It was this time last year that Kyle Lohse started paying the price for his truncated Spring Training. The Brewers right-hander expressed confidence ahead of Tuesday's start against the Cardinals that this year will be different.
"I can already tell," Lohse said. "You look at the way my changeup and slider are coming out. I wasn't able to finish the pitches the way I wanted to last year. Now I have Ron [Roenicke, the Brewers' manager] come up to me telling me how much better my changeup is. Yeah, there's a reason for that."
Last year, Lohse lingered in free agency deep into March before finally signing a three-year deal with the Brewers. He'd done his best to stay in shape by pitching against junior college teams, but slipped into a "dead arm" phase on May 3 against these same Cardinals, six starts into the regular season. He allowed four runs on 11 hits in five innings that day, and went on to go 0-4 with a 6.51 ERA for the month.
On Tuesday night, the Cardinals will once again serve as the opponent for Lohse's sixth start of the season. He will start opposite former teammate Lance Lynn with both managers seeking quality starts in the wake of Monday's 12-inning game.
This time, Lohse's arm is better prepared, thanks to those long weeks of Spring Training.
"Last year, I was making do the best I could with what I had," Lohse said. "This year, coming in with a regular spring, everything is back to normal. I don't have any worries about that side of it."
Lohse has won his last four starts, and is holding opponents to a .198 average this season. He started four times against the Cardinals last year and went 1-3 with a 4.88 ERA.
Lynn, meanwhile, gets a second chance to capture his fifth April win, which would make him just the fifth pitcher in Cardinals history to win five games before May. Adam Wainwright became the fourth on Sunday, when he also became the Majors' first five-game winner this season.
Lynn is 12-1 in his March/April career starts. The only pitcher with a better winning percentage before May and a minimum of 10 starts is a guy named Babe Ruth, who was 13-1. Lynn can match him with a win on Tuesday.
"Right now, I'm happy with the way I'm pitching, especially after the first two starts when some stuff didn't go my way," Lynn said. "Since then, I've been able to make pitches using all of my pitches. I'm feeling confident with all of them. It's definitely a different feeling than in years past."
Lynn beat the Brewers on April 14 with seven shutout innings and made what has been a critical adjustment.
After allowing three first-inning runs in each of his first two starts this season, Lynn decided to alter his pregame routine prior to that start against Milwaukee. He purposely tired himself before taking the mound at Miller Park, since he tends to be the type of pitcher who gets stronger the deeper he gets into a game. That meant more pregame sprinting, then a rapid fire session of fastballs. Once he had his fastball down, Lynn threw his other pitches to get them sharp.
Since then, Lynn has not allowed a first-inning run in three starts.
Brewers: Another position player down?
The Brewers' 12-inning win on Monday may have come at a cost. Third baseman Aramis Ramirez exited in the seventh after being hit in the elbow by a pitch for the second consecutive inning, and Roenicke said he would have to check Ramirez's availability on Tuesday. X-rays taken at the stadium were negative.
The Brewers are also without right fielder Ryan Braun (rib cage) and shortstop Jean Segura (facial laceration). Since none of those injuries are believed worthy of the disabled list, Roenicke could be down to backup catcher Martin Maldonado and second baseman Rickie Weeks on the bench for Tuesday's game.
"It's hard," Roenicke said. "You're going to have to DL somebody, and nobody should be DL'd. It's tough. But this win was huge, going into [Tuesday] knowing we won this game. We'll do what we can."
Cardinals: Garcia, Grichuk awaiting first starts
The Cardinals shuffled their roster prior to this series, bringing up outfielder Randal Grichuk and infielder Greg Garcia in an attempt to jolt a recently sluggish offense. Neither player started in Monday's series opener, though both made their Major League debuts. Greg Garcia drew a seventh-inning walk as a pinch-hitter. Randal Grichuk entered as part of a double-switch in the ninth and finished 0-for-2.
Manager Mike Matheny did not indicate when either player will earn his first start, though the left-handed hitting Garcia would seem a candidate to start Tuesday against the right-hander Lohse.
"We don't know how this plays out, so I'm not going to tell them they're not going to play for the next so-many days," Matheny said. "Just get an opportunity to play and don't make anything more out of it. Don't start drawing up your own conclusions. Just play when you get an opportunity and we'll see how it unfolds."
Garcia left Triple-A Memphis with a club-most five homers and had an 11-game hitting streak snapped on Sunday. Grichuk was hitting .400 against left-handers and had driven in 17 runs in 21 games.
• Jhonny Peralta has two more games left to add to his April home run total, which has already established a new franchise record for a shortstop. Peralta has six home runs this month, three more than anyone else on the club. Edgar Renteria previous held the Cardinals' shortstop record with five in 2000.
• The Cardinals and Brewers are two of only three Major League teams that remain undefeated when scoring four or more runs in a game. Milwaukee has 16 such wins, while the Cardinals have 11.
• The Brewers have won 19 games before May 1 for the first time in franchise history, and Francisco Rodriguez is the first Brewers reliever to log 12 saves before that date.