MILWAUKEE — As Kyle Lohse began sending batters back to the visiting dugout again and again, he knew he hadn’t pitched out of the stretch in quite some time. Then he realized how many Cincinnati Reds he had retired in a row.
The veteran right-hander sat down 24 of the last 25 batters he faced for his first complete game in over two years in Milwaukee’s 5-1 victory.
Lohse was looking to get back on track Friday after two rough outings in his last three starts. Sandwiched around a good performance two starts ago against the Angels, Lohse gave up five runs to Pittsburgh on Aug. 27 and seven runs to the Cubs in his last start on Sept. 6.
“(It) felt good,” Lohse said. “You’ve seen how two out of the last three have gone (for me); I wasn’t real happy about especially the last one, giving all that up in the early innings. Today I felt like that second inning, I really probably wouldn’t take a pitch back; they just kept finding holes. I was just trying to stick to my gameplan, go out and get it done, and that was it.
After allowing three straight singles in the second inning, Lohse set down 23 in a row before walking Jay Bruce with two outs in the ninth inning. With his pitch count at 58 after the fourth inning, Lohse needed just 26 pitches to get through the next three innings.
A five-pitch seventh inning set Lohse up for his first complete game since April 21, 2011 when he was pitching for St. Louis.
“Outstanding ballgame,” Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. “Really commanded all his pitches well from the first inning on. I know he had a little trouble there in the second but he really threw the ball well all game and even got better the later we got in the game. Six, seven, eight I thought were really good.”
Lohse wasn’t hit hard in the second inning, but Cincinnati found holes to load the bases with nobody out on three consecutive singles. As it turned out, Zack Cozart’s infield single was the final hit of the day for the Reds.
Cincinnati cut Milwaukee’s lead to 2-1 on a RBI fielders’ choice by Devin Mesoraco. Lohse was able to work out of the jam by striking out Shin-Soo Choo with runners at second and third after a sacrifice bunt by Reds pitcher Mat Latos.
Lohse was dominant after working out of the bases-loaded jam, tossing six consecutive perfect innings.
“I think he started getting warmed up and started getting a feel for it,” Brewers catcher Jonathan Lucroy said. “He just got better as the game wore on. It was really good, really impressive.”
Besides pitching well for the majority of the season, Lohse has brought a lot to Milwaukee’s clubhouse. He’s clearly one of the team’s leaders and many young pitchers have spoke out about how Lohse has helped them this season.
He’s been adamant about playing spoiler since the team fell out of the race, and he did just that Friday. The loss knocked Cincinnati to 3 1/2 games back of St. Louis in the National League Central and pulled Washington to within four games of the Reds in the loss column for the second Wild Card spot.
“You’ve got to look at it as your playoff situation,” Lohse said. “These guys are more than likely going to be in the playoffs. We’re not going to knock them out or anything. But to be able to go out there and pitch against a playoff-caliber team, it makes you feel good. That lineup can swing it quite a bit. I just went out there and did what I could. It was fun.
Friday marked the ninth complete game in Lohse’s career, but the majority came in his early days when he was a completely different style of pitcher. Complete games have waned off as he has become a better pitcher.
“It was all or nothing,” Lohse said of early in his career. “Back then, when I just threw it kind of as hard as I could for as long as many pitches as they’d let me go, it was either 100 pitches in four-plus or if my stuff was on, I could rack up a couple strikeouts and quick innings. But I didn’t really pitch back then. Now I’m out there trying to set stuff up, go back and forth with both location and velocity.
“I feel like a different-style pitcher. I feel like lately in my career I could have a couple more, but a couple of those games where you have a low pitch count but you have the lead and they take you out just to kind of save you or whatever. I guess they think I’m getting old and you can’t let that pitch count get up there.”
Lohse was very close to retiring the final 24 batters of the game, but home plate umpire Gary Cederstrom called the 3-2 pitch to Bruce just outside with two outs in the ninth inning.
“It was a really good pitch,” Lohse said. “I wanted it; I don’t think it was a strike. I put it out there thinking it’d come back a little bit more over the plate. But he called a good game back there. I was more disappointed that I just missed than he didn’t call it. You don’t want to finish the game with one that wasn’t a strike. It was close, though.”
Ramirez injured: Brewers third baseman Aramis Ramirez left Friday’s game in the top of the second inning with a left wrist contusion.
Ramirez was hit by a Latos fastball in Milwaukee’s two-run first inning. After Ramirez stayed in and ran the bases, Jeff Bianchi took over at third base prior to the top of the second inning.
X-rays came back negative on the wrist and Ramirez is listed as day-to-day.
“I got hit pretty good,” Ramirez said. “I should be OK in the next few days. Maybe tomorrow, maybe the next day, I don’t know. We’ll see how it responds.
“You never want to get hit around the hand, but if you are, I got hit in the right place. I got hit on the wrist and I guess that’s the big bone there.”