What we're watching: Astros go for sweep

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– As great as he is, Tim Lincecum has still won a mere 45 percent of
his 76 career starts. However, he’s 5-for-5 against the Braves heading
into another showdown tonight. He blanked the Braves for eight innings
in his only start against them this year, that coming on May 26. Jair
Jurrjens, who ranks seventh in the NL in ERA, will be the opponent
tonight.

– 26-year-old Carlos Torres will make his major league debut for the
White Sox tonight against the Rays. The 2004 15th-round pick moved back
and forth between the rotation and pen during his first five minor
league seasons, but an impressive 2008 in Double-A caused the White Sox
to make him a full-time starter this year and he was 8-4 with a 2.20
ERA, 72 H and 96/38 K/BB in 98 IP for Triple-A Charlotte. It seems
unlikely that he’ll notch so many strikeouts in the majors with his
cutter and curveball, but he could prove to be a pretty useful
swingman.

– Chad Billingsley will attempt to bounce back from his shortest
start since 2007 when he faces the Reds. He’s 2-1 with a 0.92 ERA
against Cincinnati in his career, but he appears to be battling fatigue
of late. He allowed five runs in five innings on July 10, struggled
through his inning in the All-Star Game and then gave up six runs in 1
2/3 innings against the Astros on Friday. Bronson Arroyo is due to
start for the Reds. If Manny Ramirez plays — he left last night’s game
with a bruised hand — he’d be facing his former Red Sox teammate for
the first time.

Game of the Night

St. Louis vs. Houston – The Astros will aim for a three-game sweep
of the first-place Cardinals with Roy Oswalt on the mound. Houston has
won each of Oswalt’s last four starts, with the right-hander amassing a
1.69 ERA in the process. Oswalt, though, hasn’t beaten the Cardinals
since 2007, going 0-2 with a 5.68 ERA in three starts over the last two
seasons. St. Louis will start Chris Carpenter, who has won three
straight this month and is 8-3 with a 2.26 ERA for the season.

Report: Astros remain in contact with the Athletics on Sonny Gray

OAKLAND, CA - AUGUST 06: Sonny Gray #54 of the Oakland Athletics pitches against the Chicago Cubs during the first inning at the Oakland Coliseum on August 6, 2016 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Jason O. Watson/Getty Images)
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The Astros remain in contact with the Athletics on starting pitcher Sonny Gray, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports. The Astros have added Charlie Morton this offseason, but the club has been trying to add a big-name starting pitcher to put at the top of the rotation behind Dallas Keuchel.

Gray, 27, was limited to 22 starts in the 2016 season due to a forearm issue. His stats left a lot to be desired, as he finished with a 5-11 record, a 5.69 ERA, and a 94/42 K/BB ratio over 117 innings. Considering how Gray pitched in the previous three years, he’s a good bet to bounce back.

Gray is under team control through 2019, which is a big draw for the Astros. Needless to say, the Athletics would want a haul in terms of prospects. Gray will earn $3.575 million in 2017, having avoided arbitration in his first year of eligibility.

President Obama Welcomes the Cubs to the White House

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As we noted last week, The Chicago Cubs took the unusual step of not waiting until the summer after winning the World Series to make their customary White House visit to meet the president. They did it today, seeing President Obama a few short days before he leaves office.

Despite the fact that Obama is a White Sox fan, he met the Cubs with diplomacy and grace. It’s almost as if he’s been in that business for the past eight years. In return, he was given some gifts by the Cubs: Theo Epstein presented Obama with a No. 44 Cubs jersey, a tile from the center field scoreboard at Wrigley Field, and a lifetime pass to Wrigley as well.

Obama is staying in D.C. after he leaves office this week, hanging around so his daughter can finish high school in the same place she started. Even so, he’s likely going to be back to Chicago a good bit over the rest of his life, so he’ll likely be able to put the free pass to work. Assuming it comes with, like, six companion passes for his Secret Service detail.