LOS ANGELES — With three games in as many days, Craig Counsell went into Game 3 of the National League Championship Series Monday knowing he'd need to closely monitor the workloads of his high-leverage relievers, especially left-hander Josh Hader.
Hader pitched in back-to-back games just six times this season, including the playoffs and 11 more with just one day of rest in between. He threw a season-high 46 pitches over three scoreless innings of the series last Friday in Milwaukee, leaving him unavailable for Game 2 of the series.
Hader was fully rested when Counsell called on him Monday night to protect a 4-0 lead with one out in the eighth inning. He needed just eight pitches to put the Dodgers away but instead of coming back out for the ninth, Counsell turned to right-hander Jeremy Jeffress to close out the game.
The short stint and light workload left open the possibility that Hader could throw again in one of the next two games, should the opportunity present himself.
The Milwaukee Brewers held the Los Angeles Dodgers scoreless in a 4-0 win on Monday night in Game 3 of the National League Championship Series…
"We'll always check on it and see how he feels and everything," Counsell said. "Obviously part of taking him out of the game was to have him available for Games 4 and 5 if we need him."
Corey Knebel threw 19 pitches while striking out four over an impressive 1 2/3 innings of work while Jeffress needed 21 to get through the ninth. He got off to a shaky start and found himself in trouble for a second straight outing when the Dodgers loaded the bases on a one-out, four-pitch walk by Yasiel Puig.
Jeffress recovered, getting Yasmani Grandal to chase a pair of curveballs for out No. 2 then struck out Brian Dozier on a fastball away to escape the jam.
"I just had to make my pitch," Jeffress said. "The walk to Puig upset me. A ground ball, double-play would have ended it but you just have to have a short-term memory.
Jeffress has two blown saves this postseason. He allowed a pair of runs in the ninth during the NLDS opener before Milwaukee rallied to win it in the 10th then allowed two more Saturday in Game 2 in a 4-3 loss at Miller Park.
Counsell said there was never any doubt in his mind about going back to Jeffress, who went 8-1 with a 1.29 ERA and 15 saves in 73 regular season appearances.
"I trust him to get those outs," Counsell said. "The ninth inning was entertaining. But they didn't score."
Game 4 starters set
After the game, Counsell said Gio Gonzalez will start Game 4 Tuesday after pitching just two innings as the "initial out-getter" in Game 1.
Counsell wasn't ready to make that announcement before Milwaukee's 4-0 victory Wednesday. Instead, he wanted to see how things played out against the Dodgers. When Jhoulys Chacin gave Milwaukee 5⅓ strong innings, allowing Counsell to use his regular late-inning bullpen options, the plan moving forward became a little more clear.
Thirty-six years ago. Half a lifetime. That's how long it's been since the Milwaukee Brewers advanced to the World Series in 1982, their only …
"We laid out some scenarios going into today's game of what the possibilities were for tomorrow," Counsell said. "If we got a good start (Monday) and we're in good shape, Gio was always going to be the guy."
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Left-hander Wade Miley gets the ball for Game 5 on Wednesday, also coming back on short rest after throwing 5⅔ innings Saturday in Game 2.
"It was a 75-pitch appearance," Counsell said. "It's something that we've been able to do — no different than what we did with (Game 3 starter Jhoulys) Chacin. He's capable of doing it."
Fatherly advice for Shaw
Travis Shaw's father, Jeff, spent 10 years in the big leagues but never played in the postseason. So as Travis experiences the playoffs for the second time in three full seasons, the elder Shaw passed on some fatherly advice.
"He told me don't take it for granted because you never know, this could be the last run you get," Shaw said. "It's pretty special when you think about it, even playing here where he played, too, in the playoffs. It's a cool experience."
Shaw grew up a Dodgers fan while Jeff spent the last four years of his big league career playing in Los Angeles. It's one of several connections between the Brewers and city; Ryan Braun, Christian Yelich and Mike Moustakas are all native to the area and have offseason homes in the Malibu area, not far from Brewers owner Mark Attanasio.
Counsell has ties to the area and the Dodgers, too. The Marlins traded him to Los Angeles in June 1999. He'd play 50 games for the team, batting .259 with nine RBIs while wearing the same No. 30 currently worn by Dodgers manager Dave Roberts.
"It was fun to put on a Dodger uniform," Counsell said. "It was an honor. I enjoyed my short time here."
Counsell said he lived with fellow infielder Mark Grudzielanek, like Counsell a Wisconsin native in Manhattan Beach, about 25 miles southwest of Dodger Stadium — a considerable haul considering Los Angeles' notorious traffic.
"It was a beautiful place to live," Counsell remembered. "We left early and got home late but in the meantime, we had the beach in the morning so it was worth it."
Yelich drops bunt, not worried
After drawing a one-out walk and scoring the Brewers' first run of the day in the opening inning, Yelich grounded out to short his next two times up so when he stepped into the box to lead off the eighth and saw an opportunity, he took advantage of it.
Seeing the Dodgers' infield playing back, Yelich dropped a bunt down the third-base line for just his second hit of the series.
"That was on my own," Yelich said. "The name of the game is to get on base and try to tack on some runs. I was leading off the inning and the opportunity presented itself so I figured why not."
Yelich's torrid second half of the regular season made him a near-lock for Most Valuable Player honors. But after going 2-for-3 with a home run and two RBIs in the NLDS opener against Colorado, Yelich is 2-for-22 with nine walks — seven of them coming in the first round.
He's not concerned by the mini-slump.
"It's been three games," he said. "I've done this over and over again throughout the course of the season. We're a team. You just try to get on base any way you can; whether it's a hit or a walk or whatever, just try to contribute."