PHILADELPHIA -- Kyle Lohse was in control, and then he wasn't, as a four-batter sequence turned the momentum of Game 1 of National League Division Series on Saturday night. The Cardinals have to be hoping the same can't be said for the series as a whole.
A team that has thrived on making comebacks in recent weeks instead allowed one, letting an early three-run lead turn into a blowout loss on an extremely disappointing night. A pair of home runs added up to a five-run sixth inning that turned the game, and St. Louis fell to Philadelphia, 11-6, at Citizens Bank Park.
Lohse was handed a 3-0 lead before he took the mound, and still had a 3-1 advantage after 5 1/3 innings. But he made the wrong mistake to the wrong hitter, and the game never looked the same.
Unsurprisingly to anyone who knows a little bit of Cardinals-Phillies history, it was Ryan Howard who did the most critical damage. Howard has spent his career abusing his hometown team, and he's been particularly hard on his former teammate Lohse.
Division Series History
Howard hit a three-run homer on a full-count changeup to put the Phils ahead. Two batters later, Raul Ibanez jumped a 2-0 changeup for a two-run homer that salted it away for ace Roy Halladay. Philadelphia tacked on three more against St. Louis' bullpen in the seventh and two more in the eighth to coast to victory, though the Redbirds battled back for three in the ninth after Halladay was pulled.
"I felt like I was on top of my game up till that point," Lohse said. "That just sums it up: two missed spots."
Teams taking Game 1 of a Division Series in the Wild Card era have gone on to win 47 of 64 series. Yet all hope is not lost as long as the Cardinals are able to take Game 2. The record is 13-11 for teams that win Game 2 after losing Game 1.
St. Louis got to Halladay early on Lance Berkman's three-run homer, but the club got nothing else off Philadelphia's starter. Even before the Phils took the lead, it was evident that the Cards had little chance to add on against Halladay. Thus it was similarly clear that if the home team could pull ahead, Halladay had a very good chance to bring home the win.
"I felt like, for the most part, we were making good pitches," Halladay said. "Just tried to continue with that, be aggressive, and let things take care of themselves -- just really was trying to avoid at that point trying to make up for what already happened. At that point, there's nothing you can do, and you really just have to continue with what you're doing."
In the sixth, the Phillies got Halladay all the runs he would need. And the Cardinals were in trouble before Howard jumped on that 3-2 mistake from Lohse.
Jimmy Rollins' slow-rolling ground ball up the middle found a hole to start the rally. Lohse struck out Chase Utley on a changeup before Hunter Pence hit a ground-ball single up the middle. That hit may have changed the course of the entire inning.
Rather than being able to pitch around Howard, as he had done two innings earlier, Lohse had to approach the slugger more aggressively. Given Howard's record of success against Lohse -- he entered the game 8-for-16 with two home runs -- that's not the ideal plan for Lohse.
Still, for seven pitches, Lohse battled. He fell behind in the count, 1-0 and 2-1, but each time came back to even it. Howard fouled off a pair of tough changeups at 3-2, but the third straight change missed. Lohse left it up and over the plate, and Howard drilled it, putting Philly ahead.
Lohse had no second thoughts about pitch selection, given how successful he'd been with the changeup until that point. His only regret was the location.
"I told myself, 'A walk's not the end of the world right here,'" he said. "I was just trying to bury the changeup, and it just didn't go down there. I missed with two pitches it felt like all night, and it cost us."
Shane Victorino kept the rally going with a single on a 2-2 fastball, bringing up Ibanez. Lohse fell behind, 2-0, before leaving another changeup high and over the plate, and Ibanez did the same thing Howard did.
The changeup had been an effective weapon for Lohse before the rally. He struck out Rollins and Utley on it, and was getting significant down-and-away movement with the pitch. In the sixth, though, he ran into the dangerous combination of missing his location and allowing the Phillies to see it too many times.
"It was location," Lohse said. "I feel like I could let them know a changeup is coming if I execute it. It's going to result in a good thing. And I threw it right down the middle. I just hung it."
As for Halladay, if the Cardinals hadn't struck early against him, they wouldn't have gotten anything at all. After the first, he looked like, well, Roy Halladay. The two-time Cy Young Award winner was simply dominant after the mistake to Berkman. He allowed only Skip Schumaker's second-inning leadoff single, then cruised, retiring his last 21 batters in a row and 23 out of 24.
Halladay's combination of command and stuff forces hitters to swing aggressively early in the count, and after the first inning, the Cards did just that. Halladay threw 20 pitches in the first, but he threw 85 the rest of the way, finishing with 105 over eight innings. He was his usual overwhelming self, and even the league's most prolific offensive club could do nothing with him after a fast start.
"If you get three runs in less than nine innings against the guy, you've actually made him do worse than he normally does," Berkman said. "That's how good he is. That's why he's making $22 million a year, and that's why people consider him the best in the game."
Against Michael Stutes with one out in the ninth, the Cardinals generated a run on Adron Chambers' RBI single, then loaded the bases on Yadier Molina's knock. The Phillies brought in Ryan Madson, and Schumaker promptly delivered a two-run double. Madson retired the next two batters, with pinch-hitter Matt Holliday the final out.
Despite the defeat, there was little defeatism in the visitors' clubhouse. Saturday might have represented the Phils' most favorable pitching matchup in the series, as the Cards turn to ace Chris Carpenter on Sunday against Cliff Lee. Carpenter will be pitching on three days' rest for the first time in his career, but his postseason history is an impressive one.
"That's why it's three out of five," said Albert Pujols. "It's not a one-game series. We just need to bounce back tomorrow, and hopefully tie the series and go home. I think if we can get a game right here, the home-field advantage and all that is going to be our way."
Matthew Leach is a reporter 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.