Copyright of The Lewiston Morning Tribune
Downey of the Chicago Tribune
Foulke is a former Lewis-Clark State College standout
BOSTON -- Although it is Curt Schilling whose work as a medical marvel has been otherworldly, it is a Red Sox relief pitcher, Keith Foulke, who recently was described by Boston's general manager, Theo Epstein, with the word "superhuman."
What rated this rave was Foulke's having thrown 100 pitches in three consecutive playoff victories over the New York Yankees. Plus the fact that after Game 2 of the World Series here Sunday, Foulke still has not yet given up a run in this entire postseason.
"He's a huge, huge weapon for us," manager Terry Francona said before the game.
He was a weapon that was right on target again, retiring all four Cardinals he faced Sunday night in a 6-2 victory that put the Red Sox up 2-0 in the World Series.
When you think of the Boston Red Sox, a lot of different things come to mind.
Relief pitching is not one of them.
Starting pitching, yes. Long before this World Series with the likes of Schilling, who was masterful again in Game 2, and Pedro Martinez, who will go Tuesday night in St. Louis, there were Red Sox aces like Cy Young, Lefty Grove, Roger Clemens and even Babe Ruth.
There were years, many forget, when men better known for their work on behalf of other towns did a little pitching in a Boston uniform. Tom Seaver, Juan Marichal and Fergie Jenkins, to name a few.
Yet you could stump many a friend by asking him to name a Red Sox star reliever.
Dennis Eckersley? Not him. Eck's name is nowhere to be found on a list of Boston's career saves leaders, whereas he did start 191 of the franchise's games on his way to the Hall of Fame.
Bob Stanley is by far Boston's leader in this category, but he is more notorious in these parts for a 1986 World Series wild pitch. Dick Radatz? Well, 104 lifetime saves do not make a legend. Tom Gordon? He defected to the enemy, the Yankees, the same way Ruth and Clemens did.
Foulke feels very much at home here.
He looks around and likes what he sees. In just a few months playing for Boston, he has encountered a fervor that he knew only intermittently in six seasons on the South Side of Chicago, where the pitcher born in Rapid City, S.D., once seemed on the verge of monumental achievements for the White Sox.
"They are everywhere," Foulke says of Red Sox fans. "You don't go down the street a city block without seeing someone in some type of Red Sox attire.
"They're in every road city too. They show up in tremendous numbers. They are vocal. It's just a passion that they have for this team and this organization that is unrivaled."
Foulke, who turned 32 last week, has been a bullpen success for quite some time. He had 42 saves for the 2001 White Sox. He gave them everything he had, even to the point of taking part in a brawl on the field once against the Detroit Tigers that left the pitcher with a five-stitch cut below his left eye.
Even after White Sox general manager Ken Williams traded him, Foulke continued to shine. He came back to U.S. Cellular Field in an Oakland uniform to save the 2003 All-Star Game, working the last inning for the American League and nailing down home-field advantage for, as things turned out, the Yankees in that autumn's World Series.
There was one thing Foulke never has known before now, however, and that is postseason success.
He was 0-1 with an ERA of 11.57 for the White Sox when they were swept by Seattle in the divisional playoffs of 2000.
And in the eighth inning of a 2003 playoff game, Foulke let Oakland's chances slip away by serving up a two-run double to a Boston hitter he would later come to think of a little more kindly, one David Ortiz. The Red Sox signed him as a free agent two months later.
"I learned something about him along the way when I first met him in Oakland last year," Francona said. "I knew he was a pretty good pitcher and that he had had a little bit of a tough year (2002) with the White Sox. But just watching the way he did things in Oakland, I really respected the way Keith did things, the way he approached his job.
"I'd watch him on a couple of occasions when he would give up a lead. He would have no intention of coming out of a game. He was going back out there and winning that game for you. That's all that was on his mind. That showed me a lot about his character."
Foulke was brought into Game 1 of the World Series in a sticky situation, but he pitched brilliantly, particularly in a strikeout of a dangerous hitter, Jim Edmonds.
"If Foulke doesn't get Edmonds there, that's a whole different game," Francona said.
A similar situation cropped up in Game 2, when even with a 6-2 lead, Francona didn't trust the way the Cardinals were swinging and decided to get Foulke in there.
Once again, he blew a third strike past Edmonds.
Foulke's pitching has been so impressive, the White Sox must be eating their hearts out that they let him go. He was approached just before the World Series by a reporter who began a question with, "Keith, would you talk about ...?"
"Kenny Williams?" Foulke interrupted, with a laugh.
No, not that. About why suddenly he seemed so, well, unhittable.
"Well, I don't know about unhittable. As a pitcher or a player, you just have to be able to lock in, concentrate, go out and do your job. I think failing a lot in the playoffs in the past couple of years has helped me to be mentally stronger."
So far, he has made it look easy.
"There's nothing going to be easy about this," Foulke said. "And you know what? You wouldn't want it to be easy. This is the World Series. It shouldn't be easy."
2003 - present
Signed in the off-season with the the Boston Red Sox. Finished the regular season with a 5-3 record and 32 saves in 39 opportunities. Pitched in 72 games, recording a miniscule 2.17 ERA and 79 strikeouts. Currently pitching in the World Series, leading the way for the Red Sox in the post-season by not allowing an earned run in 9 appearances.
Finished the 2003 season posting a 9-1 record.....with a 2.08 era.......appearing in 72 games, saving 43 games in 48 opportunities. Keith struck out 88 while walking only 20 batters.
Recorded his 100th career save on September 26 vs. Boston and ranks third in White Sox history in saves (Bobby Thigpen, 201 and Roberto Hernandez, 161)...earned his 99th save on September 17 vs. Kansas City to move past Hall of Famer Hoyt Wilhelm in Sox history...that save was his first since June 27...posted eight holds and was 11 for 14 (78.6%) in save opportunities...tied Antonio Osuna for the club lead with 14 opportunities...three Sox relievers reached double figures in save opportunities (Damaso Marte had 12)...his 84.0 (100 for 119) save percentage is the highest among White Sox relievers since 1989...it also ranks 11th all-time, just behind Dennis Eckersley (84.9%)...ranks fourth in Sox history in games finished (216) and 10th in games pitched (346)...allowed just three of his 21 inherited runners to score (14.3%) in 2002 and has allowed just 32 of 145 (22.1%) inherited runners to score in his career...first batters hit .231 (15 for 65) and he has allowed a .215 (71 for 330) average to first batters in his career...led all American League relievers with an average of just 1.51 walks per nine innings (13 bb in 77.2 ip)...also ranked among the A.L. relief leaders in strikeout-to-walk ratio (2nd, 4.46:1), baserunners per nine innings (6th, 9.27), opponents on-base percentage (7th, .263) and innings pitched (t-10th, 77.2)...threw 15.0 consecutive scoreless innings in September, the longest streak by a White Sox pitcher in 2002, and did not allow an earned run in his final 17.2 innings...allowed one earned run over his last 31.1 innings (0.29 ERA) and three in last 38.2 (0.70)...was 1-0 with two saves in three chances and a 0.74 ERA (3 er in 36.2 ip) after the All-Star Break...opponents hit .225, up from .199 in 2001, but just .191 (25 for 131) after the break...left-handers hit .266 (38 for 143) and right-handers .185 (27 for 146)...ERA was 1.21 (5 er in 37.1 ip) during the day compared to 4.46 (20 er in 40.1 ip) at night...posted a 3.09 ERA (12 er in 35.0 ip) at home and a 2.74 ERA (13 er in 42.2 ip) on the road...had a streak of 12.2 scoreless innings ended on August 17 at Oakland...that was the last earned run he allowed in 2002 (15.0 ip)...last walk allowed came on August 1 (25.1 ip)...posted a 4.83 ERA (22 er in 41.0 ip) in the first half...through May, was 0-3 with eight saves in 10 chances and a 5.56 ERA (14 er in 22.2 ip)...after June 1, he went 2-1 with three saves in four chances and a 1.80 ERA (11 er in 55.0 ip)...had a streak of 33 consecutive save opportunities converted at home ended on May 29 vs. New York...streak dated back to September 1, 2000...went a season-high 2.2 innings on June 16 at the Chicago Cubs...went 2.0 or more innings 12 times...struck out a season-high three on three different occasions (last on July 24 vs. Minnesota)...struck out at least one batter in 11 straight appearances from August 17 to September 21 (15 strikeouts)...13 walks allowed were a career low...walked only three batters after July 1...had a streak of 15 consecutive saves dating back to 2001 snapped on April 3 at Seattle, tying for the third longest in White Sox history...his career best is 19 straight (2000-01).
1994- Began professional career at Rookie Everett...made four starts, going 2-0 with a 0.93 ERA...struck out 22 (10.2 per nine innings). 1995- was named to the California League Postseason All-Star Team...his 13 victories tied for most in the Giants organization...led Giants minor-leaguers with 168 strikeouts...was named CL Pitcher of the Week for July 23-29...struck out 16 on August 23 vs. High Desert...went 1-1 with a 3.38 ERA in two CL playoff starts. 1996- was named Texas League Pitcher of the Year at Double-A Shreveport and ranked in the top two in six TL categories...led the league in ERA (2.76) and innings pitched (182.2) and ranked second in strikeouts (129), wins (12) and complete games (4)...named to both the midseason and postseason All-Star teams...went at least 6.0 innings in 24 of his 27 starts, including the last 12...named TL Player of the Week for April 29-May 5...selected Giants Double-A Player of the Month for May after going 4-2 with a 2.53 ERA (13 er in 46.1 ip) and two complete games (one shutout). 1997- was recalled by the Giants on May 20...made his major-league debut on May 21 vs. Colorado, tossing 4.0 innings (3 er) in relief...posted a no decision in his first career start on May 30 at Atlanta (2 er in 4.2 ip)...earned his first career victory on June 9 vs. Florida, allowing one run on three hits while striking out a career-high eight over 6.1 innings...was optioned back to Phoenix on June 9 and recalled for the second time on June 24...dropped his next four decisions over six games (11.14 ERA) and was optioned to Phoenix again on July 21...was acquired by the White Sox on July 31 and assigned to Triple-A Nashville, where he made one start before being recalled on August 14...converted 3 of 5 save opportunities and posted five holds with the Sox...limited right-handers to a .194 (12 for 62) average...made his Sox debut with 2.2 innings on August 15 vs. Oakland...recorded his first Sox victory on August 29 vs. Houston...earned his first career save on August 18 vs. Seattle, tossing 4.0 scoreless innings...began the season at Triple-A Phoenix and was 4-3 with a 4.18 ERA in nine starts when the Giants called the first time...lasted at least 6.0 innings in 9 of his 12 outings and made eight quality starts with the Firebirds. 1998- his 54 appearances tied for second on the club...opponents batted .213 (51 for 239) and he allowed 10.3 baserunners per nine innings, ninth among American League relievers...posted 13 holds...was 3-1 with a 3.13 ERA at Comiskey Park...in 18 games after the All-Star Break, was 2-1 with a 2.45 ERA...opposing right-handers batted .174 (24 for 138)...first batters were 10 for 50 (.200)...posted consecutive scoreless innings streaks of 7.1 (May 9-17) and 7.2 (April 15-May 4)...last appearance came on August 27 vs. Baltimore before he was shut down due to a bone spur in his right shoulder...underwent surgery in late August at Palos Community Hospital. 1999- was ranked as the top reliever in the American League over a two-year period from 1998-99 based on a system devised by the Elias Sports Bureau to determine free agency compensation...his average rank in those six categories among the 114 AL relievers considered was 12.52, ahead of Cleveland's Mike Jackson (13.65)...ranked 17th in the AL Rolaids Relief Man standings with 19 points...ranked among the AL relief leaders in the following categories: strikeouts (1st, 123); ERA (2nd, 2.22); baserunners per nine innings (2nd, 8.2); innings pitched (3rd, 105.1); opponents average (4th, .188); holds (t-4th, 22); and average with runners on base (7th, .192)...became the first Sox pitcher since Goose Gossage in 1975 (130) to lead AL relievers in strikeouts...his 123 strikeouts were 20 more than his nearest AL competitor (Cleveland's Paul Shuey) and tied for second on the Sox, just two behind leader Mike Sirotka (209.0 ip)...compiled a 1.38 ERA (8 er in 52.0 ip) after the All-Star Break, second only to Mariano Rivera (1.34) among AL relievers...allowed two runs over his last 30.1 innings (0.59 ERA)...compiled a streak of 25.1 consecutive scoreless innings from August 14 to September 22 (17 games)...posted a 1.87 ERA (17 er in 82.0 ip) over his final 54 appearances...converted 9 of 13 (69.2%) save opportunities...limited opponents to a .188 average, including a .158 mark in the second half ... opponents batted .160 (15 for 94) with runners in scoring position and .152 (7 for 46) with runners in scoring position and two outs...averaged 10.5 strikeouts per nine innings...posted a 5.9 strikeout-to-walk ratio...issued just 1.8 walks per nine innings...allowed only 3 of 23 (13.0%) inherited runners to score...first batters were 15 for 65 (.231)...went at least 2.0 innings in 32 of his 67 outings (47.8%)...struck out six on June 3 at Toronto (2.1 ip) and September 8 at Anaheim (2.2 ip), his career best as a reliever. 2000-ranked among the American League relief leaders in runners per nine innings (1st, 9.2), relief innings (3rd, 88.0), opponents batting average (4th, .207), save percentage (5th, .872), saves (t-5th, 34), games finished (t-5th, 58), games (t-7th, 72) and ERA (8th, 2.97)...his 34 saves were 21 more than his career total entering the season...tied for fourth in the AL Rolaids Relief Man standings with 102 points...17.7 percent of his saves were tough, the fifth-highest percentage in baseball...opponents batted .212 with runners in scoring position, ninth-best in the AL...compiled a 4.1:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio...for the second straight season, was ranked as the top reliever in the AL over a two-year period from 1999-00 based on a system devised by the Elias Sports Bureau to determine free agency compensation...his average rank in those six categories among the AL relievers considered was 12.52, ahead of Cleveland's Mike Jackson (13.65)...yielded a .339 slugging and .261 on-base percentage...went more than 1.0 inning for 14 of his 34 saves...converted his final 12 save chances and 15 of his last 16...only 4 of his 23 (17.4%) inherited runners scored ...compiled a team-best streak of 18.2 consecutive scoreless innings from April 18 to May 21...converted 13 consecutive save chances from April 7 to June 9...surrendered six runs on June 25 vs. New York, three less than his season total entering the game...served a three-game suspension from May 5 to 7 for his role in an on-field altercation vs. Detroit on April 22...suffered a five-stitch cut below his left eye during the brawl...was a member of a touring U.S. team that played an eight-game exhibition series in Japan...went 0-0 with a 1.50 ERA (1 er in 6.0 innings) in four outings during the series...walked one and struck out five. 2001- recorded a career-high 42 saves, the second-highest total in White Sox history behind Bobby Thigpen's major-league record 57 in 1990...became the third reliever in Sox history to post 30 saves in back-to-back seasons, joining Thigpen (1988-91) and Roberto Hernandez (1995-96)...converted 26 of his final 27 save opportunities, including his final 14...also compiled consecutive save streaks of 12, nine and seven...led all American League relievers with a 93.3 (42 for 45) save percentage and ranked among the leaders in saves (3rd), ERA (3rd, 2.33), appearances (4th, 72), strikeouts (5th, 75), innings pitched (5th, 81.0), hits per nine innings (7th, 6.33), baserunners per nine innings (8th, 9.7) and opponents average (8th, .199)...also ranked among the league leaders in games finished (1st, 69), save chances (3rd, 45) and losses (3rd, 9)...ranked fourth in the AL Rolaids Relief Man Standings with 114 points...limited left-handers to a .212 (33 for 156) average, ninth in the AL, and first batters to a .136 (9 for 66) mark, third in the AL...right-handers batted just .183 (24 for 131)...compiled a 1.96 ERA after the All-Star Break compared to 2.64 in the first half...went 4-5 with a 1.24 ERA and 23 saves in 23 chances at home compared to 0-4 with a 3.62 ERA and 19 saves in 22 chances on the road...allowed one run in his final 23.2 innings at home (0.38 ERA)...monthly ERA was 2.31 or lower in five of six months, including a 1.80 mark in April, 1.64 in July and 1.69 in August...lone exception was a 4.30 ERA in June...his 12 saves in August were the second most in major-league history behind Bobby Thigpen's 13 in 1990...earned his 40th save on September 26 vs. Minnesota...career-best streak of converting 19 straight save chances ended on May 20 at Oakland...streak was the third-longest in club history, one short of the record shared by Roberto Hernandez (1996) and Matt Karchner (1997-98)...was 7 for 7 in save chances vs. Cleveland, 7 for 7 vs. Kansas City and 6 for 6 vs. Texas.