MILWAUKEE -- To find anything like Kyle Lohse's first two starts this season, one has to go all the way back to 2006, when Lohse was a 26-year-old still trying to find his footing in the Major Leagues. In his first two outings that year, he surrendered 10 earned runs in 10 2/3 innings, including an eight-run, 4 2/3 inning loss to the Indians in his season debut.
Now a bit older and much wiser, Lohse is again seeking a rebound after losing his first two starts, including a 10-2 decision against the Pirates on Sunday that was settled by Andrew McCutchen's three-run, sixth-inning home run.
It was a slider, the same pitch Lohse had used to retire McCutchen in two previous at-bats. But this one was up and over the outer half of home plate, allowing McCutchen to extend his arms to hit it into the visitor's bullpen at Miller Park. A 2-1 Brewers lead was suddenly a 4-2 deficit, and Milwaukee was on its way to a fifth loss in the six-game opening homestand.
"For me, that was the ballgame," said Lohse, who was charged with four earned runs on eight hits in 6 1/3 innings, and owns an 11.17 ERA. "Making a bad mistake in a bad situation."
Lohse was stellar through much of Spring Training before finding command trouble in his final exhibition start against the Cubs. Those issues continued on Opening Day, when Lohse matched a career high for earned runs allowed (eight) and surrendered 10 hits in only 3 1/3 innings against a Rockies lineup that would slug its way to wins in all three games of the series.
On Sunday against the Pirates, his favorite opponent, Lohse was better. He surrendered only one run on three singles through the first five innings, and was working with a 2-1 lead after Carlos Gomez homered in the third inning. But after Gomez doubled and was picked off to end the fifth, Lohse found quick trouble.
In the span of five pitches to begin the sixth inning, Lohse surrendered a Gregory Polanco double, a Jordy Mercer single and McCutchen's go-ahead homer.
"His command's not as sharp. But he'll get it," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. "The last couple [starts] weren't good, but this is getting closer to where we need him to be. At times he made some great pitches."
Did Lohse agree that Sunday marked progress from his Opening Day start?
"I don't think it would have taken much to be better than the last one," he said.
Historically, Lohse has been a fast starter. His 3.98 ERA and .691 OPS against in more than 400 March/April innings makes it Lohse's best month. In the past decade, he'd never pitched fewer than 10 innings over his first two starts until this year.
As for the team's early woes, Lohse said. "We can't get too distracted by big picture stuff. We just have to put our heads down and grind them out."
Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @AdamMcCalvy. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.