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Counsell’s Cubs Fight To Series Win In Skipper’s First Series Against Milwaukee

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After his big in-division offseason move, it took a month for Craig Counsell and the Cubs to take on the manager’s former team, the Milwaukee Brewers, and at first, it didn’t go quite the way the skipper or his team would’ve wanted- the Cubs blew a modest late lead and lost the series opener by a score of 3-1. However, the next pair of games would hold much more positive endings for the Northsiders, as they leveled the series on Saturday before taking the rubber match by way of a 5-0 Sunday afternoon shutout.

This offseason, after his contract in Milwaukee expired, the Cubs offered Counsell a deal that made him the highest-paid manager in the big leagues both in terms of total and annual value, and he decided he simply couldn’t refuse. The move came as a shock to many, especially after the Cubs reiterated their commitment to manager David Ross after a disastrous late-season collapse, but the stars aligned and Chicago saw an opportunity to improve their situation and make a push to contend. 

The move has largely appeared to pay off for Chicago, who own a 21-14 record after the series win over Milwaukee, as Counsell has expertly navigated an outrageous barrage of early-season injuries. However, there’s one string he hasn’t been able to successfully pull this year, and it came back to bite him again in his first clash with his former team. 

With a 1-0 lead and an out in the ninth inning of the first game of this series, Adbert Alzolay entered the game. He promptly gave up four consecutive singles, turning the narrow lead into a 3-1 deficit. Just 35 games into the season, Alzolay owns a record of 1-4 and overall, has blown six games for Chicago. That’s an incredibly significant figure for a team with just 14 losses. 

Of course, you can’t entirely blame the pitching or management when the offense only generates one run the entire game, but once you hold an eighth-inning lead, it’s not unreasonable to expect a win. It’s especially hard to blame Counsell, who is a bit low on options as the bullpen picks up the slack with ace Justin Steele out, but the loss to his old team still undoubtedly left a sour taste in the manager’s mouth nonetheless. That being said, winning the series certainly took some of the sting away, and the two teams will be meeting plenty more times as the year goes on.

The bullpen also imploded a bit in the second game of the set, as a 5-0 lead for the Cubs was whittled down to 5-4 after a tough seventh inning, before the final score settled at 6-5. Keegan Thompson was the culprit in that game, but he’s had a much stronger start to the year than Alzolay has. Finally, the team put it all together in game three, with a solid offensive performance paired with a great Javier Assad start and three shutout innings from the bullpen.

While there wasn’t too much tension at The Friendly Confines this weekend, things could easily be different when Counsell heads to Milwaukee as a visitor for the first time. After his move was announced, Brewers fans made it clear that there’s going to be bad blood going forward- the sign for Craig Counsell Park in Whitefish Bay, Wisconsin was promptly vandalized. We’ll see how he’s received at American Family Field at the end of the month, as Chicago comes North for a four-game set starting on Memorial Day- stay tuned for the drama, and of course for some top-notch NL Central baseball.

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