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 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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