Kyle Lohse didn’t mean to steal the show. The St. Louis Cardinals right-hander was just entering another day at the office. He stepped into the opening day start after Chris Carpenter had been shelved with an injury. Lohse stepped into the exotic city know as Miami.
The crazy water spitting homerun, monster in centerfield at Marlins Park didn’t distract Lohse. The Brazilian dancers that escorted Jose Reyes out onto the field didn’t make Lohse do a double take. The fish tank that wrap around the backstop at Marlins Park is distracted PETA, but not Lohse. The new buzz that South Beach carries has enough distraction to hurt Lebron James, but not Kyle Lohse?
All Lohse did was throw 7.1 innings, surrendering two hits while allowing one run in a win over the Miami Marlins on the opening night of the baseball season. For 6 innings, Lohse flirted with a no-hitter, before Jose Reyes roped a screamer into right field (Thank Dan Shulman for jinxing that). Bob Feller remains the only pitcher to throw a no-hitter on opening day. But for those 7.1 innings, Kyle Lohse made St. Louis and baseball forget they lost Albert Pujols. Kyle Lohse was the distraction.
After he was taken a out, a friend texted me asking if Kyle Lohse is usually this good? My first response was no. Lohse has been around for 10 years now, which is a great career that most players never reach. A 29th round pick by the Chicago Cubs in 1996, he debuted with the Twins in 2001 and really didn’t find success until he left Minnesota. He bounced from Cincinnati to Philadelphia, before finding himself in St. Louis to start 2008. He’s never been to an All-Star game, he has a ring, and has been a reliable starter.
According to FanGraphs, Lohse had a 2.5 WAR that would label him as a “solid starter.” He had a 3.39 ERA in 2011, winning 14 while losing 8. He’s never been a guy who’s going to blow you away with his fastball. He’s a finesse pitcher who survives based on control and his ability to induce the groundball. Thanks to the sinker, he gets a groundball 41.8% of the time. The groundball proved to play a huge role in his success on Wednesday night.
Now I’m not implying that Kyle Lohse is going to win a Cy Young or have an ERA below 3.00. There was one at-bat where I thought Lohse certainly deserved the nod over anyone else on the team. In the 8th inning, Logan Morrison led off the inning with a line drive to right field. After him, Gaby Sanchez stood. Already whiffing once tonight, Sanchez worked the count to 3 balls and 0 strikes. Lohse threw the get me over called strike, a foul ball, and then this beauty to get Sanchez looking.
Sanchez started to trot to first before the umpire punched him out. At that point, I figured Lohse’s night was over. But I saw something I’ve never seen in Lohse. He pitched this game with a vision. He painted a portrait of what this season can contain for the St. Louis Cardinals. The Cardinals are coming off one of the most memorable off seasons in baseball history. Besides winning the World Series in 7 games, their star Albert Pujols left them without a first baseman. He joined the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and will be wearing a different shade of red.
Cardinals fans will continue to worry how they will fill the production of Albert Pujols. Maybe David Freese can continue his heroics. But for one night, Kyle Lohse blanked everyone’s memory on a team losing the best player in baseball. Kyle Lohse stole the heartbeat out of a hungry Miami fanbase, eager to see their All-Star ace return from injury. He stole the spotlight.
Kyle Lohse didn’t mean to steal the show; he was just stepping in to fill the opening day start.