In April, the Chicago White Sox were favored to win the American League Central while the San Diego Padres were hoping to challenge the Los Angeles Dodgers in the National League West.
While Chicago's playoff aspirations have been dashed, the team comes to San Diego on Friday night looking to delay the Padres' celebration of clinching their first full-season playoff berth since 2006.
Facing the White Sox (77-79) for the first time since 2017, the Padres (86-70) have a magic number of three to secure a postseason berth.
The Padres can clinch an NL wild-card berth with any combination of three wins or three losses by the Milwaukee Brewers. After hosting the White Sox for three games, San Diego will finish with three against the San Francisco Giants. All six games are home affairs for the Padres, a point not lost on manager Bob Melvin.
"We need to win games, to get it done," said Melvin, tiptoeing around the word "clinching" or discussing any postseason plans. "It will be great for our fans to get it done here. We've had exceptional support all year. We'd love to get it done for the fans."
The sooner, the better. Meaning the Padres would like to wrap it up this weekend with the White Sox watching from the other dugout -- to see what might have been.
Not only did the disappointing White Sox not win the AL Central, they also are eliminated from postseason play. Just 2 1/2 weeks ago, they were 1 1/2 games behind the Cleveland Guardians in the division race and were in the wild-card battle.
But while the Guardians went on an 18-3 run that included a three-game sweep of the White Sox, Chicago collapsed. It was during an eight-game losing streak -- a stretch that began with being swept at home by the Guardians -- that the White Sox were eliminated in both the division and wild-card races.
It also was during this time that manager Tony La Russa announced that health problems would prevent him from returning to the White Sox.
It was left to acting manager Miguel Cairo to chronicle the collapse.
"Something that we missed this year was consistency," Cairo said. "In the field, on the bases, at-bats, defense, pitching."
However, don't expect the White Sox to roll over this weekend. They ended that eight-game skid by posting a 4-3 win over the Minnesota Twins on Thursday.
"We don't want to finish below .500," pitcher Lucas Giolito said. "We need to keep grinding and finish on a high note."
The White Sox will send rookie Davis Martin (2-5, 3.86 ERA) to the mound Friday to face the Padres' Yu Darvish (16-7, 3.05) in a battle of right-handers.
Darvish is one of the hottest pitchers in the majors. He is 6-0 with a 1.49 ERA over his last six starts and allowed two runs on eight hits and two walks in his last 20 innings. If the Padres clinch in the next five days, this would be Darvish's last start of the regular season.
Darvish is 3-1 with a 3.43 ERA in six career starts vs. the White Sox.
Meanwhile, Martin will face San Diego for the first time on Friday when he makes his eighth start in his 13th career appearance in the majors.
Martin fell to 0-2 in his last four appearances after allowing three runs on seven hits in six innings of a 7-2 setback to the Detroit Tigers on Saturday.
--Field Level Media