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Keith Foulke, pumped after finishing World Series Game 1, went on to close the rest as well.
Keith Foulke, pumped after finishing World Series Game 1, went on to close the rest as well. (Globe Staff Photo / Jim Davis)

He quickly becomes a new Foulke hero

Leave it to Bobby Orr to help deliver another title to Boston. As Keith Foulke weighed his options last winter -- stay put in Oakland or come to Boston -- the closer received a call from one of the city's greatest lobbyists.

"[Orr] left a message saying that you win in this town and you are forever idolized," Foulke said last December.

Who'd know better than No. 4? The greatest defenseman who ever lived delivered a pair of Stanley Cups to town in the early 1970s and is still mobbed wherever he goes.

It's unlikely Foulke, an avid hockey fan, will have to pick up a check in town for quite some time.

The 32-year-old righthander put on an amazing postseason performance, throwing 14 innings and allowing one earned run -- and that was a meaningless, ninth-inning Larry Walker homer in Game 3 of the World Series.

He started his mind-boggling run in Game 2 of the Division Series in Anaheim, firing 1 1/3 innings of hitless relief to save Pedro Martinez's win in an 8-3 thrashing to give the Sox a 2-0 series lead.

In the clincher against Anaheim, Foulke pitched 1 2/3 innings of sparkling relief -- including three strikeouts -- before David Ortiz sent the Angels back to the Left Coast.

As the Sox fell into an insurmountable (yeah, right) 0-3 hole in the American League Championship Series against the Yankees, Foulke pitched just one inning over Games 1 and 2. He got Game 3 (the memorable 19-8 Yankee blowout) off. It's a good thing, too, because over the next three games, Foulke was a workhorse.

In Game 4, Foulke, who collected 32 saves in the regular season, threw 50 pitches over 2 2/3 innings as the Sox survived a 6-4, 12-inning victory. He came back the next night and hurled 1 1/3 innings as the Sox sent the ALCS back to the Bronx.

He picked up his first save of the series in Game 6, fanning two in a 28-pitch ninth inning. He never had to leave the bullpen in Boston's improbable 10-3 laugher in Game 7 -- although he would have answered the call.

His totals for the ALCS? Six innings, zero runs, one hit allowed, six strikeouts, and one save. Even more impressive were the combined 100 pitches he threw on consecutive nights across Games 4 through 6.

"I had not thrown that many pitches in that short of a time," said Foulke. "During the regular season, the staff really tries to prevent you from pitching that much. But during the playoffs when you're down to your last lifer, you've got to do whatever is necessary."

Foulke characterized his ALCS performance as "effective wildness."

In the World Series, the 6-foot, 210-pounder was just plain effective. He closed out every game, earning the victory in Game 1 and a save in the clincher. In all, he spun five innings, allowed four hits, and fanned eight. He didn't win the Conn Smythe, er, MVP, but he made a strong case.

"[Foulke] is such a weapon for us," manager Terry Francona said during the Series. "When we set up our day, [pitching coach Dave Wallace] and I try to figure out where guys fit, and knowing that Foulke can do so much makes our job that much easier."

Shortly after signing with the Red Sox, Foulke said, "Just the excitement of playing for a team with this heritage and this history is something I want to do before I retire."

Now he's part of that history.

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