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.

Blue Jays clinch playoff berth with Orioles’ loss to Red Sox

toronto blue jays
Thomas Skrlj/Getty Images
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TORONTO — The Blue Jays clinched a postseason berth Thursday without taking the field.

Toronto was assured of an AL wild card berth when the Boston Red Sox beat the Baltimore Orioles 5-3.

If Toronto holds its current position as the first of the AL’s three wild cards, the Blue Jays would open a best-of-three wild-card series at Rogers Centre next week.

“These guys are excited to be in this position,” Blue Jays manager John Schneider said after Wednesday’s 8-3 loss to the New York Yankees. “You’ve got three really good pitchers lined up against a good Boston team, playing at home. So I think it’s more excitement more than it’s nerves or anything. I think the guys are going to come out and be ready to roll on Friday night.”

Toronto became the fourth AL team to clinch a playoff berth, joining division champions Houston, the Yankees and Cleveland. The Astros and Yankees have first-round byes.

The Blue Jays last went to the playoffs in 2020, when they were knocked out with two straight losses to Tampa Bay.

Eight of the 12 berths in the expanded postseason have been clinched: The Los Angeles Dodgers and St. Louis earned division titles, and Atlanta and the New York Mets are assured no worse the wild cards while still competing to win the NL East. The Dodgers have a first-round bye.