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.
The Associated Press News Service
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