Lohse: Never got a 'chance to settle in' in Game 7
Righty exits in third in what could be final start in a Cardinals uniform
SAN FRANCISCO -- Surely, when Kyle Lohse showed up at Cardinals camp in Jupiter, Fla., in March 2008, he couldn't have foreseen what was to come. Not the highs, not the lows, and certainly not the disappointing ending on Monday night.
Lohse's Cards career may well have come to an end in Game 7 of the National League Championship Series, with the right-hander allowing five runs in two-plus innings of a 9-0 defeat to the Giants. He is eligible for free agency this winter, and it seems improbable that St. Louis will find a way to keep him in the fold.
If that is the case, it's a shame it ended this way. Lohse turned in the best season of his career in 2012, helping stabilize the Cardinals' rotation all season long as they earned a Wild Card playoff berth. He picked up wins in the first Wild Card playoff game and in Game 3 of this NLCS, playing as big a role as any pitcher on the roster in getting the '12 Cards to the brink of a second straight pennant.
Lohse had no desire to think about his future after the game, lamenting only that he couldn't keep the season going for another few days.
"I just didn't get a chance to settle in," Lohse said. "It started from the first batter on. They got a couple hits right away off sliders. I didn't get a chance really to get into my game. They got aggressive early with the hit-and-run. They did what they had to do. They got me."
Lohse didn't pitch his best game on Monday, but he also was hurt by some strange bounces. He minimized the damage in a treacherous first, keeping San Francisco to a single run after the first two hitters of the game singled. A two-out single by opposite number Matt Cain made it 2-0 in the second, and in the third, the game got away from the Cardinals.
A single, a double and a walk loaded the bases, and Lohse was gone after facing 13 batters. The inning erupted into a five-run outburst against Joe Kelly and the Cards' defense, with three of the runs charged to Lohse.
A season in which one critical start after another went to Lohse ended, appropriately, with him taking the mound. It was simply the result that didn't fit.
"It's tough, absolutely," said David Freese. "Loshie had a heck of a year. He came out blazing from Day 1."
Literally, since Lohse was the Opening Day starter for the Cardinals, turning in a fine game in a win against the Marlins. He pitched the one-game Wild Card matchup with the Braves. Lohse received a no-decision despite pitching superbly in a potential clincher in Game 4 of the NL Division Series against the Nationals. He won Game 3 of the NLCS, putting him in position to pitch the clincher.
It was all setting up for Lohse to put a perfect bow on five memorable years in St. Louis. Instead, he was done before the game was one-third over.
"I wasn't ready to go home," Lohse said. "I just felt like it was kind of meant to be, where we were going to do some things, but it ran out of gas."
Asked afterward about the possibility that it was his last game in a Cards uniform, Lohse simply said, "next question." But he acknowledged that he'll soon take stock, as well as beginning to look ahead.
"I pretty much all year stayed in the moment," Lohse said. "Stayed focused on the task at hand. It wasn't the time to think about that stuff. A couple days after I get over this, it will be time to start looking and see what the future holds."
Lohse hasn't been a free agent since the winter of 2007-08, when he remained unsigned until more than halfway through Spring Training. He joined the Cardinals on a one-year deal and pitched well enough to name his price the following winter. Instead, Lohse insisted on staying with the Cards, signing a four-year deal at the end of the regular season.
Since then, it's been memorable if nothing else. Lohse started 2009 strong, but suffered a strange forearm injury that cost him the bulk of that season and the one that followed. Finally right again for 2011, he pitched very well, but the coaching staff worried about his strength at the end of the year and minimized his role in the postseason.
This year, with Chris Carpenter out nearly all season, Jaime Garcia missing a large chunk of the campaign and Adam Wainwright searching at times for consistent form, Lohse was the St. Louis rotation's rock. Up until Monday night, when he never got the chance to show what he's capable of.
"It was one of those days," Lohse said. "It just happened to be at the worst possible moment."
Matthew Leach is a writer for MLB.com. Read his blog, Obviously, You're Not a Golfer and follow him on Twitter at @MatthewHLeach. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.