(Photo credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports)
There are still chances to create some thrills for the Washington Nationals -- and those opportunities are keeping the club going in the last stretch of the season.
"Finish strong, for sure," Nationals designated hitter Joey Meneses said on Tuesday. "We want to try to do our best."
The next chance comes in the rubber match of a three-game series against the visiting Chicago White Sox on Wednesday afternoon.
Meneses provided one of those thrills with a three-run, pinch-hit home run with two outs in the bottom of the seventh inning on Tuesday, lifting Washington to a 4-3 victory against Chicago. Such opportunities are good incentives, despite the club sitting well outside the playoff picture.
"It motivates me to keep working," Meneses said.
Both teams have lost six of their past eight games.
The Nationals (67-85) are in their final homestand of the season.
The White Sox (58-94) lost their previous six series, so winning Wednesday would snap that skid, at least.
Chicago is in danger of losing on the road for the 50th time, as the team owns a 28-49 mark away from home. The White Sox haven't won two games in a road series since Aug. 5-6 in the last two games of a three-game series at Cleveland.
The Tuesday game gave White Sox manager Pedro Grifol a list of items he enjoyed watching.
"Just a really good ballgame, just one pitch dictated that game right there," Grifol said of the ball Meneses hit off reliever Bryan Shaw.
Chicago center fielder Luis Robert Jr. has homered in each of the first two games of the series. Shortstop Tim Anderson holds a six-game hitting streak, pushing his batting average to .252. Until this series, he hadn't been above .250 since mid-June.
White Sox third baseman Yoan Moncada went deep on Tuesday while producing his fifth multi-hit games of September (and second in a row).
"That team, they can hit," Washington manager Davey Martinez said.
The Nationals are reaching some decent offensive levels, now with two players at the 80-RBI mark. Meneses tops the team with 84 and Lane Thomas has 80.
Michael Kopech (5-12, 5.47 ERA) will head to the mound for the White Sox on Wednesday. The right-hander has struggled over the past month, going 0-2 with a 10.89 ERA in eight appearances, including five starts. Most recently, he was tagged for four runs on five hits in a one-inning relief outing on Friday against the Minnesota Twins.
He will face the Nationals for the first time in his career.
Right-hander Josiah Gray (7-12, 4.07 ERA) is lined up to be Washington's starting pitcher. He also has struggled in recent weeks as he hasn't posted a victory since July 22, going 0-4 with a 6.06 ERA in eight starts since then.
In two September starts, Gray has surrendered three home runs and five runs in 10 1/3 innings. He registered a season-high 10 strikeouts without a walk on Thursday in a 6 1/3-inning stint at Pittsburgh, when he limited the Pirates to two runs. Some of the success might have resulted from a tweak in his delivery.
"I felt good with it and felt I could roll with it," Gray said, "o the early returns are good."
Martinez added, "Hopefully, he'll continue to do what he did and be consistent."
In three seasons in the big leagues, Gray has never faced the White Sox.
--Field Level Media