Houston has taken the first three games

Valdez returns to form as Astros lock up series against Red Sox

Framber Valdez returned to form on Wednesday night. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

Victorious in the first two games of this series, the Astros tried to lock up a series victory against the Red Sox by taking the third of four in this set on Wednesday night. They accomplished their mission, getting a couple of runs to back up Framber Valdez, who tossed an impressive start his second time out in 2021.

Final Score: Astros 2, Red Sox 1

Astros' Record: 31-24, currently tied for first in the AL West (Oakland A's in play)

Winning Pitcher: Framber Valdez (1-0)

Losing Pitcher: Nick Pivetta (6-1)

Both teams get lengthy firsts, Valdez rebounds for an impressive start

Boston's top of the first did not instill much optimism that Framber Valdez would be able to get a chance to get deep into the game and build upon the success of his first start the week prior. They sent seven batters to the plate, loading the bases with two outs as Valdez would walk a run in to make it a 1-0 Red Sox lead before getting out of it.

Houston gave him two runs to work with, getting a lengthy bottom of that same inning by loading the bases and getting a sac fly by Yuli Gurriel, then taking a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the fourth on an RBI groundout by Myles Straw. Valdez went to work to turn things around, retiring eleven in a row after that bases-loaded walk, not allowing another baserunner until a one-out single in the top of the fifth, which he would strand. He powered on by erasing a two-out single in the sixth and doing the same in the seventh, finishing his night with his tenth strikeout to cap off a seven-inning one-run performance. His final line: 7.0 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 10 K, 102 P.

Houston locks up the series win

Valdez's great start once again left Houston's bullpen with a short length to cover, and Ryne Stanek did his part in the top of the eighth by getting a 1-2-3 inning to hold the one-run lead. Ryan Pressly came on for the save opportunity in the top of the ninth, getting it by erasing two hits to close out the win and giving Houston the series victory with a chance at a four-game sweep in the finale.

Up Next: An afternoon game awaits these two teams for the fourth and final matchup of this series. It'll get underway at 1:10 PM Central and features Martin Perez (3-2, 3.55 ERA) for Boston going opposite Jake Odorizzi (0-2, 6.75 ERA).

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Keep an eye on Alex Bowman this weekend. Image via: Wiki Commons.

For the first time since July 1984, NASCAR returns to one of its most popular cities in Nashville, Tennessee for the inaugural Ally 400 at Nashville Super Speedway. This track is a 1 1/3rd mile concrete oval that was dormant for nearly ten years and was only used as a testing facility. So it came as a bit of a surprise last season when it was announced that this track would be getting a date. For a lot of drivers, this will be a brand new racetrack, but we will see practice and qualifying, so that will be a huge help for the newcomers that haven't raced here before. Back when the Xfinity and Trucks ran here, this track featured a lot of first time winners. Back in 2008, future NASCAR champion Brad Keselowski shocked the world by jumping in Dale Jr's car and capturing his first win here. There will be a lot of veterans like Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick who have plenty of experience at this track, but it will be tough to compare. It should be fun with everyone coming into this race with minimal knowledge.

Last week, Kyle Larson continued his hot streak by winning the All-Star Race. Overall, while Larson and his Hendrick teammates probably enjoyed the race, the feedback from crews and fans was less than positive. As I was walking through the garage area and talking to a few crew members, a lot of them were very critical of the 450 horsepower motor and the tall spoiler to try and keep the cars bunched up. When I asked one of the crew-members what he thought about the package he told me, "Oh it's awful. The track is terrible, the package makes it impossible to pass and it's super hot out here." On green flag runs, it was the same as it ever was as the lead car would pretty much take off and the only time there was really any "pack racing" it came after there were restarts. The whole race was well-intentioned and the fans showed up as it was nearly a capacity crowd, but the whole thing just didn't make any sense. From the start time being in the nearly 100 degree heat to the wacky full-field invert at the end of each stage. Let's hope that next season's All-Star Race is a lot more concise.

In Silly Season news this week, Truck Series regulars GMS racing announced that they would be fielding a full-time cup series team. The team is currently owned by Allegiant Airlines CEO Maurice Gallagher and his son, Spencer, who used to drive for them in the Xfinity Series. This move seemed to come from out of nowhere as there was never any indication that this was a move they were exploring anytime soon after they turned down the opportunity to purchase Furniture Row Racing in 2019. This is certainly a great sight for the sport as there will be more new teams on the track and with their close relationship with Chevy, it wouldn't be a surprise if they step in and help this team become competitive. The favorite to drive their car has to be 2020 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series champion Sheldon Creed. He has easily been their best driver in trucks, and it would make the most sense for him to get the promotion.

This week at Nashville, the driver that I have winning is Alex Bowman. Now while this is a brand new racetrack and he has a grand total of zero starts here, this track suits his driving style perfectly. With the inclusion of this track, there are now four tracks with a concrete surface. Nashville, Bristol, Dover and Martinsville. At the three of the tracks they have run at, he has shown a lot of speed, including a victory at Dover this season and a top ten finish at Bristol. This is also a track where crew-chief Greg Ives said Bowman has gravitated towards during testing. In an interview with Sirius XM Ives was quoted as saying "we used to have a lot of fun testing there," so this is clearly a track that they both enjoy going to. Another big factor going into Sunday will be just how fast these Hendrick Motorsports cars are, they have finished 1-2 over the last four points races. He has watched his teammates Kyle Larson and Chase Elliott have immense success, and now this week I think he is due for a third win of the season. Look for the bright purple #48 Chevy to go to victory lane this week at Nashville.

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