In his first start since he suffered a right forearm strain June 3, Lohse had no problems with his arm. He also stayed out of harm's way at the plate and in the field, welcome news during a season in which he was been constantly banged up due to a series of freak occurrences.
Lohse (4-5) felt satisfied with his velocity and with the movement on his breaking pitches, but his results weren't there. The veteran right-hander surrendered three runs in the first inning and a go-ahead home run to opposing starter Carlos Zambrano in the fourth, as the Cardinals fell, 7-3.
"It's not exactly the results I wanted, but there were some positives coming out of it," Lohse said. "I'm ready to get back in the groove. For my first 10 starts, it seemed like something would happen every other one, just health-wise. I'm just looking forward to being freak injury-free."
Manager Tony La Russa said Saturday that he would be happy if Lohse simply made it through the start healthy, which the righty did despite giving up eight hits and three walks.
"That was very important," La Russa said. "This was a tough circumstance. It's not an easy assignment, but he handled it well. I'm excited to send him out there next weekend."
Lohse got off to a rough start during a 40-pitch first inning. With one out, Ryan Theriot doubled and moved to second when Alfonso Soriano drew a 10-pitch walk. Lohse then started Micah Hoffpaiur with a curveball, and the first baseman launched it over the right-field wall to give the Cubs a 3-0 advantage.
Lohse eventually got out of the inning, but not before he walked Milton Bradley and surrendered a single to Jeff Baker.
"Obviously, the first inning was a little tough," catcher Jason LaRue said. "After that, he did a much better job locating his pitches, and when you're not out there a while, I don't know if you're out of sync or you really want to do good and press too much the first inning, but it usually seems like guys relax after the first inning."
The Cardinals tied the game in the third when Albert Pujols lined a two-run double into the left-field corner and scored on Joe Thurston's single.
But Zambrano (5-4) broke the tie himself in the fourth, smacking his third home run of the season and the 19th of his career. He also settled down on the mound after Thurston's single and retired the final 10 batters he faced, striking out six of them. He won for the first time in seven starts.
Lohse kept the game close in the fifth despite some bad luck. Soriano led off with a bloop single, and one out later, shortstop Brendan Ryan lost Jake Fox's popup in the sun for another single. After Lohse walked Bradley to load the bases, he squeezed out of trouble by retiring Baker and Koyie Hill.
"As the game went on, I felt I pitched pretty well," Lohse said. "That was big in the fifth inning, keeping it a one-run game."
But the game did not stay close for long. The Cubs broke it open with three unearned runs in the seventh. The trouble began when La Russa brought in starter Todd Wellemeyer out of the bullpen in an attempt to conserve pitchers for the nightcap of the doubleheader. Wellemeyer quickly loaded the bases with one out.
At that point, La Russa brought in rookie P.J. Walters, who did his job by getting back-to-back ground balls.
"I told Walters, 'You can't execute better than that,'" La Russa said. "We had a chance to get out of that 4-3."
Sloppy defense and a questionable call prevented that from happening. First, Skip Schumaker threw high to the plate on Sam Fuld's grounder to second, but umpire Randy Marsh ruled that LaRue's foot came off the plate. LaRue said afterward that he was convinced the runner was out.
Hoffpauir then hit a routine grounder to first that went through the legs of Pujols, and two more runs scored.
"I think everybody here was [shocked]," Hoffpauir said. "I thought he'd catch it for sure. You never think he's not going to make that play. He's a Gold Glove first baseman."
Andrew Simon is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less