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Matt Thornton: Bad time for a skid

Dayan Viciedo gets hit by pitch with bases loaded thscored Adam Dunn fourth inning Thursday night. | Scott Stewart~Sun-Times

Dayan Viciedo gets hit by a pitch with the bases loaded that scored Adam Dunn in the fourth inning on Thursday night. | Scott Stewart~Sun-Times

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The facts: 7:10, Ch. 26, 670-AM, 97.5-FM.

The starters: Jeremy Hellickson (9-10, 3.20 ERA) vs. Gavin Floyd (10-11, 4.56).

Updated: October 29, 2012 6:58AM

There’s no good time to play bad baseball.

And there’s no worse time than late September.

Unfortunately for the White Sox, that is what’s happening now.

“It’s definitely terrible timing,’’ veteran reliever Matt Thornton said before the Sox took their untimely run of seven losses in the last eight games into Thursday night’s meeting with the red-hot Tampa Bay Rays. “It’s the rule of a season, and we’re playing bad baseball at a really bad time of the season. It’s not April, May or June anymore; it’s the end of September, and we’ve taken a three-game lead to a one-game deficit.’’

Before the Sox took the field, the Tigers raised their lead to 11/2 games with a 5-4 win against the Royals in their home finale on Thursday afternoon. The Sox’ 5-4 win against the Tigers that widened their lead to three games on Sept. 17 feels like a half-season ago.

“When we were up by three, we were never comfortable,’’ Thornton said. “It wasn’t like Cincinnati being up 11 or 12. We knew Detroit had a good team. We had a little cushion, but we knew we had to play good baseball to maintain that lead.’’

Save it

Manager Robin Ventura set the tone for his team-speech pattern when he first addressed the players in spring training. It was brief, well-received and respected by the Sox. Some called it the best they had ever heard.

Ventura likely won’t be different now, even with the team’s grip on first place slipping with six games left in the season.

“If you need to be told what to do or you need a pep talk right now,’’ Adam Dunn said, “then you might as well walk out that door.’’

A.J. still going strong

Catcher A.J. Pierzynski went into Thursday’s game with 76 RBI, one short of his career high with the San Francisco Giants in 2004. He led AL catchers with 27 homers (career high) and a .511 slugging percentage and was second in innings caught (1,036) and games caught (122) through Wednesday.

‘‘I feel great, physically,’’ Pierzynski, 35, said. “For catching as many games as I catch and as many years as I’ve been doing it, I feel as good as I can possibly feel. Hopefully there’s an extra month in there that wears me out.’’

Without the extra month — he’s talking postseason — Pierzynski’s career as a Sox player could be over after eight seasons. He’s about to become a free agent.

This and that

Floridian Tim Smith, the beneficiary of a replacement pair of prosthetic legs from Sox right-hander Gavin Floyd and Floyd’s wife, Leanna, was Floyd’s guest in the Sox’ clubhouse. Floyd, who is 4-1 with a 2.57 ERA in five career starts against the Rays, will start against them Friday.

◆ Ventura has not named a starter for Sunday. It’s Francisco Liriano’s turn.

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