Brewers’ bullpen picking up where it left off

Last season the Milwaukee Brewers relied on their bullpen a lot — they were just one of four teams to use a reliever in every game of the 2016 season.

Four games into 2017, manager Craig Counsell has called upon his relievers often (an injury to Junior Guerra early the opener didn’t help). Milwaukee has racked up 17 2/3 innings from its bullpen in the early going.

The good news is the Brewers’ relievers have picked up right where they left off.

Since Sept. 11, 2016, Milwaukee has the fourth-best bullpen ERA in the major leagues, and the tops in the National League.

BULLPEN ERA SINCE 9-11-16

TEAM ERA
Orioles 1.57
Red Sox 1.98
Brewers 2.04
Mariners 2.06
Rangers 2.65

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Thus far, the Brewers’ bullpen has a 2.55 ERA with Jacob Barnes, Corey Knebel, Brent Suter and Carlos Torres having combined to pitch 9 2/3 scoreless innings.

If Milwaukee can keep hitting Chicago pitching like it did at the tail-end of last season, the bullpen won’t be needed to hold down a close game.

The Brewers went 5-1 in their last six matchups against the Cubs in 2016, averaging 6.2 runs per game (and allowing just 3.2) while slugging .517.

One player to keep an eye on Friday is Ryan Braun, who will be facing left-hander Brett Anderson, making his Cubs debut. Braun has the highest slugging percentage vs. southpaws among active players.

HIGHEST SLG% (MIN. 750 PA)

PLAYER SLG%
Ryan Braun .627
Giancarlo Stanton .606
Albert Pujols .596
Paul Goldschmidt .594
Josh Donaldson .577

Milwaukee will face right-handers Kyle Hendricks and Jake Arrieta in the final two games of the series.