Seasoned Lohse learns from playoff experience
Veteran enters Game 4 recognizing transformation from thrower to pitcher
WASHINGTON -- Kyle Lohse has pitched in the postseason with the Twins, Phillies and Cardinals, a total of seven years, including this season's National League Wild Card game against the Braves.
Not all of those outings were stellar. But he's 34 years old now, he's won 30 games over the last two years and his 2.86 ERA this season was the best of his career. And he'll take all that accumulated wisdom and hard-earned knowledge into Thursday afternoon's (3 p.m. CT on TBS) crucial start in Game 4 of the National League Division Series at Nationals Park.
"I think I've grown a lot since [the earlier postseason games]," Lohse said before Game 3 on Wednesday. "I was probably more of a thrower. I would go up there, I threw a little bit harder, but not hard enough to blow guys away, obviously.
"It was a good experience. Everybody always says [that] you wish you knew what you know now back when you were younger. That was the case for me. I learned how to pitch a lot better, got a lot better game plan, used my experience from those days to get where I'm at now.
Tale of the Tape: Game 4
|2012 regular season|
|Overall: 33 GS, 16-3, 2.86 ERA, 38 BB, 143 K's||Overall: 33 G, 27 GS, 10-8, 3.40 ERA, 52 BB, 105 K's|
|Key stat: Lohse's .842 winning percentage led the Major Leagues this year||Key stat: Detwiler was one of five Washington starters with at least 10 wins this year|
|At Nationals Park|
|2012: 1 GS, 0-0, 7.94 ERA
Career: 4 GS, 1-1, 7.48 ERA
| 2012: 17 G, 14 GS, 8-2, 2.59 ERA
Career: 37 G, 30 GS, 13-7, 3.25 ERA
|Against this opponent|
|2012: 2 GS, 0-0, 6.94 ERA
Career: 14 G, 12 GS, 4-2, 5.23 ERA
|2012: 1 GS, 0-1, 11.57 ERA
Career: 1 GS, 0-1, 11.57 ERA
|Loves to face: Ian Desmond: 4-for-17
Hates to face: Jayson Werth: 8-for-21, 3 HRs, 3 2Bs, 6 RBIs
|Loves to face: Allen Craig: 0-for-2
Hates to face: Carlos Beltran: 2-for-4, HR, 2 RBIs
|Why he'll win: Lohse's ERA ranked fifth in the NL this season||Why he'll win: Detwiler pitches much better at Nationals Park than on the road|
|Pitcher beware: Lohse is 1-4 with a 5.12 ERA in his postseason career||Pitcher beware: Detwiler is pitching after a 12-day layoff|
|Bottom line: Lohse had a great 2012 and has experience on the big stage||Bottom line: Detwiler needs to bounce back after two rough outings to close the regular season|
"Back then, I just threw as hard as I could for as long as I could, and that's not a very good recipe for success. Now I've learned how to control the counts, control my emotions for the most part and go out there and treat it just like any other game. That's one of the toughest things to do is to mentally block out everything else and not worry about anything other than making the pitches that I need to do to be successful. Those are things that you learn over time through experience, and that's something that I've been able to learn from."
One of the things Lohse will have to block out is the importance of this assignment. He'll be pitching to clinch the best-of-five series and earn a trip to the NL Championship Series. He said he prefers that to trying to stave off elimination -- as he did against Atlanta in his previous start -- but that ultimately it doesn't matter.
"I'm not going to handle it differently either way," Lohse said. "I'm going out there with the mindset that, you know, I've got this really good lineup that I've got to go out there and do my best to shut down, regardless. Either way, the way I look at it, it's to prolong our season, whether we are up 2-1 or down 1-2. That's not going to change. I experienced what it's like to be in a win-or-go-home situation in my last outing, and felt I handled that well."
In the NL Wild Card game, Lohse held the Braves to two runs on six hits in 5 2/3 innings. He walked one, struck out six and didn't get the decision.
"You know, I came through the Atlanta game pretty successfully, and plan on being able to do the same thing from here on out," Lohse said. "I've learned how to handle that adrenaline, all of the other stuff, the ability to block it out. Just go out there and do the things that I know how to do; make pitches and not really care about the situation. Just go out there and have fun."
Lohse also won't be dwelling on the reality that, despite how well he's pitched the past couple of years, he likely won't be back in St. Louis next season. He'll be a free agent this winter, and all indications are that the Cardinals, who are loaded with young power arms, intend to go in a different direction.
On paper, the most obvious edge Lohse has over Nationals Game 4 starter Ross Detwiler is experience. That's something that seemed to matter in the first two games of the NLDS, as well.
"This game is such a fine line of, you know, who is going to make adjustments? Who is going to handle pressure situations in the best manner possible?" Lohse said. "Sometimes when you have someone going through the first time, they are going to make more mistakes, and I think that's what we are able to capitalize on."
Obviously, the Cardinals are hoping that will work in their favor again on Thursday.
Paul Hagen is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.