As Hector Neris’ pitch count rose in the ninth inning Monday night, manager Joe Girardi’s anxiety level soared, too. The Phillies manager asked his closer to record a five-out save, and it took Neris 40 pitches to finally secure a much-needed 4-3 victory over the Milwaukee Brewers before a restless crowd of 10,631.

The Brewers, after scoring two runs that were charged to reliever Connor Brogdon in the eighth, loaded the bases in the top of the ninth on a leadoff double by Daniel Vogelbach, a two-out walk by pinch-hitter Billy McKinney, and an infield single by Kolten Wong.

Neris’ pitch count was up to 34 as Milwaukee’s Lorenzo Cain stepped to the plate, but the closer promised Girardi he was about to end the game.

“He kind of walked toward the line and he was like, ‘I got it. I got it,’ ” the manager said. “I gave him the chance, and he came through big for us.”

It took six pitches before Neris finally finished off Cain with a splitter. Cain tried to check his swing, but it was clear he went around and the Phillies had a win over the first-place Brewers. The victory allowed the Phillies (14-15) to get back to within a game of .500 and pushed them to just a half-game behind the division-leading Washington Nationals (12-12), who were in last place just five days ago.

“It’s a gutsy performance by Hector,” Girardi said. “I don’t ever like a pitcher going that many pitches and I know he threw a few in the inning before, but just really gutsy.”

The 40 pitches were the third-highest total of Neris’ career and the most he had thrown since Aug. 27, 2015, when he logged 46 in 1 2/3 innings against the New York Mets. He also threw 51 pitches in a two-inning stint against the Los Angeles Dodgers earlier that year.

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— Bob Brookover (extrainnings@inquirer.com)

» READ MORE: Vince Velasquez goes six solid innings, Héctor Neris records 40-pitch save in Phillies’ nail-biting 4-3 win over Brewers

Could Nick Maton be the center-field solution?

The Phillies have a wrist watch on their hands, and it’s a lot more expensive than a Rolex or any other high-end time piece you’ll find at your local jewelry store. Girardi said before Monday’s game that the team is waiting to see if Bryce Harper’s aching left wrist is bad enough to send the $330 million right fielder to the injured list. It was bad enough to keep him out of the lineup Monday for the fourth time in five games, and afterward, the manager said the right fielder’s situation continues to be day-to-day.

“We’ll continue to treat him,” Girardi said. “Our plans are not to put him on the IL.”

All the injury news was not bad for the Phillies on Monday night. Girardi said second baseman Jean Segura, out since April 20 with a strained right quad, is close to going on a rehab assignment with one of the club’s minor-league affiliates. Girardi said he thought Segura could be back soon.

That news prompted an obvious question for the manager: Can Nick Maton move from second to center field?

The subject was first raised last week and had a little traction, but it has gained momentum as the rookie has continued to hit. Even after going hitless in three at-bats Monday night, Maton is hitting .327 with five doubles. His 16 hits, in 49 at-bats, are three more than the Phillies have gotten from their center fielders in 108 at-bats this season.

It was actually a good night Monday for two of the four guys who have played center field for the Phillies. After Odubel Herrera, who started for Harper in right field Monday night, reached on a second-inning error, Roman Quinn, who started in center, lined an RBI triple into the left-center field gap.

Herrera later reached on an infield single, just his second hit in 23 at-bats.

While Maton’s hot bat would certainly be welcome in center field, the Phillies cannot be sure how the rookie would handle a position he has never played. Maton, in fact, has never played any outfield position, and center field is by far the most difficult in terms of ground that must be covered.

“That’s something that has been talked about a little bit,” Girardi said. “We’ve had him take fly balls to increase his availability to us.”

Girardi was asked if the Phillies have also discussed sending Maton to triple-A Lehigh Valley to let him work on his center-field play.

“I don’t ever talk about moves until they happen because there are a lot of things that could happen between now and whenever that date is,” Girardi said. “Now you start talking about are you going to send this kid down or that kid down and they kind of go in a funk for three or four days just because they’re thinking about going down.”

Girardi said there is another way to do it.

“You can put him out there,” he said. “That’s one way of finding out.”

Any chance of that happening?

“I don’t know. We’ll see,” Girardi said.

The rundown

Harper was back on the bench Monday night after he aggravated the wrist injury that he suffered when he was hit by a pitch in St. Louis last Wednesday. He has missed four of the last five games, and Girardi is hoping he does not have to go on the injured list.

Milwaukee arrived at Citizens Bank Park as a first-place team Monday night, and Scott Lauber took a look at the contrasting ways Brewers president of baseball operations David Stearns and Phillies president of baseball operations David Dombrowski built their rosters this offseason.

Important dates

Tonight: Aaron Nola faces Milwaukee’s Eric Lauer, 7:05 p.m.

Tomorrow: Chase Anderson goes against Freddy Peralta, 7:05 p.m.

Thursday: Zack Wheeler vs. Brandon Woodruff in series finale with Brewers, 1:05 p.m.

Friday: Zach Eflin pitches series opener against the Braves in Atlanta, 7:20 p.m.

Sunday: Phillies against the Braves on ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball, 7:08 p.m.

» READ MORE: How Phillies’ Sam Coonrod got his command under control by playing catch with fellow reliever Brandon Kintzler

Stat of the day

On this date in 1975, the Phillies traded popular and flamboyant first baseman Willie Montanez to the San Francisco Giants for center fielder Garry Maddox.

“This is my saddest day,” Montanez told reporters. “I’m shocked. I hate to leave the Phils.”

A lot of Phillies fans were also sad to see Montanez go, but the trade immediately led to the return of Dick Allen, who was acquired from Atlanta to play first base just three days later. It also led to Maddox’s sensational 12-year run with the Phillies during which he won eight Gold Gloves and played in eight postseason series, including the 1980 and 1983 World Series.

His crowning moment, of course, came in the deciding Game 5 of the 1980 NLCS series against Houston. First, he doubled home Del Unser for the go-ahead run in the top of the 10th inning, and then he caught Enos Cabell’s line drive to center field for the final out of the game, sending the Phillies to their first World Series in 30 years.

From the mailbag

Send questions by email or on Twitter @brookob.

Question: Look forward to Extra Innings every day. MLB has made changes to speed up games. My perception is that the Phillies games take longer than ever. Four hours now seems the norm. What do the data on game times show? Are games now played faster or more slowly? — Jim B., via email

Answer: Thanks for the kind words Jim. The Phillies’ average time of game through their first 28 games this season was 3 hours and 6 minutes, which is actually two minutes faster than their average time of game a season ago. That’s also one minute faster than the average time of game of 3:07 both this season and last season.

We will tell you that it could be worse. A lot worse. The Dodgers and Padres, for instance, are averaging a major-league-leading 3:21 per game. You might argue that the quality of baseball is much better, and you won’t get much pushback.

Your point is well taken, however. All these rules to speed up the game are not really working. I don’t think anything will change until you get a 20-second pitch clock and stop letting hitters leave the batter’s box after every pitch.