That's about the only blemish on what Lohse did, though. He threw just 87 pitches. Lohse walked just one, while striking out five. He gave up two hits, but one of them was a homer to Nats first baseman Adam LaRoche leading off the bottom of the second. The Cards countered that in the top of the third, and that's where the game stood until Jayson Werth's walk-off homer in the ninth inning decided it.
"I've watched him do that all season long," manager Mike Matheny said of Lohse. "He's been a big-game pitcher and he's been a great leader, [along with] a few other guys on our team as far as our staff goes. From Day 1, he's just done a terrific job of taking advantage of the opportunities and has put together a solid season. We knew that he was going to give us a chance. That's all we can ask, and he did that."
An illustration of how in command Lohse was came in the seventh. With the score tied, Matheny didn't hesitate to let him bat.
When the veteran righty came back out and walked LaRoche with one out in the bottom of the inning, the manager came to the mound.
"He just wanted to come out and check and see how I felt," Lohse said. "And I told him I felt good. I know I had walked LaRoche, but I wasn't going to let him beat me in that situation. I was just trying to get him to chase something, and he did a good job of not chasing."
Lohse then needed just one pitch to get Michael Morse to ground into an inning-ending double play. Lohse pumped his fist in a rare display of emotion.
"I was pretty pumped up," Lohse said. "I don't know what that guy's numbers are on me, but obviously he hit the grand slam in that last game [on Sept. 29 at Busch Stadium]. But I just made the pitch I had to and was pretty fired up. I just did what I had to do and got the ground ball I needed. It was one of the few ground balls we got, so that was a key play right there at that time."
Lohse was right. Through the first six innings, only two of his outs came on ground balls. But that wasn't necessarily the game plan.
"You don't go into it thinking, 'I'm going to get so many fly-ball outs,'" Lohse said. "You just think about executing and keeping them off balance, and I think that was the key, getting them out front a little bit, and you're going to get some of those weak flies. That's my game, controlling counts and getting them to hit my pitch in my zone.
"It felt pretty good out there. You know, LaRoche, unfortunately, put a pretty good at-bat on me his first time up. He hit a decent pitch. But other than that, I felt pretty much in control, keeping guys off base, keeping them battling back and forth, moving my stuff around, doing what I do."
Nationals hitters were more patient early than Lohse had anticipated.
"They weren't quite as aggressive as I thought they were going to be," he said. "They've been a little more aggressive against other guys at other times on film and stuff. But I didn't get too many deep counts, and the result of it is you get quick outs. The second time through, they got a little more aggressive and then backed off kind of that third time through. So they put together a pretty good plan to try to mess me up, but when you're hitting your spots and changing speeds, you can get around that."
As Matheny said, there are times when all a starting pitcher can do is give his team a chance. Lohse did everything but get the win Thursday.
Paul Hagen is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less