Coming into tonight’s game, I was a bit worried about the James Shields vs. Adam Dunn matchup. In the Process Versus post, I noted how Dunn – who is a difficult matchup for any pitcher – could be especially troublesome for Shields.
He absolutely crushes fastball which does not bode well for James Shields, Wade Davis, or Jeff Niemann. In addition to his love of the heater, he also does well against changeups – a triple negative for Shields who already has home run issues.
Before the game, I echoed a similar sentiment on ESPN1040.com, saying Shields would need his best stuff and location if he was going to be successful. As R.J. said in the Daily Process, he did both.
In the first at-bat against Dunn, Shields threw four pitches total. Three of them were changeups. After fouling away the first the off-speed offering of the at-bat, Dunn whiffed on two changeups low and away for Shields’ first strikeout of the game.
Dunn’s second plate appearance against Shields would also last four pitches. Shields busted out one of the many first-pitch curveballs he threw to go ahead on called strike. He folloed that with a changeup and a slider before inducing a weak groundball to first base on another low and away off-speed pitch.
During arguably his best pitch sequence of the game, Shields struck out Dunn on three pitches in the sixth inning. Once again, Shields started him with a first-pitch called strike on a curveball. Dunn would whiff on another low and away changeup before he was frozen on a slider on the outside corner.
The final encounter between Dunn and Shields came in the ninth inning with the tying run at second base. After Gordon Beckham put down a sacrifice bunt – in the at-bat which registered the highest leverage index of the game - Joe Maddon had a decision to make with first base open; walk Dunn and set up the double play? Or trust in Shields who owned Dunn in the previous three appearances?
With an equally dangerous Paul Konerko on-deck, Maddon allowed Shields to pitch to Dunn. Considering the stuff Shields displayed until that point in the game, there was not a lot of second-guessing in the ballpark. The right-hander quickly jumped out to an 0-2 count after a called first strike on a changeup and Dunn fouling a second change. On the third and final pitch of the at-bat, Shields threw what was classified as a slider (looked like a cutter from here) that tailed in on Dunn’s hands for a swinging strikeout.
In what could have been a disaster of a matchup for him, Shields dissected Dunn in all four plate appearances. Of the 14 pitches, Dunn saw from Shields none of them were straight fastballs. In fact, here is the sequence on Dunn in order: Changeup, Slider, Changeup (whiff), Changeup (whiff), Curve, Changeup, Slider, Changeup, Curve, Changeup (whiff), Slider, Changeup, Changeup, Slider/Cutter (whiff) . That is pitching…