Kyle Lohse looked like he had his dominant stuff–though maybe not as utterly dominant as what shut out the Braves in September–on Tuesday night. He struck out five hitters through his first three innings and, thanks to a good relay from Carlos Gomez to Jean Segura, kept Atlanta off the board through four and two-thirds innings. He was spotting the ball well, putting hitters away with off-speed pitches, and inducing weak contact. The Brewers 1-0 lead, as weird as it sounds, almost felt secure if he could get the ball to Brandon Kintzler and the bullpen.
Then a few bad pitches ruined what would have been a dominant start.
An inning after committing the same crime against Dan Uggla, Lohse left a 89 mph cutter around the belt and over the plate to notorious pull hitter Jason Heyward. The result? Home run to right field.
Lohse’s cutter was effective diving in on left-handed hitters’ hands all night, but, most likely in an attempt to get a 2-0 fastball over, he left it in Heyward’s hot zone. To the graphics!
And, courtesy of Brooks Baseball, why it’s a bad idea to leave a pitch, even more so a 2-0 cutter, there to Heyward.
In 2-0 counts last season, Lohse relied primarily on his sinker. In 45 uses against lefties, he was effective with it, with hitters only making contact seven times, batting .286. League average batting average on 2-0 counts is .298. Lohse only gave up two hits on 2-0 sinkers, compared to three whiffs and seven foul balls. In short, his ability to spot pitches in 2-0 counts is imperative given his lack of blow-you-away velocity.
Already trailing 2-1 following Heyward’s bomb, Lohse’s second big mistake was a slider that caught the inner half of the plate to Freddie Freeman. It wasn’t a pitch that screamed, “HIT ME” like the 2-0 cutter to Heyward, but it wasn’t as sharp as the majority of Lohse’s sliders Tuesday night and was still a mistake that good hitters like Freeman will punish.
To beat a good Braves’ lineup, much like Yovani Gallardo did on Monday, you have to attack, avoid mistakes, and keep the ball down. Lohse did a good job of that on Tuesday night, but with a couple of exceptions–and those exceptions put him on the hook.