THE LEFT TURN

NASCAR: South Point 400 preview, predictions

Keep an eye on Joey Logano this weekend. Photo via: Wiki Commons.

The Round of 12 begins this week at Las Vegas Motor Speedway for the South Point 400. This track is a 1.5 mile oval with 12-20 degrees of banking. Beginning back in 2018, a second Vegas race was added to the playoffs. This will be a vastly different race than what we saw in the spring, with the race being at night as opposed to its usual mid-afternoon start-time. There will be plenty of strategy in this race with the stages ending at lap 80, 160, and 267 so there is a good chance we see drivers try and split them in half depending on where the cautions fall. It should be interesting to see what type of race we see come Sunday.

Last week was one of the most dramatic races of the season as Kyle Larson, Kevin Harvick, and Chase Elliott all battled for the victory. The race was not without controversy though after Elliott and Harvick made contact in the later stages battling for the lead. Because of this, Elliot's tire went down and it cost him a shot at the victory. This would be Larson's sixth victory of the season and his ticket to the next round. When the checkered flag flew, both Kevin Harvick and Chase Elliott had a very heated discussion regarding what took place on the track. This sent the NASCAR world into a frenzy, but it appeared that both drivers were able to talk it out in the end and this won't carry over into the rest of the playoffs.

With the next round of the playoffs beginning, many would consider this the wild-card. It features both Talladega and the Charlotte Roval, two tracks that have been known to produce some of the most dramatic finishes over the past couple of years. Because of this, it will be extra important for the field of 12 to get a good result here. Kevin Harvick has to be one of those drivers. As I mentioned earlier, he's been in the headlines lately and after everything that has gone on at Bristol, going to Las Vegas couldn't come soon enough. He's found plenty of success here as he's scored two victories, seven top fives, and 12 top tens at this track. The success has faded a little bit though as he finished 20th here in the spring. It's a much different race now. He will roll-off 5th.

The other driver in the Round of 12 in need of a momentum boost is Brad Keselowski. As it's well known that Brad has one foot out the door at Penske Racing, most can tell his impending exodus has been affecting their results. While he and his team have been decent, his results haven't exactly shown him as a championship contender. Luckily, last week at Bristol, he was extremely fast and he is also going to a track he has been good at in the past. He rolls off 8th, look for him to be a contender for a top five.

The driver that I have winning this week is Joey Logano. It has been kind of an under-the-radar type of playoffs for the 2018 champion, in the opening round he scored a top-ten at Darlington, a top-five at Richmond, and finished a respectable 11th at Bristol. There have been times this season where Logano has had a lot of speed. But it seems like he hasn't been the fastest car as he only has one victory this season But this week he is going to a track where he has a lot of great experience. Overall, among all active drivers, he has the highest average finish, two victories and the second-most laps led behind Kevin Harvick. The one thing that may hurt him has been his team's results with the 550 hp package, but luckily, he will benefit greatly from his ninth place starting spot. Look for Logano to punch his ticket to the round of eight with a victory.

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Boston's two grand slams in the first two innings were too much for Houston to overcome in ALCS Game 2. Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

After a win in ALCS Game 1 that had the prototypical fingerprints of this Astros team all over it, Houston returned to Minute Maid Park on Saturday, hoping to take a dominant 2-0 series lead if they could grab another victory. The Red Sox dashed those hopes very early, though, scoring eight runs across the first two innings to build the lead they would hold on to even the series.

Final Score: Boston 9, Astros 5

ALCS Series (Best of Seven): tied 1-1

Winning Pitcher: Nathan Eovaldi

Losing Pitcher: Luis Garcia

Houston met with disaster to start Game 2

You couldn't have drawn up a much better start for the Red Sox or a worse one for the Astros in Saturday's ALCS Game 2. Luis Garcia met early disaster in the top of the first inning, allowing a leadoff double, then got two outs while issuing two walks to load the bases. That brought up Boston's designated hitter, J.D. Martinez, to the plate, and he delivered a crushing blow to Houston, launching a grand slam to put the Red Sox up 4-0 before Houston could even get to the plate.

After a scoreless bottom of the inning by his offense, things got worse for Garcia in the top of the second, as after issuing a four-pitch walk to start the frame, he would become the center of a meeting at the mound with trainers, ultimately leaving the game with an injury. Houston opted to bring in Jake Odorizzi for the emergency call to the bullpen, but things did not start well for him either. He would put two of his own batters on base with two singles, then gave up the second grand slam in as many innings, this one to Rafael Devers to double Boston's lead to 8-0, doubling down on Houston's disastrous start to the game.

Odorizzi rebounded with a 1-2-3 third, but with one out in the top of the fourth allowed a solo homer to Kiké Hernández, his third homer of the series so far. He would still get the job done of eating up a few innings, finishing the fourth, and retiring Boston in order in the fifth, giving Houston just four more innings to cover with the rest of their relievers.

Astros get a few runs back

Over that span, Houston did trim the lead by three runs, getting an RBI double by Kyle Tucker and a two-RBI single by Yuli Gurriel in the bottom of the fourth, making it a six-run game at 9-3. Their next reliever was Blake Taylor in the top of the sixth, and he would keep the score where it stood by sitting down the three batters he faced that frame.

The Astros threatened again in the bottom of the sixth, getting two singles to put two aboard, but would come out empty, sending the game on to the seventh, where Taylor would remain on the mound. He faced three more batters, getting two out while allowing a single before Yimi Garcia would come in to get the third out.

Red Sox even the series as it shifts to Boston

Garcia returned in the top of the eighth, getting through that inning despite a walk and hit by pitch, stranding both runners. Boston's bullpen kept Houston from getting any closer in the bottom of the eighth, then Ryne Stanek came in for the Astros in the top of the ninth. Stanek allowed a leadoff double, but with a groundout and double play, held the score at 9-3. Yuli Gurriel and Jason Castro did their part to keep the Astros alive in the bottom of the ninth, each hitting solo homers to make it 9-5, but that's as close as they'd come, dropping Game 2 to tie the series at one game apiece.

Up Next: The ALCS now moves to Boston for the next three games after a day off on Sunday, with Game 3 on Monday at 7:08 PM Central. While the Astros have named Jose Urquidy as their starter, the Red Sox have not yet determined theirs.

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