KEITH FOULKE – Sully Baseball Unsung Post Season Hero of October 18

Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images Sport

Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images Sport

OCTOBER 18, 2004 – American League Championship Series Game 5

My fellow Red Sox fans and I are always willing to talk about the 2004 ALCS. An easy way to prompt a conversation with a Sox fan about those 7 games against the Yankees is to say something like “hello” or “how are you?” or “what is new?”

40 minutes later and we have broken down each detail of the first Major League team to come back from a 3-0 hole in the post season.

Now ask us to list the great moments and heroes of that October and there will be a plethora of answers. Dave Roberts and his steal. David Ortiz and his three walk off hits. Curt Schilling and his bloody sock. Bill Mueller driving home Roberts. Manny Ramirez being Manny and winning the World Series MVP. Pedro Martinez shutting out the Cardinals in his final Red Sox game.

Keep listing heroes and you will hear about Derek Lowe’s three clinching wins and Mark Bellhorn’s clutch homers and Tim Wakefield pitching his guts out in relief.

Eventually you will hear about Keith Foulke, getting the final out of the World Series. Make no mistake, however. If Keith Foulke was anything less than outstanding in the ALCS, all those great memories would have been wiped out and 2004 would have been just another year where the Yankees got the best of the Red Sox.

After the near miss of 2003, the Red Sox needed two pieces to their puzzle. They landed an ace to compliment Pedro Martinez by trading for Yankee slayer Curt Schilling. They also needed an anchor to their bullpen. To fill that role, they nabbed free agent Keith Foulke, who had a dominating All Star season for Oakland in 2003. Ironically one of the few blemishes on his resume was losing a playoff game to David Ortiz and the Red Sox.

Foulke was lights out all year and allowed Mike Timlin and Alan Embree to slide into set up roles and give the Red Sox one of the best bullpen’s in their team’s history.

When the inevitable rematch with the Yankees took place in the ALCS, the refortified Red Sox looked overmatched. Down 3-0 in the series and trailing the fourth game 4-3, Boston manager Terry Francona threw the proverbial book into the garbage and brought his closer Keith Foulke into the game behind and in the 7th. They needed to get out the red hot Hideki Matsui and Bernie Williams and keep the game close.

Foulke pitched brilliantly in Game 4, allowing 2 walks and no hits over 2 2/3 innings, striking out 3. The Red Sox rallied in the 9th to tie the game and won in the 12th on an Ortiz homer. Foulke threw 50 pitches and under normal circumstances would sit the next day. These were not normal circumstances.

On no days rest, Foulke was ready to go in Game 5. The Red Sox took a 2-1 lead into the 6th, but Pedro Martinez tired. A three run double by Derek Jeter gave the Yankees a 4-2 lead and only a sliding inning ending catch by Trot Nixon kept the Yankees from breaking it wide open.

In the top of the 8th, the Yankees went for the dagger. Miguel Cairo doubled and Jeter bunted him to third to set up the red hot trio of Alex Rodriguez, Gary Sheffield and Hideki Matsui.

In retrospect, the 2004 Red Sox were the gallant warriors who stared down the odds. But at the moment, they were a team that was 2 days removed from a 19-8 humiliation in Game 3. The Roberts steal and Game 4 comeback felt like the delaying of the inevitable. It was a face saving victory as they avoided a humiliating sweep. But the Yankee bats were poised to erupt again and the pennant celebration was only a few innings away. With 2 on and 2 outs, Francona again threw “the book” into the toilet and brought his closer in the 8th inning and down by two runs.

Foulke got Matsui, who was a lock to win the Series MVP, to fly out and end the inning. In the bottom of the 8th, the Red Sox staged another remarkable rally, highlighted by an Ortiz homer, more outstanding base running by Dave Roberts, a Trot Nixon hit and run and a Jason Varitek sacrifice fly.

Foulke pitched the ninth and quickly got two outs. But Ruben Sierra walked on 5 pitches. Then with 2 strikes, Tony Clark, subbing for Jason Giambi at first, hit a long drive to right field. It was either going to be a go ahead homer or an RBI double. Instead the ball bounced barely over the wall for a ground rule double, preventing Sierra from scoring.

Given a reprieve by the baseball Gods, Foulke got Cairo to pop up and end the threat. He would be lifted after the ninth and the rest of Boston’s bullpen, especially Tim Wakefield, picked up where Foulke left off, winning in the 14th.

With no travel day between Games 5 and 6 because of weather, Foulke appeared in Game 6, once again with the season on the line. He was a little shakier in Game 6 but struck out Tony Clark to end the game.

He would throw in three straight days for a total of 5 innings allowing no runs, 1 hit, 5 walks and 6 strikeouts, with the season on the line for practically each of his 100 pitches.

Mercifully for Keith Foulke, the Red Sox blew out the Yankees in the finale and he could rest. He would eventually clinch the World Series and be awarded the Babe Ruth Award for post season MVP.

Foulke was never the same pitcher after 2004 and his three year stretch in Boston did not end well as he clashed with the fans and the media. Thankfully, as the years passed, Red Sox fans have embraced Foulke and the feeling has been mutual as their former closer has returned to Fenway to thunderous ovations. Fans recognized that he may have sacrificed his career for his remarkable post season performance in 2004.

And while the image of Foulke recording the final out of the Curse breaking World Series is etched into every Red Sox fan’s mind, it was his clutch relief in the ALCS that set up the great Boston comeback. If he were merely good instead of excellent, there would have been nothing to celebrate in 2004.

That reason above all makes Keith Foulke the Sully Baseball Unsung Post Season Hero of October 18.



The REAL Reason the Red Sox turned it around. (Hint, it wasn’t their beards.)

AP Photo/Winslow Townson

AP Photo/Winslow Townson

As a Boston Red Sox fan, I am still buzzing. The beginning of theisoff season did not come with the prerequisite sadness when you get to see highlight videos of your team winning the who enchilada over and over and knowing that the entire winter your team will be hailed as the champs.

I love this Red Sox team.

I love this Red Sox team more than any team in their history with the exception of the 2004 squad.

No offense to the 2007 World Champions, but the out of the blue nature of this title, coming off the horrible collapse of 2011 and the spirit crushing 2012 Bobby Valentine debacle makes this a more special team.

But moving forward, if anyone wants to recreate the Red Sox turn around, it is best not to be distracted by the narrative and the feel good elements.

Some writers, including the great Kevin Kernan of the New York Post, are writing about the need for acquiring players of high character who are obsessed with winning.

There are no shortage of articles describing how John Farrell is such a breath of fresh air over the tense clubhouse of Bobby Valentine.

And the Red Sox collapse of 2011 seemed to be the worst possible product placement for fried chicken and beer in history.

Photo: Jessica Rinaldi - Reuters

Photo: Jessica Rinaldi – Reuters

People pointed to the blockbuster salary dump with the Dodgers as the starting point of the comeback. And there was the emotion at Fenway in the wake of the Marathon bombing as the Boston Strong rallying cry seemed to propel the Red Sox and the city from Big Papi’s F- bomb right through the final out of the World Series.

It is true there emotional factors that made the 2013 Red Sox uplifting to everyone but the most bitter Yankee fan and disappointed Cardinals fan.

But many teams have collapses, hire the wrong manager and sign fun loving guys who want to win.

Sure Jonny Gomes said on the first day of spring training “We’re one day closer to a parade.” But how is that different than someone getting spooked that a horoscope came true once after being inaccurate 1,000 days in a row?

I am guessing that every single team has at least one overly zealous player who declares this season to be the year they win it all. Every team down a bunch of games in a playoff series has one who thinks they are coming back.

We remember Jonny Gomes and Kevin Millar’s 2004 prediction because they came true. Does anyone remember Lou Piniella guaranteeing the 2001 Mariners were going to return to Seattle to play Game 6 of the ALCS?

Of course you don’t because they didn’t!

There is a much more tangible and a lot less romantic reason why the Red Sox turned it around so quickly. It is the same reason why the Red Sox finally toppled the Curse in 2004.

Drum roll:

Their pitching was better.

Down the stretch in 2011, what was the issue? Ignore the chicken and the beer. What was the culprit? Their starting pitching was dreadful in September when they collapsed. They finished the season losing 20 of their final 27 games.

Jon Lester gave them barely 5 innings a start and pitched to a 5.40 ERA in September.

John Lackey was having a historically horrible season and gave the Red Sox only 23 2/3 innings over his final 5 starts, about 4 2/3 per start. He finished the month with a 9.13 ERA.

Josh Beckett couldn’t give the Red Sox 6 innings per start as he finished September with a 5.48 ERA. Tim Wakefield barely gave them 5 innings a start in September, posting a .525 ERA. Erik BEdard averaged 4 innings a start to a 5.25 ERA. Rookie Kyle Weiland started three games in September and didn’t survive the fifth in any of them.

Clay Buchholz was on the disabled list and didn’t pitch in September.

With a starting rotation forcing the bullpen to throw 4 or 5 innings every night, it was no wonder that Jonathan Papelbon, Daniel Bard and company were exhausted by the end of the year.

In 2012, in the tense Bobby Valentine clubhouse, the awful pitching of the previous September continued.

Lester and Buchholz stayed relatively healthy, making 33 and 29 starts respectively. But Lester’s 4.82 ERA and Buchholz’s 4.56 mark showed they were not exactly pitching like All Stars.

Young Felix Doubront had some bright spots but saw his ERA balloon to 4.86 over 29 starts.

Before being dealt to the Dodgers, Beckett made 21 starts to a 5.23 ERA. John Lackey missed the entire season.

Reliever Daniel Bard was inexplicably put into the rotation where he finished with a 6.22 ERA. Aaron Cook and Daisuke Matsuzaka combined for 29 starts and a 6.51 ERA.

With Papelbon gone and Bard ruining his career as a starter, the closer was Alfredo Aceves, who somehow saved 25 games but was brutal with a 5.36 ERA in a short relief role.

How much of the brutal pitching staff was the fault of Bobby Valentine and how he handled it? I am not sure, but I do know that even a cloned John McGraw couldn’t manage a winning season with a staff that thin.



John Farrell arrived in 2013. The one time pitching coach for the Red Sox saw a turn in the fortune regarding the arms.

Lousy 2011 and mediocre 2012 Jon Lester was replaced by solid reliable Lester in 2013.

Injured and unreliable Clay Buchholz was swapped out with All Star Clay Buchholz with a 1.74 ERA over his 16 starts.

The fat, injured and dreadful John Lackey gave way to a lean and reliable Lackey.

And after failed attempts with Andrew Bailey and Joel Hanrahan in the closer role, Koji Uehara locked down the 9th inning and allowed the middle relievers to find their roles.

Without the turnaround in the pitching staff, all the inspiring speeches and beards would have been meaningless. The likes of Mike Napoli, Jonny Gomes and Stephen Drew would have been obscure Red Sox on forgotten teams, much like Dante Bichette, Billy Hatcher and Mike Easler were in the past.

Sure the clubhouse energy was better and the mood was terrific. They were winning. The starters were going deep. The relievers were closing out the game. And a lineup devoid of a legit MVP candidate was allowed to score enough runs to win without needing to bludgeon their opponents.

If a team wants to emulate this turnaround, grow all the beards you want and get as many rah rah guys as possible.

Without a turnaround in the pitching staff, they will be forgotten faster than the 1983 Red Sox.




The All Time Tim Wakefield Red Sox Teammate Roster… Home Grown and Acquired

Tim Wakefield’s career is over, falling just 6 wins short of Roger Clemens and Cy Young’s all time Red Sox mark. His time with the Red Sox deserves a salute.

In many ways, Tim Wakefield has had one of the most unique careers in Red Sox history. No person other than Johnny Pesky has interacted with more legends of the franchise. And Wakefield has done it as an active player.

He was teammates with two members of the 1986 squad and has been a teammate of every post strike Red Sox player.

He has connections to Red Sox players that is Kevin Bacon esque. He even was a teammate of a 1978 Red Sox player! (Albeit when Eck returned to finish his career in Boston.)

I was going to make a 25 man roster of great Red Sox players who were Wakefield’s teammates over his 17 years in Boston.

But I realized that he played with so many quintessential Red Sox players that I could actually make up TWO all time Rosters. One consisting only of players who originated in the Red Sox organization and those that were acquired from other teams.

Yup, it’s another Home Grown vs. Acquired Roster.

I am calling a player who started in the Red Sox organization as “Home Grown.” So that means Curt Schilling is on the Home Grown Team even though they picked him up from Arizona later in his career. They are my rules.

As always the Rosters will consist of a starter at each position, 5 starters, 5 relievers, 2 reserve infielders, 2 reserve outfielders, a back up catcher and a 25th man who could be any position.

The All Home Grown Red Sox Tim Wakefield Teammate Team

Starting Catcher – Scott Hatteberg

Teammates from 1995-2001

Starting First Baseman – Mo Vaughn

Teammates from 1995-1998

Starting Second Baseman – Dustin Pedroia

Teammates from 2006-2011

Starting Shortstop – Nomar Garciaparra

Teammates from 1996-2004

Starting Third Baseman – John Valentin

Teammates from 1995-2001

Starting Left Fielder – Mike Greenwell

Teammates from 1995-1996

Starting Center Fielder – Jacoby Ellsbury

Teammates from 2007-2011

Starting Right Fielder – Trot Nixon

Teammates from 1996-2006

Starting Designated Hitter – Kevin Youkilis

Teammates from 2004-2011

Starting Rotation

Roger Clemens

Teammates from 1995-1996

Jon Lester

Teammates from 2006-2011

Curt Schilling

Teammates from 2004-2007

Clay Buchholz

Teammates from 2007-2011

Aaron Sele

Teammates from 1995-1997


Jonathan Papelbon

Teammates from 2005-2011

Manny Delcarmen

Teammates from 2005-2010

Daniel Bard

Teammates from 2009-2011

Casey Fossum

Teammates from 2001-2003

Justin Masterson

Teammates from 2008-2009

The Bench

Reserve Infielder – Tim Naehring

Teammates 1995-1997

Reserve Infielder – Shea Hillenbrand

Teammates 2001-2003

Reserve Outfielder – Josh Reddick

Teammates 2009-2011

Reserve Outfielder – Donnie Sadler

Teammates 1998-2000

Reserve Catcher – Kelly Shoppach

Teammates in 2005

25th Man – Jed Lowrie

Teammates 2008-2011

The All Acquired Red Sox Tim Wakefield Teammate Team

Starting Catcher – Doug Mirabelli

Teammates from 2001-2007

Starting First Baseman – Kevin Millar

Teammates from 2003-2005

Starting Second Baseman – Todd Walker

Teammates in 2003

Starting Shortstop – Orlando Cabrera

Teammates in 2004

Starting Third Baseman – Mike Lowell

Teammates from 2006-2010

Starting Left Fielder – Manny Ramirez

Teammates from 2001-2008

Starting Center Fielder – Johnny Damon

Teammates from 2002-2005

Starting Right Fielder – Troy O’Leary

Teammates from 1995-2001

Starting Designated Hitter – David Ortiz

Teammates from 2003-2011

Starting Rotation

Pedro Martinez

Teammates from 1998-2004

Josh Beckett

Teammates from 2006-2011

Bret Saberhagen

Teammates from 1997-2001

Derek Lowe

Teammates from 1997-2004

Erik Hanson

Teammates in 1995


Keith Foulke

Teammates from 2004-2006

Tom Gordon

Teammates from 1996-1999

Hideki Okajima

Teammates from 2007-2011

Mike Timlin

Teammates from 2003-2008

Dennis Eckersley

Teammates in 1998

The Bench

Reserve Infielder – Bill Mueller

Teammates from 2003-2005

Reserve Infielder – Mark Bellhorn

Teammates from 2004-2005

Reserve Outfielder – Dave Roberts

Teammates in 2004

Reserve Outfielder – J. D. Drew

Teammates from 2007-2011

Reserve Catcher – Jason Varitek

Teammates from 1997-2011

25th Man – Adrian Gonzalez

Teammates in 2011

That’s quite a collection.
And of course I skewed it towards players who played on winning Red Sox teams. I know Dave Roberts was only there for a few months, but would you rather see him or Carl Everett?

And I was hesitant to put Varitek on the roster at all! But notice he isn’t starting. That’s Mirabelli’s spot.

And yes I know Gonzalez is a better player than Kevin Millar, but these rosters are emotional and I’m putting the World Champion in the starting line up.

So Wakefield, who stretched through the Duquette and Theo years, over Kennedy, Williams, Kerrigan, Little and Francona and played for 9 different Red Sox playoff teams, will not continue onto the Bobby Valentine era.

But if the likes of Jose Iglesias or Ryan Lavarnway ever play for a World Series winner with the Red Sox, they can be connected to the 1986 team by 2 degrees.

It’s been fun Tim Wakefield.
You are a champion and you will be missed.

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