What we're watching: Kawakami vs. Johnson

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– Tim Hudson versus Josh Johnson would have been tonight’s premier matchup, but the Braves have pushed Hudson back and opted to go with Kenshin Kawakami instead. Kawakami has lost both of his starts against the Marlins this season, amassing an 8.44 ERA in 10 2/3 innings. The last loss was in a matchup against Johnson on July 29. Including that win, Johnson is 6-1 in his last eight starts. His ERA, though, did creep over 3.00 for the first time all year when he gave up three runs in six innings against the Mets last week.
– Rich Harden reportedly will stick with the Cubs and face Roy Oswalt and the Astros tonight. With his 1.80 ERA and even more impressive 0.82 WHIP since the break, Harden has been one of the NL’s best pitchers lately. Oswalt is 1-1 with a 5.25 ERA in four starts since returning from a back injury. The last two starts, though, were much better than the first two. The Cubs are the one NL Central team that Oswalt isn’t over .500 against in his career. He’s 12-12 with a 3.86 ERA against them.
Game of the Night
Chicago vs. Minnesota – One of the AL Central rivals will make up some ground on Detroit tonight after the Tigers lost their afternoon game against the Rays. Gavin Floyd will start for the skidding White Sox, who have lost seven of their last eight games. He’s 7-3 with a 2.77 ERA in 16 starts since the beginning of June. Twins starter Nick Blackburn, on the other hand, has gotten a whole lot worse as the season has progressed. He entered the All-Star break at 8-4 with a 3.06 ERA, yet is 0-5 with an 8.22 ERA since. He’s gone 2-1 with a 3.15 ERA in his three starts against the White Sox this year, but all of those came in the first half.

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.