in the bottom of the fifth, putting them ahead 6-5 at the time. Greinke would face one more batter, allowing a single to end his lackluster day: 4.0 IP, 8 H, 6 R, 4 ER, 2 BB, 4 K, 4 HR, 93 P.

Houston's offense kept things close to try and keep Greinke in a position to win, going up 3-1 in the third on a two-run Aledmys Diaz homer and another coming in on an error. After San Francisco scored four unanswered to make it 5-3, Diaz homered again in the top of the fifth to cut the deficit to one run before Yuli Gurriel would tie it with an RBI double.

Astros stay in it, but Giants even the series by winning the slug-fest

With Greinke exiting with no outs in the fifth, Houston handed the ball to Phil Maton, acquired in the recent Myles Straw trade, to make his debut for his new team. He worked himself into a jam, allowing a single and hitting a batter to load the bases with one out, but was able to get back-to-back strikeouts to strike out the side and strand all three runners, keeping it a one-run game.

That proved pivotal in the top of the sixth, as with two outs, Martin Maldonado would launch a game-tying solo homer, making it 6-6. Blake Taylor took over out of the bullpen in the bottom of the inning but would face just three batters, getting two outs while leaving one on as Dusty Baker moved on to Cristian Javier. Javier would watch the Giants retake the lead, getting back-to-back singles to bring in a run and make it 7-6.

Javier stayed in the game in the bottom of the seventh, allowing a leadoff single but erasing it by striking out the next three batters. Still a 7-6 game in the bottom of the eighth, Yimi Garcia made his Astros debut but did not keep the score there, allowing a leadoff solo homer to make it a two-run game. The 8-6 score would go final as Houston's offense came up empty again in the top of the ninth, setting up a rubber game in the finale.

Up Next: The series finale will get underway at 3:05 PM Central on Sunday in San Francisco. Luis Garcia (7-5, 3.19 ERA) will take the mound for Houston, going opposite Logan Webb (4-3, 3.36 ERA) for the Giants.

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