While the Cardinals offense burst for nine runs Tuesday night, perhaps the most satisfying part of St. Louis' 9-3 victory over the Pirates was Kyle Lohse's performance on the mound.
After Adam Wainwright struggled through five and a third the night before, Lohse crafted his way through seven innings, allowing two earned runs.
Lohse became the No. 1 starter by default last year when Wainwright and Chris Carpenter went down with injuries. He fulfilled the role with a 15-6 record and 3.78 ERA. Lohse's performances did seem to tail off at the end of the year, and many fans wondered if he could duplicate his career season.
On Tuesday, Lohse took a step in the right direction.
What stood out the most was that Lohse lasted through seven. After Lohse gave up a leadoff double in the seventh, Fox Sports cut to pitching coach Dave Duncan calling to the bullpen. Not only did Lohse end up working his way through the order, he did so on a couple of ground balls, getting a fielder's choice at third by Khalil Greene.
No reliever was needed until the eighth.
Anyone who followed the Cardinals last season knew the problems the rotation had, consistently failing to go deep enough into games. After Wainwright's performance barely lasted five, it was good to see Lohse step up and take some heat off the bullpen.
Dennys Reyes only threw 12 pitches, and Brad Thompson tossed a paltry seven to close the game. With Jason Motte's recent disaster, Tony La Russa needs to have his options of what reliever to use and when.
Lohse threw 108 pitches, 70 of those strikes. He only allowed one walk.
In Spring Training, Lohse was up and down with a record of 3-2. To see him go an inning longer than any Spring Training start and give up only three runs is encouraging. For the Cardinals to have a chance at nabbing a playoff spot, it is imperative for Lohse to build upon last season.
While it is only Lohse's first start, it is great to see that he still has the touch. It should also be noted that it was the Pirates' offense he was facing.
His next start is on Apr. 12 against the Astros, which should be a tougher challenge.