Lohse efficient, but homers sting in loss
Righty gives up three runs on two dingers; Gomez goes yard
MILWAUKEE -- Kyle Lohse was very good in his season debut, but the way 23-year-old Braves left-hander Alex Wood baffled the Brewers with his funky delivery on Tuesday night, Lohse needed to be closer to perfect.
Wood cruised for seven innings after Carlos Gomez hit his very first pitch for a leadoff home run, and Lohse worked seven efficient innings of his own, but was undone by a pair of home runs in the Brewers' 5-2 loss to the Braves at Miller Park.
"Overall, seven innings, three runs, we should be able to handle that OK with our offense," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said, referring to Lohse's pitching line. "We feel like we're going to score runs, and we didn't do a good job of that tonight."
Braves right fielder Jason Heyward's two-run home run in the fifth snapped the Brewers' 22-inning shutout streak against the Braves and erased what had been a 1-0 Milwaukee lead. First baseman Freddie Freeman provided insurance with a solo shot in the sixth inning and another in the eighth to help Wood win his first-ever Major League start in April.
The Atlanta runs were a long time coming. The Braves were held scoreless in each of their last two games against the Brewers, including Lohse's two-hit shutout at Turner Field on Sept. 25 -- a game just as memorable for Gomez's home-plate confrontation with then-Braves catcher Brian McCann.
McCann moved on in free agency, but Gomez is still around, and announced as much on Tuesday night by hitting Wood's first pitch -- a 90-mph fastball -- for the Brewers' first 2014 home run. Gomez was just installed as Milwaukee's leadoff man at the end of Spring Training, and is 2-for-2 so far in his first at-bat of the day.
Gomez finished the night 1-for-2 with two walks and two runs scored, and Aramis Ramirez continued his hot start with two more hits and an RBI, but the Brewers were limited to six hits by three Braves pitchers. After Wood, reliever David Carpenter surrendered a run in the eighth inning and Craig Kimbrel blew away Khris Davis, Rickie Weeks and Mark Reynolds on swinging strikeouts in the ninth for the save.
The Brewers had chances to pad their early lead, but stranded a pair of men on base in the first inning and saw the speedy Gomez ground into a rare double play after Lohse bunted a third-strike foul in the second. Wood, coming off a spring in which he led the Grapefruit League with a 0.45 ERA, was stronger after that, allowing only two more singles and no more runners past first base through the end of the seventh.
In all, Wood allowed one run on five hits over seven innings.
"There were a couple of situations where we had chances," Roenicke said.
Lohse admitted he squandered one of them with his missed bunt. Had he executed, Gomez would have been batting with runners at second and third and one out with the Brewers leading, 1-0.
"For me, it's weird. It's hard for me to bunt lefties, especially when they're kind of herky jerky," Lohse said. "I don't see it. I don't pick it up. That was another big, fundamental thing. I didn't get the job done. We could have really put some pressure on him out there."
Unprompted, Wood agreed.
"After Lohse struck out trying to bunt, that was probably the game-changer for me," Wood said. "It kind of shot me through the rest of the way."
On the mound, Lohse struck out eight batters -- only the 14th time he'd reached that level in 364 regular-season starts -- while allowing three runs on five hits and two walks in seven innings.
Both of the Braves home runs off Lohse followed subtle mistakes.
In the fifth inning, Lohse made the inside fastball to Heyward he was aiming for, though he could have been a bit more up on Heyward's hands. The problem, Lohse said, came two batters earlier, when he issued a one-out walk to the No. 8 hitter, Andrelton Simmons, that gave Heyward the opportunity to bat with two outs in the first place.
"I don't have to catch the top of the lineup if I do my job there," Lohse said.
An inning later, Lohse had just missed with a backdoor slider and tried to come back with the same pitch, but it leaked into Freeman's hot zone.
"It came back [over] way too much of the plate," Lohse said.
Besides those small mistakes?
"It was good besides that," Lohse said. "That's the way this game goes. Every time you miss, there's a chance something like that could happen."