Craig Counsell returns to Milwaukee as Cubs face Brewers

Craig Counsell returns to Milwaukee as Cubs face Brewers

The intense rivalry between the Chicago Cubs and Milwaukee Brewers moves up a notch Monday when Chicago manager Craig Counsell returns to Milwaukee for the first time since abruptly leaving the Brewers in the offseason.

Counsell surprisingly jumped ship to the rival Cubs after nine seasons with the Brewers, a move that made him the highest-paid manager in the majors.

“I think that will be more from the fan perspective. We have to go out there and win the game,” Brewers outfielder Christian Yelich said Sunday, according to “It’s players vs. players. The managers put players in position to win the game, but at the end of the day, we’re the ones that are deciding the outcome on the field.”

Rookie left-hander Robert Gasser (2-0, 2.65 ERA) is slated to start for Milwaukee, while lefty Justin Steele (0-2, 5.68) gets the nod for Chicago as the teams begin a four-game series.

Milwaukee lost 2-1 at Boston on Sunday, finishing its longest road trip of the season 4-5. The Red Sox scored the winning run in the eighth off reliever Elvis Peguero. The Brewers’ lone run came on William Contreras’ RBI single in the fifth off starter Tanner Houck.

The Cubs lost 4-3 at St. Louis on Sunday night in a game delayed just over 2 1/2 hours by rain. The Cards got a pair of two-run homers from Paul Goldschmidt to take a 4-0 lead. Ian Happ accounted for all of the Cubs’ runs with a two-run homer in the seventh and a solo shot in the ninth. Chicago stranded runners on the corners in the ninth.

The Cubs have lost nine of their past 12 games to fall 3 1/2 games back of front-running Milwaukee in the National League Central.

The teams met earlier this month in Chicago, with the Brewers winning the first matchup against Counsell, but the Cubs took the final two games.

Gasser, who will be making his fourth start, is coming off his least effective outing. He allowed five runs (four earned) on 10 hits in six innings, settling for a no-decision in the Brewers’ 7-5 win at Miami on Tuesday.

In his big-league debut on May 10, Gasser allowed just two hits in six scoreless innings in an 11-2 win over the Cardinals.

Gasser has walked just one in his first 17 innings, with six strikeouts. Although opponents are hitting .286 against him, he has yet to give up a home run.

Steele, 16-5 with a 3.06 ERA last season, injured his left hamstring in his first start this year and missed more than a month. In his four starts since returning May 6, he is 0-2 with a 6.53 ERA, allowing six homers in 20 2/3 innings.

Steele has lost his past two starts. Most recently, he allowed five runs on six hits in 6 1/3 innings in a 9-2 loss to the visiting Atlanta Braves, although the bullpen allowed two of his inherited runners to score.

“I really think Justin’s pitched better than his numbers, the lines would show,” Counsell said after Steele’s last start. “He’s given up some home runs with men on base. You’re gonna get zinged by that.”

Steele is 2-2 with a 2.24 ERA in 13 games, including 11 starts, vs. Milwaukee.

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