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.

Mets’ Neil Walker expected to undergo season-ending back surgery

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - AUGUST 21: Neil Walker #20 of the New York Mets sits in the dugout before the game against the San Francisco Giants at AT&T Park on August 21, 2016 in San Francisco, California.  The New York Mets defeated the San Francisco Giants 2-0. (Photo by Jason O. Watson/Getty Images)
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Jared Diamond of The Wall Street Journal reports that Mets second baseman Neil Walker is expected to undergo season-ending surgery to fix a herniated disk in his lower back. Walker has avoided the disabled list but hasn’t played since last Saturday and has only two starts since August 22.

If Walker does indeed go under the knife, he’ll end his first season with the Mets with a terrific .282/.347/.476 triple-slash line with 23 home runs and 55 RBI in 458 plate appearances. While the Mets couldn’t have foreseen Daniel Murphy having such a terrific season, Walker was more than adequate in Murphy’s shoes at second base.

Kelly Johnson and Wilmer Flores have handled second base in Walker’s absence and will continue to do so through the remainder of the season.

Video: Stephen Cardullo celebrates his birthday by hitting a grand slam

DENVER, CO - AUGUST 31:  Stephen Cardullo #65 of the Colorado Rockies watches his first career Major League home run during the seventh inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Coors Field on August 31, 2016 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)
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Rockies 1B/OF Stephen Cardullo celebrated his 29th birthday on Wednesday, so the rookie decided to celebrate by homering in both games of his team’s doubleheader at home against the Dodgers.

In the first game, Cardullo pinch-hit for Chris Rusin in the seventh inning and drilled a solo home run off of Casey Fien. In the second game, Cardullo smacked a grand slam to left-center field off of Bud Norris in the first inning.

Cardullo made his major league debut this past Friday. He was hitless in his first five at-bats before singling as a pinch-hitter on Monday.