MILWAUKEE -- Lost in the postcard images of green grass, sunshine, palm trees and cacti that are synonymous with Spring Training are the seemingly mundane drills and workouts that get players prepared for the grind of a 162-game season.
For the Phillies, one of those eye-roll-inducing drills is a return play, in which the catcher takes a pitch and fires it to a middle infielder who, in turn, rifles it back to home plate with the hope of catching a runner trying to score.
"It's a fundamental play that we felt like we would use quite a bit this season," Phillies manager Gabe Kapler said. "It turned out to be huge for us today."
It might have been the play that made possible Philadelphia's 6-4 victory over the Brewers on Friday night at Miller Park.
With two outs in the fifth and the game tied at 4, Vince Velasquez was facing Eric Thames, with Christian Yelich on third and Ryan Braun on first. On a 1-1 fastball, the Brewers attempted a delayed double steal, but catcher J.T. Realmuto made a perfect throw to Jean Segura, whose relay got back to Realmuto on target and in plenty of time to get Yelich, ending the inning.
"We practice that just about every day in Spring Training, even though it doesn't really happen that often in the season," Realmuto said. "Segura worked it to perfection. All that practice paid off because it was pretty seamless out there."
That execution proved crucial an inning later when Segura scored on a Bryce Harper double, putting the Phillies in front for good and setting up Velasquez, who was activated from the injured list earlier in the day, for his first victory since April 28.
"I told [Kapler] to utilize me, because I missed playing and I was ready to go," said Velasquez, who had been sidelined since May 8 with a strained right forearm. "When they called down to the bullpen and said I had the fifth, I had enough time to mentally prepare and get myself ready."
Pitching in relief for the second time this season and just the third time in his career, Velasquez struck out four batters over two innings, relying heavily on a fastball that Kapler said was the best he'd seen from the 26-year-old right-hander.
"That was as good as we've seen him," Kapler said. "I can't remember the last time he looked that good. His second inning of work was really impressive."
Offensively, the Phillies were as balanced as you can get. All eight position players had at least one hit in the contest, while Rhys Hoskins hit his 12th home run of the season, a one-out solo shot off Freddy Peralta in the seventh. It marked the second straight game that all eight starters had at least one hit, with the Phillies doing the same thing in Thursday's win over the Cubs.
"We swung the bats really well from start to finish," Kapler said. "We got a lot of contributions from up and down the lineup."
Not everything worked out, though, for the Phillies. Left-hander Pat Neshek felt discomfort in his shoulder while warming up and, after getting checked out by members of the Phillies' medical staff, he's headed back to Philadelphia for an MRI.
Kapler said Neshek was "most likely" headed to the IL. He added that the team planned to discuss a replacement and have that player in Milwaukee in time for Saturday's 4:10 p.m. ET contest.
"We have some thoughts," Kapler said. "We're not there yet, but somebody will be here [Saturday]."