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Sale, Thornton can’t get job done in Sox loss

Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM

So now what?

Twelve games into the season, the White Sox have no closer, no defined roles leading up to him and more demoralizing losses than manager Ozzie Guillen can stomach.

Twelve runs allowed in 12 ninth innings and four blown saves by left-hander Matt Thornton — the unproven heir apparent to Bobby Jenks — left Guillen wondering where to turn next.

“I don’t have a closer,’’ Guillen said, tipping his chair over backward as he walked away in a huff from a shorter-than-usual postgame news conference.

Thornton was supposed to be the guy, but after failing in three opportunities to save a game, Guillen gave prized rookie Chris Sale a shot Wednesday against the Oakland Athletics at U.S. Cellular Field.

Protecting a three-run lead, Sale gave up hits to the three hitters he faced — Conor Jackson, Josh Willingham and Hideki Matsui — and all of them scored. The A’s added three more runs in the 10th against Thornton for a stunning 7-4 victory.

“When you have a bad bullpen, that’s what happens,’’ Guillen said. “That’s the third time it happened. I wish I knew who I can bring in for the ninth. I mean now we try everyone in one inning. No more excuses.’’

Sale had pitched two scoreless innings Tuesday night in the Sox’ only win of the three-game series, and Guillen had said before the game that he’d try not to use him. But Sale (7.36 ERA) said pitching coach Don Cooper asked him before the game if he could go, and Sale was all in.

“As a player, I want the ball as much as I can,’’ said Sale, who slammed his glove in anger when he went to the dugout. “It just so happened that it didn’t work out for me [Wednesday].

“I had a job, and I’ve got to go out there and do it.”

“We had a three-run lead, and he said he can go,” Guillen said. “That’s the reason we put him there.’’

Righty Jesse Crain replaced Sale and walked Daric Barton before striking out Kurt Suzuki. With lefty batter Ryan Sweeney pinch-hitting, Guillen called on Thornton for another save opportunity, and it started well with a strikeout before he gave up a two-run single to ninth-place hitter Cliff Pennington that tied the game.

After Adam Dunn, Paul Konerko and Carlos Quentin went three up, three down in the ninth against Grant Balfour, Thornton walked two in the 10th and gave up an RBI single to Coco Crisp and a two-run single to Barton.

“Oh, man,’’ Thornton said. “There’s nothing to even describe it right now. Frustration is pretty high. Just keep on working and battling and get back to what I do best, going out and attacking hitters and making pitches. Right now, I’m not making good-enough pitches.’’

Two days after Mark Buehrle’s eight-inning scoreless gem went for naught, John Danks was denied his first win despite eight strong innings. Danks (3.15 ERA) gave up one run, five hits and three walks and struck out seven.

“Obviously these are games we should win and we feel like we’re going to win,’’ Danks said. “With that said, we know we’re going to win these games over the course of the season. We’re going to win these games. It sucks now, but .  .  . we’re gonna win these games.

“We have way too many good arms down there to not do it.’’

Guillen was making his way to the airport to be with family in Miami during the day off. He can use a day to sort through his bullpen woes.

“At this point, you’re just scratching your head and second-guessing yourself for what you’re doing wrong,’’ he said, “bringing people to the mound with a three-run lead for a third time, and we can’t hold the lead. That’s not a good sign. Have we got the people out there with the arms? Yes. Have we got the people that can do that? Yes, there’s no doubt in my mind.’’

Asked to identify what problems his relievers are having, an agitated Guillen said, “What the hell am I going to see? I see the same s--- you guys see.’’

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