With two outs and a base open in the 13th inning, and the Chicago Cubs out of position players, Milwaukee Brewers manager made what seemed to be a fairly easy decision.
He would have reliever Carlos Torres intentionally walk Miguel Montero to load the bases for pitcher Travis Wood.
It backfired after Wood walked to force in the go-ahead run in the Cubs' 2-1 win on Wednesday night.
"I'm sitting there thinking 'Am I going to let Miguel Montero beat me or am I going to let the pitcher beat me?' I think you have to make the pitcher beat you," Counsell said.
It's exactly what happened for Wood, a career .181 hitter with nine homers.
"He tells us he wants to get a walk-off home run. I guess that was kind of close to it," teammate Kris Bryant said.
But the Cubs had more nervous moments in the bottom of the 13th after Wood (2-0) allowed a leadoff double to Jonathan Villar. The Brewers later put runners on the corners with one out.
The Cubs' last eligible player, left-hander Clayton Richard came on in relief to get the last out, retiring lefty-hitting Kirk Nieuwenhuis on a groundout for his first career save.
An inning earlier, Wood worked out of the bases-loaded, nobody out situation by drawing a short flyout and two popouts.
"We had every chance to win the game by executing offensively. We just didn't get it done," Counsell said.
Wood took advantage of his chance, walking after Torres (0-1) missed high on a 3-1 cutter. Raucous Cubs fans who made the 90-minute drive north from Chicago made Miller Park feel like Wrigley Field.
Besides the empty 12th, the Brewers had a couple misadventures while running the bases that wasted more scoring opportunities. Jonathan Lucroy was thrown out after being caught leaning too far off second in the third; Presley got tagged out in a rundown following a similar blooper in the fourth.
"We made some mistakes on the bases but we still, after that, had chances of execution at-bats to win the game," Counsell said.
Offense was otherwise a trouble spot again for the Cubs, a night after getting no-hit for seven-plus innings by right-hander Chase Anderson. On Wednesday, Brewers starter Jimmy Nelson frustrated Chicago's formidable lineup, allowing five hits, walking four and striking out five in seven-plus shutout innings.
The Brewers also turned three double plays, including a gem in the third that starter with second baseman Scooter Gennett's diving stop of Jason Heyward's hard bouncer. Gennett flipped the ball from his glove to shortstop Villar, who caught the ball with his bare right hand and threw to first in one motion to retire the quick Heyward.
"Defensively we were really good today, had a lot of plays, a lot of double plays. Bullpen kept us right there for a while, you know it's one of those frustrating games," Nelson said.
The Cubs tied the game at 1 with one out in the ninth on Addison Russell's RBI grounder off closer Jeremy Jeffress, but otherwise left the tying or go-ahead run in scoring position from the eighth through 11th innings.
Milwaukee's only run scored on Alex Presley's fielder's choice in the fifth.
Cubs: OF Matt Szczur (right hamstring), who was eligible to come off the disabled list Wednesday, will go on a rehab assignment at Double-A Tennessee. "There's no specific timetable right now, just go play," manager Joe Maddon said.
Brewers: LF Ryan Braun was scratched because of back stiffness. Braun had back surgery in the offseason, and manager Craig Counsell has said the 32-year-old slugger might need periodic days off for rest. Counsell said that Braun's right wrist, which kept him out of a couple games over the weekend, was fine.
Cubs: RHP Jason Hammel (5-0) is 8-0 with a 2.37 ERA in 11 career starts against Milwaukee.
Brewers: Opponents are batting .206 against RHP Junior Guerra (2-0) in three starts since he was called up on May 3 from Triple-A Colorado Springs.