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.

Yankees in, Red Sox out on Edwin Encarnacion

TORONTO, ON - OCTOBER 19:  Edwin Encarnacion #10 of the Toronto Blue Jays looks on against the Cleveland Indians during game five of the American League Championship Series at Rogers Centre on October 19, 2016 in Toronto, Canada.  (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
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In light of the Astros’ deal for veteran designated hitter Carlos Beltran on Saturday, the Yankees are thought to be intensifying their pursuit of free agent Edwin Encarnacion, reports Jon Morosi of FOX Sports. The Yankees never made an official offer to Beltran, but remain in need of a DH/first baseman to give them a little more power outside of a Tyler AustinGreg Bird combo in 2017.

The Red Sox, on the other hand, are reportedly withdrawing their interest when it comes to the Encarnacion sweepstakes. According to FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman, they will look for a hitter to beef up their lineup without taking a “big plunge” on the 34-year-old.

Encarnacion enjoyed another All-Star run with the Blue Jays in 2016, hitting at a .263/.357/.529 clip with 42 homers and a league-leading 127 RBI in 702 PA. He’s expected to command a significant contract in free agency, and agent Paul Kinzer said that a potential deal is unlikely to be finalized before the Winter Meetings as Encarnacion is not close to agreeing to any offer. Interested teams include the Blue Jays and the Astros, though Beltran’s signing appears to have effectively taken Houston out of the running for the slugger.

Report: The Nationals are still in on Chris Sale and Andrew McCutchen

CHICAGO, IL - SEPTEMBER 05: Chris Sale #49 of the Chicago White Sox pitches against the Detroit Tigers during the first inning on September 5, 2016 at U. S. Cellular Field in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by David Banks/Getty Images)
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The Nationals are trying to go big this offseason, and FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal notes that they are still in trade talks for White Sox’ left-hander Chris Sale and Pirates’ center fielder Andrew McCutchen. Both players figure to command a big return, as Sale delivered another Cy Young-worthy performance in 2016 and, despite a downturn in his production rate, McCutchen is still one of the more coveted sluggers in the National League.

In 2016, Sale led the league in complete games, with six, and turned in a 3.34 ERA and 5.2 fWAR in 226 2/3 innings. While teams have been sniffing around the White Sox’ ace since the trade deadline, the club is expected to maintain a high asking price — so high, said FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman, that it may keep the left-hander in Chicago for the foreseeable future.

According to Heyman, four other teams are reportedly in the mix for Sale, including the Red Sox, Astros, Rangers, and Braves, though parts of Rosenthal’s tweet hinted that the Red Sox were maintaining their interest in hopes of striking a more affordable deal. Should the Nationals pursue a deal for Sale, it’s likely that they’d have to move shortstop/center fielder Trea Turner, which they appear reluctant to do.

McCutchen, meanwhile, is also drawing interest around the league after batting .256/.336/.430 with 24 home runs in 675 PA during 2016. He didn’t appear to lose much power in his eighth season with the Pirates, but took considerably fewer walks and struck out at a career-high clip.

The Nationals were said to be in the lead for McCutchen on Thursday, and there was some expectation that the club would wrap up a trade for the center fielder by the non-tender deadline on Friday. FOX Sports’ Jon Morosi pointed out that the Rangers were also talking to the Pirates, however, and no deal has come to fruition as of yet.