Saturday, May 28, 2022

Matt Foster’s Adjustments Have Him Back In High Leverage Situations


Is Matt Foster good again? Foster burst onto the scene his rookie year, earning six wins, two holds, and a 2.28 ERA. On paper, he looked like a key peice in the bullpen moving forward. The following season put a damper on many fans expectations. 

Tony La Russa brought him in during the second game of the 2021 season in Anaheim with the bases loaded and nobody out. Foster had to face the teeth of the Angels lineup. Due up was Shohei Ohtani, Mike Trout, and Anthony Rendon. He struck out Trout and Ohtani then got Rendon to hit a pop up to right field. Adam Eaton misplayed the ball and two runs were scored. Foster bore down and struck out the next batter to limit the damage. But his confidence looked shot for the rest of the season.

That outing kicked off an abysmal 2021 campaign that saw him post a 6.00 ERA, and bounce up and down from the minor leagues. Many fans wrote him off. However, that moment against the Angels stuck with La Russa.

“He showed amazing guts,” La Russa said. 

Having guts is something you need as a reliver pitching in big moments. Hard work and some offseason adjustments have turned Foster into a pitcher that can be trusted in those moments once again.

Last season he was reduced to mop-up duty. Now he is earning the chance to pitch in some high leverage situations. In his first 11 games this season it looks like Foster has returned to form. He has a 0.77 ERA and 2 holds. In 11.2 innings he has only allowed one run and struck out 10. 

On Wednesday he entered the game in the eighth inning with runners at the corners while the White Sox were clinging to a 4-3 lead. The first batter he had to face is the Cubs rookie sensation Seiya Suzuki. After getting ahead 0-2 he got Suzuki to bite at a high fastball pop out to Gavin Sheets in foul territory. 

Foster then punched out Ian Happ on a 94 mph that painted the bottom of the strike zone. It was a memorable night for Foster, who was able to deliver with the eyes of the Chicago baseball fans watching.

“It’s a major confidence boost,” Foster told reporters. “I try to take every opportunity to get onto the field that I can, and not just take it for granted, and just go out there and do the best that I can without letting outside things interfere.” 

During the offseason, Foster added a slider and a curveball to diversify his repertoire. He has also worked on his mental toughness, not letting outside distractions get in his head while pitching. His teammates have taken notice.

“The adjustments he’s made from last year, it’s unbelievable,” Lucas Giolito told NBC Sports Chicago. “Last year, he knew what he needed to improve, and this game is so tough, sometimes you just can’t make that adjustment immediately. he took the bull by the horns and now he is back to doing what he can do.” 

The results speak for themselves. 

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