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James Shields Has Meltdown On Mound In Another Fenway Loss

Much has been made about James Shields and his struggles on the road. Before almost every start away from Tropicana Field, there is story written about how Shields is a different pitcher on the road than at home. I'll admit the splits are pretty staggering, but Shields is not an outlier when it comes to home/road success. The stories about Shields and the big bad road really seem to come out every time he is set to make a start in Fenway Park.

Entering tonight's game, Shields was 0-4 lifetime in four Fenway starts. He carried an ERA of 9.56 in the legendary stadium, which is his highest in any AL ball park, and the highest in any stadium in which he's pitched more than once. Many have tried to find the answers to why he has not pitched better on the road, but nobody can figure it out. When asked about it, Shields will tell you there is nothing different about Fenway from any other stadium, but he does admit he feels more comfortable at home.

For the first five innings of tonight's game it seemed that Shields had kicked his Fenway demons. Through the first five frames he had given up no runs, just five hits and no walks. He had thrown just 66 pitches with 41 of them being strikes. He had four strike outs and had all four of his main pitches working in unison.

Then the sixth inning happened.

As most of you already know, just the night before against the Indians, the Red Sox scored 12 runs in the sixth inning without registering an out. Unfortunately, they would get nearly half of that against Shields tonight before he could register an out in the inning.

Dustin Pedroia led off the inning with a "single" that went off the top of Shields's glove and was fielded by Akinori Iwamura. To me it looked like Aki had a pretty good chance of getting Pedroia, but he double clutched the throw and Pedroia was safe. At this point I would rate Shield's frustration level at a solid 4.0. The next at-bat would change the game. Shield walked David Ortiz in a seven pitch at-bat and promptly turned toward centerfield, covered his face with his glove and starting yelling at himself; frustration level, 9.9. After seeing this, I sent a message to a few people saying "Shields is getting crazy, he's going to lose it." I'm sure I'm not the only one who notices that when things go bad for Shields, they go bad quickly. You can just tell its coming. Screaming into the glove is a tell tale sign that a meltdown is coming. Shields also speeds everything up at this juncture. He throws a pitch, turns around, demands the ball back and throws another pitch. He starts to sweat, he get loses control and he leaves pitches over the plate.

With all that being said it was absolutely no surprise when Jason Bay crushed a belt high 93 mph fastball into the seats atop the Green Monster; frustration level 10.0, full meltdown. I'll never know why Jim Hickey didn't go to the mound after that Ortiz walk. If I saw it coming, you sawit coming and Carlos Pena, who did talk to Shields saw it coming, you would think Hickey would've seen it too. I'm guessing part of him not going out there is Shields has earned respect as the staff ace and Hickey probably would like to let him work out his own problems. In these situations, Shields needs to really check his emotions at the door and focus on the next batter not the last. Maybe a visit to Ken Ravizza would do the trick.

Hickey would made a mound visit after a Mike Lowell double, but it was too late the meltdown was on. The next batter, J.D. Drew would take the next pitch, a hanging changeup, deep for a two run shot. As I said above, Shields threw just 66 pitches in the first five innings. He threw 40 pitches alone in the sixth inning.

There was alot of good for Shields as he had good to great velocity tonight and he did get 13 swinging strikes. He had seven strikeouts to just one walk, but two huge mistakes cost him his fourth win, and what would've been his first in Boston. Early on it looked like Shields had slayed his Fenway dragon. But unfortunately the dragon was just asleep for the first five innings. Instead of finally having the answers to his Boston problem; Shields just opened the door for a whole new set of questions.

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(H/T Brooks)