The Chicago White Sox and Cleveland Indians were first-place teams at one point this season, but they'll both play their final game of 2012 on Wednesday night.
While neither team has much to play for, Indians interim manager Sandy Alomar Jr. likely wants to make a lasting impression before interviewing for the permanent job later this week. The White Sox's Adam Dunn , meanwhile, would love to avoid a dubious record.
Cleveland looked like it might contend for its second AL Central title in 11 years during a 40-day stay in first place. Even after they dropped out of the lead, the Indians (68-93) were only 3 1/2 games back July 26 before falling apart.
They lost 11 straight after that - one shy of matching the franchise record set in 1931 - and 28 of 33 to fall 17 1/2 games out of first. That swoon cost Manny Acta his job Thursday, and Alomar Jr. took over for the final six games.
Cleveland closer Chris Perez said Tuesday that he thought Acta's laid-back style didn't help and the Indians need a more passionate leader.
"August wasn't baseball, it was pathetic - in all aspects," Perez said. "I'm not saying that a change earlier would have done anything, but sometimes we pressed the panic button. Why? A lot of things left you kind of scratching your head."
Alomar could get the chance to fill that role and is expected to make his case to the Indians on Thursday. The team is also slated to interview former Boston manager Terry Francona the next day.
"Anybody would want Terry," Alomar said. "What's not to like? I respect him, but I feel I am ready, too."
Dunn, meanwhile, could get the chance to help end a disappointing season for the White Sox (84-77) on a positive note. Chicago had a three-game lead over Detroit on Sept. 18 before dropping 11 of 14.
The slugger had two strikeouts in Tuesday's 4-3 loss in 12 innings, leaving him one shy of matching Mark Reynolds ' major league record of 223 set with Arizona in 2009.
Like Reynolds, though, Dunn has topped 40 home runs while racking up those strikeouts after hitting only 11 in 2011. He's 2 for 2 with a homer and no strikeouts in three plate appearances against David Huff (3-0, 2.86 ERA).
Huff is hoping to return to the Indians' rotation next year after spending much of this season in the minors. He has tried to help his cause by winning consecutive outings, including 8-5 over Kansas City on Friday.
The left-hander is 2-1 with a 6.95 ERA in four starts against the White Sox, with the most recent coming Sept. 8, 2011.
Travis Hafner might play his final game with the Indians on Wednesday as the club is not expected to pick up his $13 million option after this season, his 10th in Cleveland. He hit a tying pinch-hit homer in the ninth inning Tuesday and Jason Donald drove in the winning run.
White Sox first baseman Paul Konerko might also get a chance to play before undergoing surgery to remove a bone fragment in his left wrist Thursday.
"The sooner the better," Konerko told the team's official website.
If he does get a chance to hit, Konerko will try to help Gavin Floyd (11-11, 4.47) finish with a winning record for the first time since he was a career-best 17-8 in 2008 for the White Sox.
Floyd gave up one run and two hits over five innings in a 3-1 win over Tampa Bay on Friday. He won his only start against the Indians this season despite allowing five runs and 10 hits over five innings of a 12-6 victory May 27.
|Chicago White Sox|
|September 07, 2012||Adam Dunn||Day-to-Day||Strained right oblique|
|August 27, 2012||Gavin Floyd||15-Day DL||Right elbow flexor strain|
|August 27, 2012||Gavin Floyd||15-Day DL||Right elbow flexor strain|
|August 25, 2012||Dayan Viciedo||Day-to-Day||Right shoulder soreness|
|August 19, 2012||Kevin Youkilis||Day-to-Day||Sore right knee|
|August 18, 2012||Alejandro De Aza||15-Day DL||Bruised left ribcage|
|September 27, 2012||Ubaldo Jimenez||Day-to-Day||Sprained right ankle|
|September 26, 2012||Asdrubal Cabrera||Day-to-Day||Left game - strained back|
|September 19, 2012||Asdrubal Cabrera||Day-to-Day||Left game - sore right wrist|
|September 15, 2012||Jason Donald||Day-to-Day||Right forearm contusion|
|September 13, 2012||Michael Brantley||Day-to-Day||Sore left pectoral muscle|
|September 09, 2012||Asdrubal Cabrera||Day-to-Day||Left game - sore right wrist|
CLEVELAND (AP) -- Dan Johnson doesn't save himself for the season's final game. It just looks that way.
Johnson hit his first three homers of the year and his teammates hit two more as the Chicago White Sox routed the Cleveland Indians 9-0 on Wednesday night.
"There's not much of a greater feeling for me than watching a ball going over the fence as you jog to first," said Johnson, who hit 28 homers in the minors this year before the White Sox purchased his contract on Sept. 1.
Gavin Floyd (12-11) gave up three hits over seven innings. He struck out six, one short of getting 145 strikeouts for the fifth straight season despite being on the disabled list twice.
Johnson twice connected for two-run homers off David Huff (3-1). His 424-foot shot in the second inning was his first in more than a year. His second made it 7-0 in the fifth, two batters after Paul Konerko hit his 26th.
It was Johnson's fifth career multihomer game and first time he hit three. He's the first player to hit three in a game against Cleveland since Konerko in July 2009.
Dayan Viciedo hit his 25th homer, third in three nights and sixth against Cleveland in the ninth, followed by Johnson's third.
Johnson had not hit a homer since his dramatic pinch-hit shot for Tampa Bay saved the Rays' 2011 season on the final night. His two-out, two-strike solo drive in the ninth inning tied the score at 7. The Rays had trailed 7-0 and beat the New York Yankees 8-7 in 12 innings to make the playoffs.
"When I hit my first one tonight, somebody said, `What is it about game 162 and you?"' Johnson said. "To be honest, I wasn't thinking about that.
"When I went up in the ninth, A.J. (Pierzynski) told me that Longo (Tampa Bay's Evan Longoria ) hit three tonight. I was not going to let him show me up."
Johnson hopes he can build on his performance next year, whether it is with the White Sox or another organization.
"I always say, `Play every at-bat like it is your last,' " Johnson said. "I went out and gave it my best. I try to do that every day."
The Indians finished at 68-94, their third season of 90-plus losses in four years, though the young team played hard in the final week and went 3-3 for interim manager Sandy Alomar Jr.
"I gained a ton of experience in six days," said Alomar, who will interview for the fulltime job on Thursday. "I'm kind of glad I got the opportunity to manage the team. This was a wonderful experience for myself."
Terry Francona , who guided Boston to World Series titles in 2004 and 2007, will make his pitch to the club Friday He's seeking to return to managing after being dismissed a year ago when the Red Sox folded and were edged out by Tampa Bay.
"I can't match Terry's resume and only control what I can do," Alomar said before the game. "I am confident I can do the job."
Chicago went 4-11 down the stretch to place second to Detroit after leading the AL Central by three games on Sept. 18. Robin Ventura 's 85 wins are the most for a first-year White Sox manager since Gene Lamont won 86 in 1992. Lamont is the Tigers' third-base coach.
Before the game, general manager Kenny Williams addressed the discouraging end to an otherwise good season.
"We didn't win enough games, so we're going home," Williams said. "I can't say enough about these guys for their effort. I can be only so disappointed for not closing this thing out. All we had to do was take care of business on our last road trip. We'd be getting prepared for the playoffs.
"You have to play your whole schedule. No excuses and none needed. They literally gave everything they could."
Floyd allowed only a two-out single by Lonnie Chisenhall in the first until Jason Kipnis lined a one-out single in the sixth. The right-hander is 4-1 the past two years and 8-4 in his career against Cleveland.
Hector Gimenez bounced a two-out RBI single up the middle to make it 3-0 in the fifth.
Huff gave up nine hits over 4 2-3 innings. Only three runs charged to him were earned. A throwing error by third baseman Chisenhall made Chicago's entire four-run fifth unearned.
NOTES: Konerko is due to have left wrist surgery Thursday. ... Cleveland RF Shin-Soo Choo extended his career-best hitting streak to 13 games with an eighth-inning single. ... Chicago 1B Adam Dunn did not play, finishing with 222 strikeouts, one shy of the major-league record set by Mark Reynolds with Arizona in 2009. ... The Indians' 110 stolen bases are their most since taking 113 in 2000. ... Cleveland scored 667 runs in 2012, down 37 from 2011. ... DH Travis Hafner went 1 for 4 and got a standing ovation in his final at-bat of what could have been his last game for Cleveland. The Indians likely will pay the oft-injured 35-year-old a $2.7 million buyout instead of picking up his $13 million option for 2013. ... Cleveland's total home attendance of 1,603,596 was its second-lowest since 1992, not quite 213,000 ahead of 2010.