PHILADELPHIA – Cristian Javier could have claimed a near-unprecedented piece of World Series history all to himself Wednesday night. Instead, he shared in the glory – and with two more victories, the Houston Astros may reap the ultimate prize.
Javier pitched six no-hit innings, so dominating the Philadelphia Phillies in Game 4 that he certainly could have become just the second pitcher to throw a solo no-hitter in a World Series game. But he exited after six innings and 97 pitches, and Bryan Abreu, Rafael Montero and Ryan Pressly finished the job, joining Javier for a combined no-hitter and a 5-0 Astros victory that squared this World Series at 2-2.
It was just the second no-hitter in World Series history, joining the New York Yankees’ Don Larsen, who threw a perfect game in Game 5 of the 1956 Series against the Brooklyn Dodgers. And it was just the third no-hitter in playoff history, the first since the late Roy Halladay pulled the feet off in Game 1 of the 2010 National League Division Series against the Cincinnati Reds, on the same Citizens Bank Park mound where Javier and friends worked their Game 4 magic on Wednesday.
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“My parents told me I was going to throw a no-hitter,” Javier said through an interpreter on after the game.
Purists might be aghast that Javier, who struck out nine and walked two, was not allowed a chance to finish his gem. But doing so was unrealistic: Javier had only thrown more than 97 pitches on four occasions this season, topping out at 115 on June 25.
And what happened that day? Javier and two relievers combined on a no-hitter at Yankee Stadium.
See, the Astros won 106 games this season and Javier’s 11.7 strikeouts per nine innings would have ranked third in the major leagues if he pitched enough innings to qualify. On a club with Justin Verlander set to win his third Cy Young Award this year and lefty Framber Valdez growing renowned for his playoff heroics, Javier, in fact, might be their best pitcher.
Take out a relief appearance during the American League Division Series, and Javier, as a starting pitcher, has pitched 36 ⅔ consecutive scoreless innings, dating to Sept. 7.
And manager Dusty Baker’s decision to yank him when he did will heighten the chance Javier pitches a portion of Game 7, should the Astros require it.
Besides, it was hard to argue with the cavalry that followed Javier and helped combine for 14 strikouts.
Bryan Abreu: Strikeout, strikeout, strikeout of J.T. Realmuto, Bryce Harper and Nick Castellanos.
Rafael Montero: Strikeout, flyout and a running catch of Jean Segura’s shallow fly ball to end the eighth.
And finally, closer Ryan Pressly, who struck out Brandon Marsh, walked Kyle Schwarber to break a streak of 18 consecutive batters, induced a fly to right from Rhys Hoskins and a grounder to third base from Realmuto, to spark a giddy but muted infield celebration.
But it was Javier who laid down the spike strips for a Philadelphia Phillies offense that was unbeatable at home and careening through the playoffs in unstoppable fashion.
He struck out Realmuto and Nick Castellanos three times each and Bryce Harper twice, this one night after Harper kick-started a home run bacchanalia with a two-run homer in Game 3, part of five Phillies longballs that game. After leadoff batter Schwarber sent a charge into Javier’s first pitch, driving it deep to the opposite field, Javier allowed just one ball out of the infield.
Oh, and there was that other small matter of evening up this World Series.
In this do-or-die Game 4, the Astros snapped a 16-inning scoreless streak with a five-run eruption in the fifth inning, as the first five batters reached base, Yordan Alvarez broke a scoreless tie when he was hit by reliever Jesus Alvarado’s first pitch and Alex Bregman broke the game open with a two-run double.
It was a typical evening for this Astros offense in this series, prone to long droughts followed by sudden, impactful rallies. So far, the formula has kept them even in this World Series.
They’ll have Verlander in a Game 5 that will give one team the edge as the series shifts back to Houston. If it goes to a Game 7, don’t be surprised if Javier takes down an inning or two.
That’s largely because he stepped aside rather than join Larsen in the history books. A championship ring would make that a worthwhile tradeoff.