THE LEFT TURN

NASCAR: Hollywood Casino 400 preview and predictions

Look for Denny Hamlin to win this weekend. Photo via: Wiki Commons.

The NASCAR Cup Series heads for Kansas Speedway this week for the Hollywood Casino 400. This is the first race of the Round of 8 as the season gets one step closer to crowning a champion as there are four more races left in this crazy 2020 season. This track is a one and a half mile oval and it fits this package almost perfectly as there has been much closer racing since NASCAR started running it back in 2018. I look forward to seeing how this race plays out as strategy could very well play a part as it usually does here. The last time the Cup Series was here there were a lot of wrecks so that could be something to look out for as well.

Last week, Chase Elliott went on to capture his fourth consecutive road course win. The race was highlighted by the on and off rain that would soak the track and make finding grip next to impossible. We saw lots of cars spinning into the grass including Ryan Blaney who was leading at the time he spun. As crazy as the racing was we saw some surprises up near the front as Ty Dillon went on to win stage one of the race. Many people didn't care for what we saw as there were a multitude of fans on Twitter proclaiming that what they saw "was not racing." While yes, it was crazy, I think this was awesome to watch. I hope if there is ever more rain on road courses we can see more of this in the future.

The big surprise of the weekend was Kyle Busch. As we all know this has been the worst year of his racing career, he has yet to win a race this year and was eliminated from championship contention. The day started off pretty bad for him after getting a flat tire but as he always does, the defending champion went on a tear driving all the way back to the lead. It looked like the stars were going to align for him but a late race caution and the decision to stay out on cold tires cost him as his M&M's Camry gave up the ghost. While this season hasn't been the best, I would expect him to still be a major contender in the coming weeks for a victory.

The silly season continues this week as the rumors continue to swirl around who will go where next season. There are reports that next season Hendrick Motorsports will be renumbering the #88 back to the legendary #5. While the driver remains unknown, this is a big deal for Hendrick Racing as many people had been speculating that this would happen and now it seems as if it's coming to fruition. This was brought up by Dale Earnhardt Jr on his podcast. The other big story is the possibility that Erik Jones will be driving for Richard Petty Motorsports in 2021. This comes as a bit of a surprise considering the struggles that this team has endured but overall maybe there are improvements being made over there that we don't know about. If I personally was Rick Hendrick, I would hire Erik Jones to drive the #5 car next year but it is becoming more and more clear who he is going to go with next season and that doesn't appear to be an option. If Jones can come in and run well in the #43 car next season, I would think his stock will go up for 2022.

The driver that I have winning this week is Denny Hamlin. This 2020 season has been a career year for Hamlin as he has won seven races and has scored almost more points than anyone. Now he heads for a track that he has made his own where he won back in July. He has been phenomenal on these types of racetracks and this weekend should be no different. Look for Denny Hamlin to take the #11 FedEx Toyota to victory lane and lock himself into the championship race at Phoenix.

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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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