The Left Turn

NASCAR heads to Pocono this week

Ryanblaney.com

NASCAR heads for the tricky triangle this week for the Pocono 400. Located in Long Pond Pennsylvania, this track is NASCAR's most unique on the schedule. This track is 2.5 miles long and is the only track that features only three turns as opposed to four. Another unique aspect is how each corner is banked differently. The one part of the track to look out for though is easily turn two. Nicknamed "the tunnel turn" we have seen so many drivers run into trouble here. Look for this to come up Sunday.

Last week, Martin Truex Jr was able to fend off Joey Logano for his third win of the season and his second Coca-Cola 600 victory and overall If you ask me we saw another great race. This event had everything, lots of cautions, tire-ware, lots of passing and even some strategy as well. For the past couple of weeks, NASCAR has really done a good job at improving their product especially on the mile and a half tracks like Charlotte or Kansas. One added factor that might have helped improve things as well was the added traction they have placed around the track; we saw how much it improved racing at Texas Motor Speedway and it looks like it has worked wonders for Charlotte. This week we go to a much different race track than what we have seen but it's good to see the sport take a step in the right direction as we move forward.

The other big story this week was NASCAR's purchase of International Speedway Corp. (ISC for short.) The purchase was made last week for a cool two billion dollars. With the new deal, NASCAR becomes the owner of thirteen race tracks including Daytona and Talladega. This now clears a path for NASCAR to make schedule changes for 2021 and beyond. While it may sound exciting for NASCAR to finally change things up, I can feel for some of the tracks that may lose a race. Let's hope NASCAR is able to do the right thing and find some way to accommodate each race track.

The driver that I have winning this weekend is Ryan Blaney. As most NASCAR fans know, this track is where he was able to claim his first career win but ever since then his results have been mixed. In his last three starts here, he has finished in the top 10 once. It's also safe to say that this season hasn't been as good as he would have liked it to be. This week, I think a win will put him back in the hunt. I expect a lot from this young driver this season and has shown flashes that he can win and that will be exactly what he does this Sunday. Look for Blaney to go to victory lane.

Another driver who has really done a great job this year is Chris Buescher. If you have read some of my articles, I have been really high on this driver after how much he has improved his performance towards the closing stages of 2018. Last week he was able to wheel his damaged car to a sixth place finish, this is his second consecutive top ten. While he wasn't on a lot of peoples radar this year, the Prosper Texas native has turned a lot of heads and will definitely be a driver to keep in eye on in the not to distant future. Right now he appears to be in a good position to make a run for the playoffs and now he goes to a track where he also claimed his first career win. Look for the Bushes Baked Beans Camaro to be solid this week.

(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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Altuve's homer starting the scoring for Houston on Friday night. Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images
After a solid showing to take the three of the four-game series in Arlington against the Rangers to start the week, the Astros returned home for three against the Diamondbacks in a weekend series. They would have a slow start to the opener but would ultimately come away victorious.

Final Score (10 innings): Astros 4, Diamondbacks 3

Astros' Record: 87-60, first in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Ryne Stanek (3-4)

Losing Pitcher: Tyler Clippard (1-1)

Bielak makes the impromptu start

With Luis Garcia having to move his start ahead by a day on Thursday instead of Friday with Framber Valdez's finger cut, Brandon Bielak made a start for Houston in the opener against Arizona. He didn't go as deep as he probably would have wanted and certainly ventured out of his comfort zone with traffic on the bases.

He loaded the bases in the top of the first, allowing a single and two walks, but was able to strand all three to keep it a scoreless game. He rebounded with a 1-2-3 second, but he dealt with a threat again in the third as back-to-back singles pressured him to start the inning. He would get back-to-back strikeouts, but that's as far as he would go as Houston moved on to Blake Taylor. Taylor got the final out of the third on one pitch, then erased a two-out double in the top of the fourth.

Altuve breaks up the no-no with a go-ahead homer

Brooks Raley took over in the top of the fifth, but in his three batters, he faced allowed a single while getting two outs before Cristian Javier took over to end the frame. Javier allowed the first run of the game in the top of the sixth, a leadoff solo homer to Kole Calhoun to put the Diamondbacks in front 1-0 before he finished the inning.

Madison Bumgarner didn't allow a single hit to the Astros through the first five and two-thirds innings. He allowed a one-out walk in the bottom of the sixth, which proved costly as Jose Altuve would get the first knock of the game for Houston, a two-run go-ahead homer. Phil Maton was the next reliever for the Astros in the top of the seventh, maintaining the new one-run lead by erasing a leadoff single.

Astros get the win in extras

The Diamondbacks tied it up in the top of the eighth against Kendall Graveman, getting a leadoff single followed by a walk, then later an RBI single to knot things up 2-2. Houston stranded a runner in the bottom of the eighth, then brought in Ryan Pressly, who tossed a 1-2-3 top of the ninth to keep the game tied.

Despite getting the winning run in scoring position with a leadoff ground-rule double by Jason Castro to start the bottom of the ninth, they would strand it as the game went to extras. Arizona scored their free runner in the top of the tenth, getting a sac fly to move it to third then going in front on an RBI single.

The Astros matched that and more in the bottom of the inning, moving their runner to third on a lineout to start the frame, followed by an intentional walk to Yordan Alvarez. Jake Meyers tied the game with an RBI single, then after another walk to load the bases, Chas McCormick was hit by a pitch to bring in the winning run, moving the Astros closer to clinching their playoff berth.

Up Next: The middle game of this three-game set will have a start time of 6:10 PM Central on Saturday. Tyler Gilbert (2-2, 3.15 ERA) is expected to make a start for Arizona, while Lance McCullers Jr. (12-4, 3.12 ERA) will be on the mound for Houston.

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