MILWAUKEE — One of the extreme oddities in baseball happens every once in a while when a team just can’t score when a certain pitcher takes the mound.
It’s completely unexplainable if that team has an above average offense. The Milwaukee Brewers do, and they simply can’t score for Kyle Lohse.
In the seven games Lohse has started this season, the Brewers have scored 14 runs. His two runs of support per game are the worst in the National League, while seven of the 14 runs came in his one win of the season.
After losing just three games last season for St. Louis, Lohse has already lost four this season primarily because he’s received just two runs total in his four losses this year. It’s a fascinating stat because the Brewers haven’t been a bad offensive team. In the 25 games Lohse hasn’t pitched this season, Milwaukee has scored 5.1 runs per game.
While a veteran pitcher like Lohse has a much better understanding of the notion of controlling things that can be controlled than a young pitcher would, he still is at least conscious of the feeble offensive production behind him.
“You’re going to notice it at this point,” Lohse said. “But it’s not something that I’m going around hanging my head about or saying anything. These guys are trying hard.”
A glance at who Lohse has faced in the five starts he’s either taken the loss or the team has went on to lose this season and it’s a little easier to see why the Brewers haven’t scored many runs for their prized free agent acquisition.
In his first start with the Brewers, Lohse ran into Diamondbacks right-hander Wade Miley, a young pitcher who is off to a fine start in his second season, but was particularly sharp in April 5.
On April 12, Lohse made his first start against his former team and pitched well, but Cardinals rookie Shelby Miller held the Brewers to just one hit in seven innings in an impressive performance. After taking a no-decision on April 17 in a 4-3 win, Lohse finally got his first win of the season in San Diego — though he left early with a dislocated finger — when the Brewers scored seven runs.
Dodgers left-hander Clayton Kershaw was nearly unhittable on April 28 when Lohse lost 2-0 by giving up two solo home runs to Carl Crawford. Miller got the Brewers again on May 3, while Rangers left-hander Derek Holland gave up just one run on 12 hits against Milwaukee on Wednesday.
“The pitcher on the other side is trying to do his job, too, and they’ve been doing a good job,” Lohse said. “It just so happens that this keeps happening on the days I’m pitching.”
A regression to the mean and maybe a few match-ups against back of the rotation pitchers will eventually tilt the run support to an average higher than two per game, but Lohse has to pitch nearly a perfect game to win right now.
Last season, Yovani Gallardo got the worst run support of Milwaukee’s starters, and he received 4.67 runs per game. Between the Brewers and Angels last season, Zack Greinke got 4.91 runs per game. In 2011, the Brewers simply couldn’t scratch runs across when Randy Wolf pitched. Wolf managed to win 13 games with his 3.69 ERA that season and would have won more had the Brewers scored more than 3.85 runs per game for him. Milwaukee won 96 games that season, but Wolf and Shaun Marcum (3.91) got some of the worst run support in the league.
The last Brewers starter with a lower run support average than Wolf was Ben Sheets in 2004 when he got 3.62 runs per game.
Sometimes it just happens, even to the best pitchers in the game. The Arizona Diamondbacks scored just 3.51 runs per game for Randy Johnson in 2004 — the lowest total in the league. Johnson had a 2.60 ERA that season but lost 14 games.
“We haven’t really hit for (Lohse), and it’s a shame,” Brewers catcher Jonathan Lucroy said. “He’s really pitched well and has given us a chance to win. We haven’t hit well enough for him. We have to keep battling it out and they have to start falling soon.
“We don’t really think about that kind of stuff. We just try to go up there and have good at-bats. But it seems like every time he throws you run into a good arm.”
While wins and losses are an overrated stat for a starting pitcher because of uncontrollable aspects like run support, the Brewers can’t continue to lose games in which Lohse pitches well and keeps the team in games.
“It will even out, I’m sure,” Lohse, whose next start will likely come Monday against Pittsburgh, said. “Just keep grinding away. That’s what I do.
“If I do a better job of executing pitches, we could be winning, 1-0. I don’t worry about what our offense does. I have to concentrate on what I can control and if I make better pitches, I don’t give up runs.”