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Vince Velasquez, J.T. Realmuto lift Phillies over Brewers
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Vince Velasquez, J.T. Realmuto lift Phillies over Brewers

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PHILADELPHIA — Closer Hector Neris needed 40 pitches to make sure the Philadelphia Phillies’ bullpen didn’t blow another one.

Vince Velasquez threw six sharp innings, J.T. Realmuto hit a two-run homer and the Phillies held on to beat the Milwaukee Brewers 4-3 Monday night.

Velasquez (1-0) allowed one run and four hits, striking out six in his longest outing this season. Neris struck out Lorenzo Cain with the bases loaded in the ninth to preserve the win.

“It’s a gutsy performance by Hector,” Phillies manager Joe Girardi said. “I mean, I don’t ever like to let a pitcher go that many pitches. He looked over and said, ‘I got this.’ That was his last hitter no matter what. So, obviously he did a heck of a job.”

Brewers starter Adrian Houser (2-3) gave up four runs — two earned — and four hits in six innings.

Cain blasted a solo homer onto the concourse behind the left-center field stands to give the Brewers a 1-0 lead in the first in his first at-bat off the injury list. But NL Central-leading Milwaukee couldn’t do anything else until Philadelphia went to the bullpen.

Sam Coonrod struck out the side in the seventh but the Brewers loaded the bases the next two innings. Connor Brogdon walked two and yielded an infield single to Christian Yelich in the eighth.

After Travis Shaw’s sacrifice fly cut it to 4-2, Neris entered. Avisail Garcia’s grounder drove in another run.

Neris then picked Garcia off first to end the inning and threw 36 pitches in the ninth to earn his sixth save in seven chances.

Daniel Vogelbach lined a double to start the ninth and Pablo Reyes ran for him. Neris struck out Luis Urias and Luke Maile swinging. Pinch-hitter Billy McKinney walked and Kolten Wong reached on an infield single to load the bases. Cain went down on a checked-swing to end the game.

“You have to win this game, especially when your closer does something like that,” Girardi said.

Realmuto crushed his third homer into the second deck in left to give the Phillies a 2-1 lead in the first.

Roman Quinn drove an RBI triple the opposite way in the second and scored on Velasquez’s infield grounder to make it 4-1. Both runs were unearned because of a throwing error on shortstop Luis Urias that allowed Odubel Herrera to reach second safely following his grounder.

Houser settled in nicely after the second and retired 13 in a row and 14 of his last 15 hitters.

“I didn’t have my best stuff,” Houser said. “I had two pitches going. I had to battle out there. My mechanics started to get going.”

Phillies left fielder Matt Joyce was ejected by plate umpire Hunter Wendelstedt for arguing a called third strike to end the seventh.

From the infirmary

Milwaukee activated 2018 NL MVP Christian Yelich as well as fellow outfielder  Cain from the injured list and put both in the starting lineup for Monday night's game at Philadelphia.

The Brewers made room for the two former All-Stars by sending slumping first baseman Keston Hiura and outfielder Tyrone Taylor to the alternate training site.

"We haven't been activating players lately, so just to activate some players is a change of how last week went, that's for sure," Brewers manager Craig Counsell said.

The Brewers had 17 players on the injured list Sunday when they lost 16-4 to the Los Angeles Dodgers. Yelich hasn't played since April 11 due to a lower back strain, Cain had a left quad strain and last played on April 13.

Even with all those injuries, the Brewers won three of four from the Dodgers and started a seven-game road trip with a 17-11 mark that tied the San Francisco Giants for the best record in the National League.

"We've done a decent job winning some games without some important players, so these guys don't have to do everything," Counsell said. "Just contribute to wins."

Yelich is batting .333 with a .459 on-base percentage and no homers and one RBI in just nine games. Cain, who played only five games last year before opting out, is hitting .154 with two homers and four RBIs in seven games.

"We'll be safe with both these guys and ease them both into it," Counsell said. "I'd expect days off for both of them as we go here, especially on this road trip, just kind of seeing where they're at and getting their legs underneath them."

Counsell said Hiura and Taylor both eventually would end up with the Brewers' Triple-A affiliate in Nashville, Tennessee.

Hiura opened the season as the Brewers' starting first baseman but was batting just .152 with one homer and five RBIs in 26 games. He had struck out in 32 of his 89 plate appearances.

After posting a .938 OPS in 84 games as a rookie in 2019, Hiura batted .212 with 13 homers, 32 RBIs and an NL-high 85 strikeouts last season. This year, he continued to struggle and had stopped hitting with power.

Hiura noted on Instagram last month that his mother was diagnosed in February with B-cell follicular lymphoma, a form of non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

"At this point, it's just best for Keston, I think, to kind of get in a different environment, maybe take a little time off here before he starts playing in games again and then just get started in a new environment," Counsell said.

"It's important for us that I think and still really believe Keston can be our primary first baseman and has the ability to be a force in the middle of our lineup. We weren't there and it felt like we were almost getting a little farther from that than closer to that at some point," he said.

Counsell said Daniel Vogelbach would get much of the work at first base for now and that outfielder Billy McKinney also could make some appearances there.

Hiura had played second base in 2019-20 but moved to first base this year when the Brewers signed Kolten Wong, a Gold Glove second baseman the last two seasons. Counsell said the decision to send Hiura down was dictated entirely by the 24-year-old's struggles at the plate rather than anything he did at his new position.

"I really think this is going to benefit Keston," Counsell said. "I think it can be a short-term thing, and I think he can be back and be a productive offensive player fairly quickly."

In another move, the Brewers lost right-handed reliever Phil Bickford when the Los Angeles Dodgers claimed him off waivers. The Brewers had designated Bickford for assignment on Wednesday.

Phillies right fielder Bryce Harper wasn’t in the lineup because of a sore left wrist. Manager Joe Girardi said he’s hopeful the slugger will avoid the injury list.

Up next

Left-hander Eric Lauer (1-0, 0.00 ERA) is scheduled to start for Milwaukee against Philadelphia right-hander Aaron Nola (2-1, 3.11) on Tuesday night.

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