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Before Thursday's 4-3 White Sox victory, manager Ozzie Guillen was askedyet againif Billy Koch was his closer.
"Yes, right now he is," Guillen saidyet again.
Andyet againwhen it came time for the closer to come into a game to nail down a victory in the ninth inning, Koch wasn't on the mound.
Guillen summoned Damaso Marte to handle the ninth inning and avoid a three-game sweep by the Yankees. He earned his second savetops on the teamwith an eventful inning that featured a game-ending double play with runners on first and third.
"I don't want to answer this question anymore," Guillen said. "Whoever throws the ball in the ninth, he will be the closer."
Of course, if that had been the answer all along, there wouldn't be much need to keep asking the question. Guillen has said one thing consistentlyKoch is his closer unless he felt more comfortable using someone else.
Thursday, with Jorge Posada, Ruben Sierra and Hideki Matsui coming uptwo switch-hitters and a leftyGuillen felt more comfortable with the left-handed Marte. Guillen also wanted to keep left-handed slugger Jason Giambiwho didn't starton the bench.
Posada, who came into the game hitting .333 with three home runs and nine RBIs in 18 at-bats against left-handers, singled to lead off the ninth. After Sierra flied out to left, Matsui singled Posada to third.
If Koch had been in the game, Yankees manager Joe Torre likely would have brought in Giambi. But Torre let the left-handed Travis Lee face Marte, who got a ground ball to short to start the game-ending double play.
Interestingly, left-handers are only 2-for-16 against Koch, while right-handers are 6-for-14 with a home run.
"I can't put myself in the game," Koch said. "That's Ozzie's call. We won the game. If we win and I don't pitch, I'm happy."
Lost in the "Who's my closer?" show was another fine outing by Sox starter Scott Schoeneweis, who won his second straight and turned in his third straight quality start.
Schoeneweis helped himself by holding the top four hitters in the Yankees' lineupDerek Jeter, Bernie Williams, Alex Rodriguez and Gary Sheffieldto no hits in 12 at-bats.
"For me it's just a matter of trusting myself and my stuff," he said.
With Sandy Alomar out of the starting lineup because of the birth of his daughter earlier in the day, Schoeneweis had Miguel Olivo as his catcher for the first time in the regular season.
"The amount of times I threw to him in spring training, mentally we both struggled a little bit," Schoeneweis said. "I just tried to keep it simple, let him call a good game and hit my spots."
Yankees starter Mike Mussina has struggled all month, and the Sox jumped on him in the first inning for three runs on Magglio Ordonez's RBI-ground out and Ross Gload's two-run double.
After the Yankees cut the lead to 3-2 with two runs in the third, Joe Crede hit his second home run of the season off Mussina in the sixth to give the Sox a two-run cushion at 4-2.
As he had in his first two starts, Schoeneweis faltered late. Posada led off the seventh with a double and scored on a pair of ground outs to make it 4-3. After a walk and hit batsman, Schoeneweis gave way to Cliff Politte, who retired Jeter on a ground out to end that threat and got the Sox through the eighth.
That set up the question of the night: Marte or Koch to nail it down? "How many teams in baseball have a real closer?" Guillen asked. "It's easy to manage the Yankees with Mariano Rivera. You close your eyes and he gets the job done. I felt better with Marte."
At least he did Thursday. Whether he will Friday or another night will be answered when the times comes.