THE LEFT TURN

NASCAR: It's a doubleheader weekend at Dover

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The NASCAR Cup Series heads for the Monster Mile in Dover, Delaware for a Saturday-Sunday doubleheader. This is the third and final doubleheader of 2020 as we saw the other two were run at Pocono and Michigan. This Dover track is called the Monster Mile because of its rough and abrasive concrete surface. There have been some massive wrecks here so it is never out of the question to see a pile-up that can take out multiple cars. It will be fun to see what lies ahead for this weekend's doubleheader.

Last week, Chase Elliott went on to capture his eighth career victory in the first ever running of the Daytona Roval and while the race definitely had its moments, it was much more tame than expected. It seemed like there weren't very many places where anyone could pass especially in the chicane in the turns three and four. I have to applaud these drivers though, with this being a brand-new track layout, all of these drivers did an excellent job at handling this track. We could have very well seen the field go into turn one and forget they are on a road-course and miss the turn completely, but they all kept it straight and there were hardly any big accidents. There were also some pleasant surprises in this race as well including a fifth place finish by Chris Buescher and a tenth place finish by Michael McDowell.

Like everywhere else in the world, the Ccoronavirus has taken the NASCAR world by storm as Austin Dillion announced that he had tested positive the morning of the race. This came as a shock to everyone around the NASCAR world especially considering the timing of his diagnosis. Thankfully, Dillion appears to have recovered and will be racing this weekend at Dover. This proves that even though the sport has been doing really well, they are not invincible to this virus. I have to say though, considering what we have seen in other sports such as baseball, I will say that NASCAR has done exceptionally well at not having an outbreak. Needless to say, this will be another wake-up call for the sport especially as it draws ever closer to the playoffs.

While Dillon was at home recovering, it was announced that RCR Xfinity driver Kaz Grala would be tapped to fill in, and he went out and absolutely crushed it! This young man got into a race car that he had never seen, hadn't run a single lap of practice in and went out there and led a few laps and finished in seventh! I am so impressed with how well he did this weekend. This isn't the first time the Massachusetts driver has exceeded expectations. Back in 2018 at an Xfinity race in Daytona, Grala took a car with a ten-year-old chassis and nearly won. If Kaz is given a chance in a good ride, it may take some time for him to grow but given the opportunity, I really believe he can make some noise. Be on the lookout for Kaz in the future.

One driver who experienced the exact opposite of the spectrum was Kyle Busch. As we all know this has been the season from hell for the defending champion. He has yet to win this year, something that has never happened in his whole career as he has won at least one race since his rookie year back in 2005. The Daytona Road course only put salt on the wounds as he was involved in multiple accidents including the final caution that took him out of the race. Because he has accumulated a bunch of stage points, he is solidly in the playoffs but this is nowhere near the position he wants to be in. I wouldn't fade him though going forward considering how talented he is.

Speaking of the playoffs, the battle for the 16th and final spot in the chase is becoming less and less of a battle as Jimmie Johnson sits twenty-five points behind his Hendrick racing teammate William Byron. It would almost seem as if Jimmie needs to win one of these next two races to get in. Recently, Johnson changed up his paint scheme from black and purple to white and purple. He called it his "RAlly" scheme considering Ally Bank is his sponsor. It seems as if that he has found a little bit of luck considering he finished fourth last week at Daytona and is moving on the right track coming into Dover. I look for him to be upfront this weekend.

The drivers that I have winning this weekend are Martin Truex Jr. and Chase Elliott. To start, this has been a track that Martin Truex has pretty much owned ever since he began his career here. In four of the last five races he has finished in the top five and 300 laps in total. I look for him to take one of the two races. The other driver that I think will win is Chase Elliott. This has also been a track he has run exceptionally well at. He has led 294 laps and despite mechanical issues at the last race here, he has been extremely fast including when he won the fall race back in 2018. I look for those two to go to victory lane during this doubleheader weekend.

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Yordan Alvarez's homer in Wednesday's game gave him 100 RBI on the season. Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images

Winners of three straight, six of their last seven, and eight of their last ten, the Astros had the chance to move yet another game closer to clinching their playoff spot if they could secure the series with a win against the Angels on Wednesday. Even though it looked as though they were headed towards a loss in extra innings, they would ultimately come out ahead.

Final Score (12 innings): Astros 9, Angels 5

Astros' Record: 91-61, first in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Yimi Garcia (4-9)

Losing Pitcher: Sam Selman (0-1)

Garcia goes six shutout innings

Although he didn't have swing-and-miss dominance in this start, Luis Garcia could still capitalize on a struggling Angels offense and post a shutout quality start against them. He allowed three walks and three hits throughout his outing but stranded all of them while getting outs on balls in play. His final line: 6.0 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 3 BB, 1 K, 79 P.

Alvarez reaches 100 RBI as Houston's offense keeps rolling

That performance had Garcia in line for the win, as two homers handed him a 3-0 advantage which he held. Houston once again used early offense to take a first-inning lead, as a leadoff walk by Jose Altuve turned into a monster 456-foot by Yordan Alvarez, pushing him to 100 RBI on the season. The score held at 2-0 until the top of the fifth, when Jason Castro led that frame off with a solo homer to extend the lead to three runs.

Extras in Anaheim

Phil Maton was first out of Houston's bullpen in the bottom of the seventh, but a single, double, and walk loaded the bases with no outs to put him in a jam. A lineout kept the runners put for the first out, but a single and a walk would make it a one-run game and left the bases loaded as Maton would get pulled.

Kendall Graveman entered to try and stop the bleeding, but after a force out at home to put that within reach, Jack Mayfield came through for Los Angeles with a go-ahead three-run double, giving the Angels their first lead of the series at 5-3. In the top of the eighth, a walk by Alex Bregman brought Alvarez back to the plate, and he would nearly miss a game-tying homer and instead got an RBI-single to make it 5-4.

Alvarez would still come in to tie the game, hustling home from second on an RBI single by Yuli Gurriel to knot things up 5-5. Brooks Raley was Houston's next reliever, and he sat down LA in order with two strikeouts. Still tied in the bottom of the ninth, Ryan Pressly came in to force extras, and despite being shadowed by the winning run on the bases after a leadoff single, retired the next three batters to send the game to the tenth.

Astros keep battling and take it in the twelfth

Jake Meyers took second base as Houston's free runner in the top of the tenth, but he would go nowhere as the Astros went down in order, giving the Angels another chance at a walk-off. Instead of giving Shohei Ohtani a free pass immediately, Houston would let Blake Taylor throw two balls to him before giving him the intentional walk.

Taylor then gave up a single to load the bases with no outs, and after getting a force out at home for the first out, Yimi Garcia would replace him. Thanks to a great play by Chas McCormick, giving him multiple in the game, the Astros would live to see another inning as he would make a great catch in right field and then throw out Ohtani at home.

In the top of the eleventh, a sac fly by Yuli Gurriel moved Aledmys Diaz to third, but that's as close as Houston would come, leaving them stuck at five runs. After Garcia retired three more batters in the bottom of the eleventh, the game moved to the twelfth, where Houston would get back in front on an RBI single by Jake Meyers, then padded the new lead on a two-RBI double by Jose Altuve, who would also score on a sac fly by Alex Bregman, making it 9-5. Josh James came in and wrapped things up in the bottom half as Houston secured the series victory and reduced their magic number to two against Oakland and three against Seattle.

Up Next: The finale of this four-game series, and the last time these two teams will meet this year, will be an 8:38 PM Central start on Thursday. The expected pitching matchup is Alex Cobb (8-3, 3.59 ERA) for Los Angeles and Lance McCullers Jr. (12-4, 3.11 ERA) for Houston.

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