Though he might not be in a Cardinals uniform next season, Kyle Lohse is still solid on the mound.
By B.J. RAINSFS Midwest
ST. LOUIS -- Whether he wants to admit it publicly or not, starter
Kyle Lohse knows he probably won't be back with the
Cardinals next season. But that didn't stop him from putting together another solid start Wednesday.
A day after the Cardinals announced a contract extension for starter Jake Westbrook that likely signals the end of Lohse's tenure with the club, the right-hander allowed just two runs on three hits in seven innings to lead them to a 4-2 win over the Houston Astros at Busch Stadium.
If his uncertain future is bothering him, he sure didn't show any signs of it while on the mound.
"I felt really good out there," Lohse said. "I felt real solid mechanically, I felt like I was hitting my spots, changing speeds, doing the things I need to do to be successful. Just another one of those starts for me where I tried to put the team in a good position and we came out on top."
Lohse, who will become a free agent after the season, improved to 13-2 with a 2.61 ERA in 26 starts this year. He will likely command a three or four year contract for upwards of $14-15 million per season on the open market.
And with Chris Carpenter, Adam Wainwright, Jaime Garcia and now Westbrook in the fold for 2013, it's hard to imagine the Cardinals ponying up to pay Lohse with Lance Lynn, Joe Kelly and top prospects Shelby Miller and Trevor Rosenthal appearing more than capable of filling the No. 5 spot.
Lohse probably knew he wouldn't be back with the Cardinals next year anyway. Westbrook's extension only makes the possibility even more remote.
"I'm excited for him and I know he's excited to stay here," Lohse said. "I'm happy for him and his family, they are comfortable. I'm sure it does affect me in the business side of it but the personal side is all I really want to talk about."
The veteran right-hander signed a 4-year, $41 million extension with the Cardinals in the fall of 2008 but the first two years couldn't have gone any worse. While pitching with a rare forearm condition in 2009-10, Lohse struggled to a 10-18 record and a 5.54 ERA.
But the right-hander has certainly earned every penny the past two seasons after surgery fixed his forearm and allowed him to return to form. He led the World Series Champions a year ago in both wins and ERA, going 14-8 with a 3.39 ERA, and earned the start in Game 1 of the NLDS against the Phillies.
And he's been even better this year, putting up the best numbers of his 12-year big league career. Wednesday was his 15th straight start of at least six innings and the 19th time in 26 starts that he allowed just two earned runs or less.
He's allowed more than two earned runs just once in his past 12 starts and has a 2.21 ERA dating back to June 15. If not for poor run support and a few blown leads by the bullpen, Lohse could easily have at least 17 or 18 wins already.
Asked if he's had a better run in his career, Lohse replied, "Have you seen my numbers? So, no."
His numbers are worthy of Cy Young consideration but his 11 no decisions -- even though he has a 2.82 ERA in those 11 games -- have kept him from even being mentioned among the other elite starters in the league.
Lohse is pitching like one of the best pitchers in baseball. And whether the Cardinals can afford him or not, he's set himself up for a nice pay day come the offseason.
"I know every guy is concerned about their future and how things look for them, especially ones that are heading into free agency," said manager Mike Matheny. "Those are conversations that sometimes guys want to have and other times it's just a distraction and they go about their business just playing the game.
"I'm available to talk to them either way, but usually when a guy just kind of keeps to himself, he just wants to finish the season and hopefully get us into the postseason and World Series and let that stuff take care of itself."
Lohse allowed a two-out home run in the first inning to Brett Wallace and a solo shot to Chris Snyder leading off the third. But a single to Jose Altuve two batters later was the only other hit he allowed all game.
The right-hander didn't allow a hit past the third inning, retiring the final 14 batters he faced before being pulled for a pinch-hitter in the bottom of the seventh inning after just 87 pitches.
"Another great outing," Matheny said. "It was a really good outing. He did a nice job of hitting everything down in the zone. I thought he did a terrific job. He made a lot of good pitches where you could tell he was right on the corners all day."
Lohse would surely like to return to St. Louis but any potential deal wouldn't make much sense for either side. The right-hander can make significantly more money as a free agent and the Cardinals have several younger, cheaper alternatives that appear worthy of filling that spot.
But his pending free agency and uncertain future doesn't appear to be a distraction for Lohse. He hopes to pitch the Cardinals into the postseason and worry about everything else at a later date.
"You realize it but it is what it is," Lohse said. "You go out there and do your job and the other stuff is going to take care of itself."