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Brewers host Cubs with first place at stake

MILWAUKEE -- Matt Albers won't be available Wednesday afternoon when the Milwaukee Brewers wrap up their three-game series with the Chicago Cubs at Miller Park.

The Brewers placed the right-handed reliever on the disabled list Tuesday with a strained right shoulder following a disastrous showing Monday night in a loss to the Cubs when he allowed a season-high five runs in the 11th inning of a 7-2 Brewers loss.

"He reported some soreness after the game," Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. "He said it has been there for a little bit. We've got to just shut it down and try to get him better. Hopefully, it's something that's on the shorter end of things and we'll have all the diagnostics done and get an answer to that a little later in the week."

Albers was a big part of Milwaukee's bullpen's early-season success.

While Josh Hader and Jeremy Jeffress attracted most of the attention with their dominance, Albers went 3-1 with a save and a 1.08 ERA through his first 21 appearances.

Things took a turn, though, when the calendar flipped to June.

Albers posted a 19.64 ERA over his last four appearances.

"He got to the point where it was affecting him out there on the field and it's just time to take a break," Counsell said.

Milwaukee recalled right-hander Jorge Lopez from Triple-A Colorado Springs to fill Albers' spot on the roster and hands the ball to right-hander Jhoulys Chacin on Wednesday in the series finale, looking to extend their half-game lead over the Cubs in the National League Central.

Chacin has been stellar of late, going 5-0 with a 2.92 ERA over his last 11 starts and is 5-1 with a 3.58 ERA in 15 starts this season.

"He's doing what he's good at," Counsell said. "He's executing what he's good at. It's a sinking fastball, it's a very good breaking ball. It's a sprinkled-in changeup to left-handed hitters.

"Overall, he's just pitching well."

Chacin hasn't faced Chicago since June 20 of last season but is 2-4 with a 3.82 ERA in seven career outings (six starts) against the Cubs.

He'll match up against Cubs lefty Mike Montgomery, who's filled in nicely while Yu Darvish recovers from right triceps tendinitis. Montgomery is 2-0 with a 1.02 ERA in three starts this season after holding the Pirates to a run over six innings his last time out and is 2-1 with a 3.56 ERA overall this season.

"What he's showing right now is how good he actually is," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said.

Montgomery has served as the Cubs' swingman since he was acquired in a trade ahead of the 2016 deadline. He made it known over the winter that he'd prefer to be a full-time starter but has embraced his current role without issue.

Maddon respected Montgomery's candor and appreciates his willingness to put the team first.

"I want our guys to speak their mind," Maddon said. "If that's what you feel, don't hold it back. Say it straight forwardly, and then let's talk about it. I love that. He's been that guy for a couple years, we just haven't had that opportunity for him. My advice back to him was just stay ready. 'When that opportunity arises you need to be ready to take advantage of it.' He has. ... This doesn't surprise me, what he's doing."

Darvish meanwhile took a step forward Tuesday. The right-hander threw off a mound for the first time since May 26 during a 30-pitch bullpen session in Milwaukee. He reported no issues during the workout and will be re-evaluated Wednesday morning.

"He threw really well, easy gas, great location, good spin on his breaking ball, (I was) very impressed," Maddon said. "The ball was coming out hot, and it was going right where he wanted to throw it. Good command in the 'pen. ... That's just a bullpen, but it was very encouraging to see him throw that easily and that well."

There is still no time table for Darvish, who is 1/3 with a 4.95 ERA in eight starts this season, to return.
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