The Reds won Friday's series opener, 6-5, when they scored all six of their runs in the fifth inning. After losing the first two games in Arizona, both by one run, finishing with a .500 road trip was satisfying.
"It was big. We got the 3-3 road trip," Lohse said. "We had to win that one to win the series here. You want to come out and put your team in the best situation you can and try to win that game."
Lohse (1-0) did just that as he struck out a career-high 12 batters over his eight shutout innings with four hits and one walk allowed. Cubs starter Ted Lilly (1-1) continued a recent run of left-handed dominance over Cincinnati by striking out 10 batters in six strong innings.
This was the epitome of a pitchers' duel, and home plate umpire Doug Eddings didn't see many pitches he didn't like. The two pitching staffs combined for 25 strikeouts with just three walks.
"That's what's going to happen when you have pitchers hitting their spots," Lohse said. "It keeps the game going. It wasn't like we were missing our spots and catchers are reaching across the plate. I think we were both hitting our locations, and maybe we were given a couple here and there."
The one-run difference in the game came down to one mistake. Lilly made it.
It came in the fourth inning when Lilly gave up Brandon Phillips' leadoff walk. With both pitchers dominating, the Reds knew one run could be it and played aggressively. Josh Hamilton was batting when Phillips stole second. After Hamilton struck out, Phillips made a break for third base just as Jeff Conine zipped a single on the ground through the left side. Phillips easily scored on the play.
Conine's knock was the second of two hits the Reds had in the game. Lilly and the Cubs bullpen combined to retire the final 17 Reds in a row. The only other Reds hit on the day came in the second inning, when Ken Griffey Jr. singled to right field.
"You kind of hope to get a little bit more of a cushion," Conine said. "But the way Kyle was throwing the ball, that was impressive. That was fun to watch."
Lohse knew he was pitching without margin for error the rest of the way.
"It doesn't have to be said," said Lohse, who has a 2.53 ERA after three starts. "You realize that the other guy is on, too. The last game [at Arizona], I had a one-run lead and gave it up. You have to bear down with that situation and learn from your mistakes. I was able to do that."
The biggest challenge of the day came in the Cubs' sixth when Lohse had runners on first and third with no outs. Alfonso Soriano hit a leadoff double down the left-field line and Ryan Theriot -- who was 3-for-4 on the day -- followed with a single to center field hit sharply enough that Ryan Freel could play it quickly and keep Soriano at third base.
The heart of the Cubs lineup then went down in order. Jacque Jones swung and struck out on a changeup several inches outside. Derrek Lee was called out on strikes and Michael Barrett flied to right field.
Lohse said he wasn't keeping track of his strikeout total, but definitely remembered the two K's in the sixth.
"That was huge for me. Those were the two big ones," Lohse said. "If they put the ball in play, it's a tie ballgame."
"First and third with your 3-4-5 hitters coming up, that should be automatic," Barrett said. "Without making excuses, that guy on the mound did his job. He made unbelievable pitches to Jacque Jones. It wasn't that Jacque Jones had a bad at-bat. For him to make those pitches in that situation, it's unfortunate."
Lohse retired his final nine batters in a row. He did not return for the ninth after he threw 114 pitches, 79 for strikes. Mike Stanton retired the first Cubs batter in the ninth. David Weathers walked Lee but finished the final two batters for his fifth save.
The previous career-high strikeout total for Lohse was nine, which he accomplished twice. The most recent time was Sept. 13, 2003, for the Twins at Cleveland.
"He had an exceptional changeup today," Reds pitching coach Dick Pole said of Lohse. "He used it on right-handers and left-handers. There's no secret to this stuff. If you throw strikes and throw something besides your fastball over the plate, you usually have a pretty good time out there. If you don't, it's not much fun."