(Photo credit: Ray Acevedo-USA TODAY Sports)
After opening the season with aspirations of winning a World Series, the San Diego Padres have been forced to vastly lower their expectations.
San Diego now hopes to finish with a winning record, and it will look to get one step closer to doing so on Friday when it faces the host Chicago White Sox in the opener of a three-game series.
The Padres (79-80) are all but officially eliminated from postseason contention, but they are still determined to play inspired ball.
A .500 finish seemed improbable at the end of August, but San Diego has gone 17-7 this month as it tries to salvage an otherwise underwhelming 2023 campaign.
"We wanted something more than (finishing above .500)," Padres shortstop Xander Bogaerts said. "We were trying to go for something a little unheard of, ending the season with a winning streak like that.
"But in the end, all that we've been through this year, I think a winning record has its meaning. ... If we don't make it, at least we proved to ourselves that we're better than what we (were)."
Right-hander Nick Martinez (5-4, 3.59 ERA) will look to continue steering San Diego in the right direction when he makes his ninth start of the season on Friday.
Martinez, who has been primarily used as a reliever, allowed just two hits in four scoreless innings against the St. Louis Cardinals last Saturday in his most recent start.
In six career appearances (three starts) vs. Chicago, Martinez is 0-4 with an 8.44 ERA.
Much like the Padres, the White Sox (61-98) are also searching for positives as an unsuccessful season comes to a close.
For Chicago, one of those positives has been third baseman Yoan Moncada, who has hit .326 (28-for-86) with five homers, 13 RBIs and 15 runs over his past 24 games. He most recently hit a solo shot on Thursday to help the White Sox pick up a 3-1 win over the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Moncada dealt with a nagging back injury earlier this season, but he persevered and has finally found his stride.
"There was a moment in the season when I thought my season was done," Moncada said through an interpreter. "But I never gave up, (I) kept working, did the exercises from the trainers that they gave me. Thanks to that, I was able to come back."
Moncada and the rest of the offense will look to provide Dylan Cease (7-8, 4.66 ERA) with plenty of run support on Friday when the right-hander makes his 33rd start of the season.
In his most recent outing last Saturday, Cease had to settle for a no-decision against the Boston Red Sox after giving up six hits in seven shutout innings. He didn't issue a walk and struck out a season-high 11.
Cease has faced the Padres once in his career, giving up four runs on five hits in five-plus innings to take a loss on Oct. 1, 2022.
San Diego had Thursday off after beating the San Francisco Giants 5-2 in 10 innings on Wednesday.
--Field Level Media