(Photo credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports)
The San Diego Padres will try to make the most of the final weekend of the regular season when they play the host Chicago White Sox on Saturday afternoon.
San Diego, sporting an 80-80 record after winning the series opener 3-2 on Friday, knows that it will not reach the postseason. The Padres cantake small consolation in the fact that they can post a winning record with two more victories.
That said, a team that started the season with World Series aspirations understands that it fell far short of those goals.
"For sure, we definitely underperformed as a group," San Diego third baseman/designated hitter Manny Machado said. "We didn't play to our best abilities. As a group, we're better than that, and we know that."
The mood is at least as sour for Chicago (61-99), which must win each of its final two games to avoid the fifth 100-loss season in franchise history. The White Sox stumbled from start to finish, and the team's struggles led to the dismissal of long-time front office executives Kenny Williams and Rick Hahn last month.
Chicago's players are aware of how close they are to the century mark in defeats.
"We are facing 100 losses, and I don't think anybody wants to lose 100 games in a season," pitcher Touki Toussaint said. "So it's something on our minds, like, 'Hey, let's just finish the season off on a good note.'"
The Padres will turn to right-hander Michael Wacha (13-4, 3.39 ERA) on Saturday for his 24th and final start of the season. Wacha is looking for his third victory in a row after earning wins against the Colorado Rockies and St. Louis Cardinals in his past two starts.
The Padres face a financial decision during the offseason about whether to bring back Wacha. The 32-year-old veteran ranks second on the team in victories, and he has posted a 1.194 WHIP this season while limiting opposing hitters to a .229 batting average.
San Diego first must decide whether to pick up a two-year, $32 million club option that would lock in Wacha through the 2025 season. If the Padres decline, Wacha would have the ability to pick up a player option for next season at $6.5 million.
If the Padres turn down the club option and Wacha turns down the player option, then Wacha would become a free agent during the offseason.
In four career starts against the White Sox, Wacha is 1-0 with a 6.98 ERA.
Chicago will counter with right-hander Mike Clevenger (9-8, 3.40 ERA), who also is set to make his 24th start of the season. He also has won each of his past two starts, with his victories coming against the Washington Nationals and Boston Red Sox.
Clevinger will face the Padres for the first time in his career.
San Diego manager Bob Melvin acknowledged that big questions loom this offseason.
"I think things will come into perspective once the season's over," Melvin said. "It's been a really hard season for everybody. It feels like it's been two seasons, to tell you the truth, as far as the length of it.
"We'll just try to do the best that we can until the end, and I think we'll gain a little perspective after that."
--Field Level Media