Not since May 23, 2009 had right-hander Kyle Lohse pitched as many as eight innings in a game for the Cardinals. That was the day Lohse pitched eight scoreless innings against Kansas City before being hit in the right forearm by a pitch from left-hander Ron Mahay. That was a pitch that set Lohse back nearly two seasons as he ultimately had to undergo surgery for a nerve compression issue in his forearm.
Since that day nearly two years ago, Lohse had won just five games for the Cardinals.
But, on Sunday, as the Cardinals completed their third consecutive 1-2 series by salvaging a 6-1 win over San Francisco, Lohse went eight brilliant innings. He was scored on only in the first when he allowed two hits and then escaped the inning on a liner to third baseman David Freese.
That out started a stretch of 19 outs in 20 hitters faced by Lohse, including 14 in a row before a wind-blown infield hit tipped off catcher Gerald Laird's glove in the eighth. Perhaps best of all was that Lohse didn't walk anybody.
"He was so sharp all game long," said manager Tony La Russa. "That's what he's been doing all spring."
Freese has had his own injury problems, missing the last three months of last season because of a right ankle injury that required surgery. Later, he would have surgery on his left ankle too.
This year, Freese was healthy but had started out three for 20. That changed quickly Sunday as Freese knocked in a run each with a single, double and a home run -- Freese's first homer since May 30 of last year.
"I don't take the beginning of the season too serious when I'm struggling," said Freese. "I've started like that my whole career."
La Russa, however, has every confidence in Freese. "If he's healthy, he's going to have a big RBI year," said La Russa. "He's an excellent hitter with men in scoring position. If he just stays healthy, he's going to be outstanding for us."
And the Cardinals left town feeling a little better about themselves than they had after blowing ninth-inning leads in the first two games with the Giants. "You lose like we did the last two games, you get your heart broken," said La Russa. "We really, really worked hard."
Copyright (C) 2011 The Sports Xchange. All Rights Reserved.