(Photo credit: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports)
The Chicago White Sox and Washington Nationals are clearly focused on beyond this season, but they still have more immediate matters on the field.
The teams will meet for the first time since 2019 when they open a three-game series Monday night in Washington, D.C. The game also will launch Washington's final homestand of the season.
The White Sox (57-93) have lost five of their last six games. In their last four defeats, they have a combined five runs.
Chicago just ended a homestand that certainly prompted many questions to the manager and staff about what can be done to get things turned around.
"Nobody wants to hear the talk anymore," White Sox manager Pedro Grifol said, reflecting on the future. "Everybody wants to see us win baseball games. It's about us winning baseball games."
The Nationals (66-84) ended a five-game losing streak with Sunday's 2-1 victory in 11 innings at National League Central-leading Milwaukee.
"We're going to keep battling," Washington manager Dave Martinez said. "Teach our young guys how to play the game. We've just got to keep going."
Chicago, meanwhile, was blanked on six hits in losing 4-0 to the American League Central-best Minnesota Twins on Sunday.
The White Sox might be as well-rested as possible at this time of the year. Sunday's lineup didn't include outfielder Luis Robert Jr. or infielders Tim Anderson and Yoan Moncada.
Whoever is on the field is going to have to show improvement, though it's even too late to create much of a positive vibe.
"We've got to do better in general," White Sox outfielder Gavin Sheets said. "That's the main goal next year -- win more games."
Monday's projected White Sox starting pitcher, Mike Clevinger (7-8, 3.61 ERA), has alternated wins and losses in every decision since early May. The right-hander's last outing was solid. He limited Kansas City to two runs in six innings on Wednesday but was the losing pitcher.
"Three starts (remaining this season)," Clevinger said. "If I'm healthy, the other things will kind of take care of themselves."
Clevinger's control has been impressive in September with 16 strikeouts and no walks in 17 innings.
Games with non-contenders in front of sparse crowds, which could be the case Monday night, bring certain challenges, he said.
"This is a mental-toughness game," Clevinger said. "It's easy to let your guard down in these moments."
Clevinger is 1-1 with 5.91 ERA in two career starts covering 10 2/3 innings vs. Washington.
Right-hander Joan Adon (2-2, 5.92) will start for the Nationals, trying for his first victory since Aug. 25 at Miami. He has never faced the White Sox.
The Nationals' bullpen might be taxed after extensive work the last few days. Closer Kyle Finnegan hadn't been used in a six-game stretch but pitched Saturday and Sunday, so that likely rules him out for Monday night.
Finnegan gave up the game-deciding grand slam Saturday night against Milwaukee, and Martinez said it was important to "put him back out there in the ninth (the next chance), and we'll go from there."
On the flip side, right-hander Cory Abbott should be available. He was recalled Sunday from Triple-A Rochester but wasn't used in that game.
--Field Level Media