In the first season of a three-year, $33 million contract with the Milwaukee Brewers, Kyle Lohse almost lost as many games as he did in the previous two years combined.
A gem against the Atlanta Braves helped him avoid doing so.
After concluding his 2013 season versus Atlanta, Lohse gets another look at the Braves on Tuesday night when these teams continue a season-opening three-game series in Milwaukee.
Lohse went 30-11 with a 3.11 ERA for St. Louis from 2011-12 before signing with the Brewers late last March. He had an up-and-down first season in Milwaukee and owned a .500 record before facing the Braves in Atlanta on Sept. 25.
The right-hander went out and pitched his best game of the season, a two-hitter while striking out five and walking none in a 4-0 victory to finish 11-10 with a 3.35 ERA in 32 starts.
Lohse didn't have a great spring, posting a 5.49 ERA in five starts, but he was pleased after tuning up for this outing by allowing five hits and two runs in five innings against Cincinnati on Thursday.
"I felt really good, executed most of the pitches I wanted to and left here on a good note," he said. "I had a good feel for the breaking ball, spotted the fastball pretty good."
Lohse will be facing a Braves team that managed five hits in losing 2-0 in Monday's season opener for both teams. Including the postseason, he's 5-1 in 12 starts against Atlanta despite a 4.17 ERA.
The Braves will counter with Alex Wood, who went 3-3 with a 3.13 ERA in his first year in the majors in 2013 and had an impressive showing in spring training.
The 23-year-old left-hander allowed one earned run, struck out 16 and walked two in 20 innings. He went 3-2 with a 3.54 ERA in 11 starts last season.
"I feel more weight on my shoulders now than I ever did last year, because last year if I did well, I exceeded expectations," Wood told the Braves' official website. "If I didn't, it was, 'Oh he's 22 years old,' or, 'He went through the minor leagues fast, he's going to have some growing pains.'
"Well, I really didn't experience many growing pains last year, so now what I did last year is what everyone expects. But I wouldn't have it any other way. My biggest thing is getting an opportunity. If I get an opportunity, I don't typically let it get away."
Ryan Braun went 1 for 4 and stole a base that helped set up a two-run fourth inning Monday in his first game back after being suspended for the final 65 contests last year for his role in the Biogenesis doping scandal.
''It was special. It was an emotional moment for me,'' Braun said.
Shortstop Andrelton Simmons had two of the five hits for the Braves, who are 2-8 in the last 10 meetings and have lost nine of 10 in Milwaukee.
"We as players don't look too much into that," second baseman Dan Uggla said. "I had no idea they had done that to us. We look at every game like we're going to go out and win it. We don't look at what happened last year or the day before. You go out and try to win the game."