NASCAR heads to Hotlanta for the QuikTrip 500

Start your engines! Photo via: Wiki Commons.

The NASCAR Cup Series heads to Hotlanta this week for the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500. This track has been a staple among the NASCAR Cup Series since it was built back in 1960. This track provides a lot of spacious green flag runs, so we could see a lot of strategy this week as it is one of the more tame races on the schedule.

This season has been unpredictable to say the least. There have been five races and five different winners as the streak continued last week with Martin Truex Jr. winning at Phoenix. The race was fairly mild in spite of the race's twenty-two lead changes. There was a lot of speed early on from the Penske Fords as both Joey Logano and Ryan Blaney won stages one and two, but they were both no match for Truex as he made the race winning pass with twenty-four laps to go. This is a statement win for the 2017 champion as he looks to establish himself as the championship favorite.

While Truex and his #19 team were celebrating, his teammate Kyle Busch has been experiencing the exact opposite as his struggles continue. Two weeks ago at Las Vegas, Kyle made an awesome comeback after struggling for most of the day to finish third. Last week was a much different story. The two-time champion struggled mightily as he was outside the top twenty for most of the day. To add insult to injury, he was involved in an incident with Ross Chastain. This has easily been the most frustrating period of his career as he nearly went winless all of 2020 until winning at Texas in the fall. During this slump, there have been many who questioned why he was struggling so bad. One of the biggest reasons could be NASCAR's omission of practice and qualifying as he was never really able to adjust to that. Another could be he still isn't used to working with his new crew-chief, Ben Beshore. Whatever the reason, rowdy and his team still have plenty of time to turn things around.

The favorite to win this week has to be last week's winner, Martin Truex Jr. Over the last four races here, Truex has been one of the three best drivers by far. He currently holds an impressive 3.33 average finish here since 2017. Plus, he has a lot of good momentum going into this race considering his win last week. I look for him to lead a lot of laps this week considering he will be on the front row. He will be hard to beat come Sunday. Look for the #19 Toyota Camry to be a true contender this week.

The driver that I have winning this week is Brad Keselowski. Over the last two weeks, Brad has been on quite a roll with back-to-back top fives including a second place finish last week. Even though his season started off kind of rocky, Brad has been one of the best drivers out there. He is due for a win, and he's coming to a track where he has been great. He has won here twice in the last four years. Look for him to go to victory lane and become the sixth different winner in 2021.

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The losing streak continues

Mariners get walk-off win over short-staffed Astros

Alex De Goti had an impressive debut. Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images

After a brutal homestand capped off by losing five players to the IL for health and safety protocols, the once 5-1 Astros brought their now 6-6 record to T-Mobile park in Seattle to try and right the ship. They'd have to do it with new and young players in the lineup using the "next man up" mentality to get some wins against the first-place Mariners.

Though the young bats would work themselves into a lead most of the night, Houston's bullpen wouldn't be able to hold the Mariners down, with Seattle ultimately walking things off in the ninth.

Final Score: Mariners 6, Astros 5

Astros' Record: 6-7, fourth in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Anthony Misiewicz (2-0)

Losing Pitcher: Ryne Stanek (0-1)

After a quiet start, Houston gets three in the fifth

After cruising through the Astros through the first four innings, allowing only a walk over that span, Houston was able to put up a big inning against Yusei Kikuchi in the top of the fifth. Carlos Correa notched the first hit of the night, followed by a walk by Taylor Jones to put two on base.

That brought Alex De Goti, making his major-league debut, to the plate and, in his second career at-bat, would get his first hit and RBI, bringing in Correa from second on a single. A second run would come on the same play on a throwing error, then Chaz McCormick made it a three-run inning with an RBI-double, putting Houston out front 3-0.

Urquidy comes an out shy of a quality start

Meanwhile, Jose Urquidy was doing well through five innings. On track for a much-needed quality start, the Mariners would tag him in the bottom of the sixth, getting three-straight hits to bring in two runs to lead off the frame and leaving a runner on second base with no outs.

Urquidy would rebound to get the next two batters on strikeouts, but at 90 pitches and with a left-handed hitter up next, Dusty Baker would bring in lefty Brooks Raley to try and get out of the inning with the one-run lead intact. Raley would do his job, putting Uruidy's line final: 5.2 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 7 K, 90 P.

Teams trade two-run seventh innings

The young bats for Houston struck again in the top of the seventh, with Jones and De Goti leading it off with back-to-back singles before Jason Castro would load the bases with a walk. With two outs, Aledmys Diaz would push the lead back to three with a two-RBI single, making it 5-2.

With Raley out after facing his one batter, next out of Houston's bullpen was Bryan Abreu to help maintain Houston's lead. Instead, he would give up two runs on two hits and a walk while getting just two outs before Baker moved on to Blake Taylor, who would get the last out of the seventh with Houston hanging on to a one-run lead at 5-4.

Mariners get the walk-off win

Taylor remained in the game in the bottom of the eighth, and after getting an out, would allow a game-tying solo home run to Evan White before injuring himself trying to field an infield single. Ryne Stanek entered and finished off the eighth, sending the tie game to the ninth.

After Houston came up empty in the top half, Stanek remained in the game in the bottom of the ninth, attempting to force extras. Back-to-back walks ended Stanek's night, with the Astros hoping Ryan Pressly could bail them out. He couldn't, though, giving up the walk-off hit as the Mariners would take the opener, 6-5.

Up Next: Game two of this three-game set will start an hour earlier on Saturday, with first pitch at 8:10 PM Central. Zack Greinke (1-1, 4.08 ERA) will try to rebound from a poor start his last time out for the Astros, while the Mariners will hand the ball to Chris Flexen (1-0, 4.50 ERA).

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