THE LEFT TURN

NASCAR: Talladega playoff race preview and predictions

Photo by Jerry Markland/Getty Images.

Well folks, it's finally here. The race that everyone has been looking forward to, Talladega. As we all know this is the baddest racetrack on the face of the planet. The steaks will be high as this is the second race of the round of 12 or the wild-card round as I like to call it. Not only do we see the unpredictability of Talladega this weekend but next weekend they go to the Charlotte Roval, another track that is known for its insanity. Getting through Talladega with a win could be huge or each of these twelve drivers. This will be a race you definitely don't want to miss.

Last week at Vegas, Kurt Busch went on to capture his first victory of 2020 at his home track. The race was dominated by Denny Hamlin as he led a race high 121 laps but green flag pit-stops for debris put him towards the back of the lead lap cars. While he was able to rebound for a third place finish, this was a race he should have won. But for once in 2020, luck just wasn't on his side. While Hamlin was in front, the one issue most of these drivers had was the ability to pass. For over 80 percent of the race, it was completely unwatchable. This high downforce aero package continues to provide lackluster results as the only way anyone could do anything was after a restart. This continues to prove that high downforce won't always produce good racing.

Luckily NASCAR has heard the fans and they will be changing things when it comes to the cars in 2021 as they unveiled the newest rules package on Thursday. It was announced that 23 of the 36 races will be run by the popular 750 horsepower aero package. Another thing fans have been asking for is a much smaller rear spoiler and it appears that is coming as well as it was also announced that the spoiler will be reduced from 8 inches to 2.75 inches. I think this will be a huge step in the right direction for the sport and it also shows that Steve O'Donnell and everyone at NASCAR are listening to their fans. Of course, they won't make everyone happy, but it's been awesome to see them listen to feedback. We will see this package run at tracks like Dover and Bristol, all the road courses and the rest of the short tracks while the intermediates and super speedways will continue with their 550 horsepower aero package. I am so happy to see NASCAR continue to grow and improve as we look to the future that is certainly a lot brighter.

The driver that I have winning this week is Ryan Blaney. Over the last three races here, Blaney has dominated this track as he has won two of the last three races here. Although he didn't advance to the round of 12, it will be hard to beat him. His teammate Brad Keselowski said in an interview that "Blaney has this type of racing down to a science." I look for him to continue his success with another victory here. It would be a great way for him to close out an extremely disappointing season. Look for Blaney to take the #12 Ford Mustang to victory lane.

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Houston loses first game to Oakland

A's end losing streak against Astros with late homers

Lance McCullers Jr. went five innings of one-run ball Friday night. Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

After maintaining their stronghold against the A's in Thursday's home opener, the Astros had the chance to lock up the three-game series victory against Oakland with a win on Friday night. On the mound, Lance McCullers Jr. hoped to improve upon his first start against this same team, a five-inning one-run outing.

Instead, he would have the same outcome, once again lasting five innings while allowing one run, before a big tie-breaking home run late in the game would push Oakland out of their losing skid against the Astros.

Final Score: A's 6, Astros 2

Astros' Record: 6-2, tied for first in AL West

Winning Pitcher: Yusmeiro Petit (2-0)

Losing Pitcher: Bryan Abreu (1-1)

McCullers Jr. makes it through five

McCullers Jr. looked sharp through the first three innings, allowing just two baserunners, one on a second-inning single, then a walk in the third. Oakland did better against him the second time through their order in the fourth, with Jed Lowrie leading the inning off with a solo home run to put Oakland in front 1-0.

They went on to load the bases with one out on an error and two walks, but McCullers would strand them all. He returned for the fifth, a much cleaner inning where a caught stealing by Martin Maldonado would help him face just three batters. His final line: 5.0 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 3 BB, 6 K, 88 P.

Oakland gets homer-happy to even the series

McCullers Jr. would leave the game without being eligible for the winning or losing decision, as an RBI-groundout by Kyle Tucker in the fourth would have it tied 1-1. Bryan Abreu was the first out of Houston's bullpen, and he would attempt to eat up multiple innings. He had perfect innings in the sixth and seventh, retiring six A's in order to maintain the stalemate.

Abreu remained in the game in the top of the eighth, allowing a single before getting a strikeout, ending his run as Dusty Baker would bring in left-handed Blake Taylor. Taylor would give up a single against his first batter, then a loud go-ahead three-run home run to Matt Olson to push the A's back in front 4-1. They'd add two more insurance runs off of Joe Smith in the top of the ninth, getting a two-run home run by Mark Canha to extend the lead to 6-1.

Oakland's bullpen would hold on to the newly created lead, allowing just one run on a sac fly by Jose Altuve in the bottom of the ninth, finally ending their losing streak against Houston and setting up the rubber game on Saturday to be for the series victory.

Up Next: This series's finale will be a Saturday afternoon start, with first pitch scheduled for 3:05 PM. For the Astros, Jose Urquidy (0-0, 4.15 ERA) will look to get a win on the board, while Oakland will hand the ball to Frankie Montas (0-1, 23.63 ERA).

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