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Clutch during closing time10/28/2004 2:05 AM ET
By Jim Street / MLB.com
ST. LOUIS -- This is exactly what Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein had in mind when he lured free agent right-handed closer Keith Foulke from the Athletics during the offseason.
It was a perfect setup as Foulke took the ball in the bottom of the ninth inning on Wednesday night, needing three outs to clinch the franchise's first World Series championship in 86 years.
Those three outs came during a four-batter sequence, securing the Red Sox's 3-0 victory over the National League champion Cardinals to complete an improbable four-game sweep in the Fall Classic.
Foulke was the last of four pitchers used by Red Sox manager Terry Francona to subdue the Cardinals once and for all.
It was the first time in World Series history that four pitchers combined on a shutout.
"It was probably a lot easier on me than it was on everybody else," he would say later in the champagne soaked visiting clubhouse at Busch Stadium. "It's a lot easier to be in control than to sit back and watch. I couldn't imagine any other place I'd rather be in this world.
"I wanted to be the guy on the mound with the ball in my hand at the end."
Foulke thus finished a remarkable postseason run for himself and a team that did the unthinkable just to get into the World Series. The Red Sox erased a three-games-to-none deficit against the Yankees in the American League Championship Series.
Used often against the Yankees, the rubber-armed Foulke pitched in all four World Series games, allowing four hits and one run in five innings, striking out eight and walking one.
"It's an honor to be in the same bullpen with him," veteran reliever Mike Timlin said. "My gosh, he has been awesome."
The final out of the season was a comebacker at Foulke.
He fielded the ball, took a few steps towards first base and underhanded his throw to first baseman Doug Mientkiewicz.
Catcher Jason Varitek, regarded as the heart and sole of the World Series champions, had a good view of the last inning and the last play.
"The one thing you can't do is take anything for granted and that has been the key for this team," he said. "You feel good when [Foulke] comes into a game like that, but against that lineup over there, you don't breathe or rest easy until the final out.
"I was glad to see that the ball didn't go up the middle all the way."
When it was all over, the team had been crowned champions of the baseball world and all of the champagne and beer had been spilled, Foulke took time to take it all in.
"Just looking over there at that big trophy with all the flags on it, it's absolutely incredible," he said.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.
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