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Keith Foulke

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Keith Charles Foulke

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[edit] Biographical Information

Keith Foulke was originally signed by the San Francisco Giants, who had picked him in the 9th round of the 1994 amateur draft, and was the Texas League pitcher of the year in 1996, going 12-7, 2.76 for the Shreveport Captains. He posted the league's best ERA by a huge margin, as the next best qualifier for the title was Manny Aybar at 3.05. He was one of the six young players acquired by the Chicago White Sox in the infamous White Flag Trade of July 31, 1997. Of the six, he and Bobby Howry went to on to have the best Major League careers. He had made his major league debut two months earlier for the 1997 Giants, but had only pitched 11 games - including 8 starts - at that point, with a poor 1-5, 8.26 record. The White Sox moved him to the bullpen, and he has never started a game since, after earning 3 wins and 3 saves in relief over the last two months of the season for the White Sox.

Foulke became Chicago's closer in 2000, taking over for Howry as the White Sox reached the postseason for the first time since 1993. He saved 34 games with a 2.97 ERA that season. Pitching in Game 1 of the 2000 ALDS against the Seattle Mariners, Foulke became the only pitcher ever to give up two home runs in extra innings of the same postseason game. It came in the top of the tenth, when Edgar Martinez hit a two-run homer and the next batter, John Olerud, also went deep. Only two other pitchers, Rick Aguilera and Dan Miceli, have given up two postseason extra-inning HR in their careers (through 2007). In 2001, Foulke saved 42 games for the White Sox, but he experienced a slump early in 2002 and lost the confidence of manager Jerry Manuel. He then shared closer duties with Damaso Marte and Antonio Osuna with none of the three picking up more than 11 saves. However, he still posted a solid 2.90 ERA that season, and his other stats were as good as in previous years.

Sensing a bargain, the Oakland Athletics acquired Foulke in a major trade that also saw their closer Billy Koch move to Chicago. Koch was a prototypical closer, throwing heat and striking out batters by the bushel, whereas Foulke relied on a variety of breaking pitches for his success, while he could still make opposing batters swing and miss. Foulke was also in the last year of his contract and immediately dominated: he converted 21 of his first 24 save opportunities in 2003. He ended the season with 43 saves and a 9-1 record, was named to the mid-season All-Star team for the only time of his career and won the AL Rolaids Relief Award.

He was signed to a hefty raise as a free agent by the Boston Red Sox the following off-season. He was one of the key pieces of the puzzle for Boston when it ended its 86-year title drought. In the regular season, he saved 32 games, then gave up only one earned run in 14 postseason innings as the Red Sox disposed of the Angels, Yankees and Cardinals in their run to the title; he saved a game in each series and posted a win in Game 1 of the World Series as well. He was on the mound for the series-clinching out, relaying Edgar Renteria's ground ball to Doug Mientkiewicz at first base to nail a 3-0 win and start a massive celebration.

After that dominating streak, Keith Foulke began to show signs of overuse in 2005. His ERA rose to 5.91, he only saved 15 games and he was not used in the postseason. In 2006, he did not save a single game, pitching 50 mediocre innings from the back of the bullpen. He became a free agent after the season, signed a contract with the Cleveland Indians but retired in spring training as he could not find his old groove. After sitting out a year, he attempted a comeback with the Athletics in 2008 and made the team out of spring training, showing signs of his old dominance and prompting speculation that he could reclaim his old job if the A's traded their closer Huston Street for prospects in order for Oakland to complete the re-building it started in the off-season. However, in the end, he only went 0-3, 4.06 with one save in 31 games, pitching 31 innings and became a free agent at the end of the year.

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