On a night when Houston needed a nice performance, the rookie right-hander Cristian Javier put on a clinic, hurling six no-hit innings against Philadelphia to begin the first combined no-hitter in World Series history.
Javier’s performance positioned the Astros to win Game 4 of the World Series by a score of 5-0 and tie the series. Bryan Abreu struck out the side in the seventh inning, Rafael Montero pitched a 1-2-3 eighth, and then Ryan Pressly pitched a hitless ninth to propel the Astros into the record books.
Only Yankees pitcher Don Larsen has ever pitched a no-hitter in the World Series. In 1956’s Game 5, catcher Yogi Berra famously leapt into his arms to celebrate a perfect game. Wednesday, Houston catcher Christian Vázquez had the option of celebrating with a variety of pitchers.
As his pitches piled up, Javier’s performance began to blaze. Javier, the starting pitcher for Houston’s joint no-hitter at Yankee Stadium earlier this summer, walked two batters and struck out nine, and the Phillies never challenged him.
It occurred on a night when the Astros desperately needed a hero.
Overnight, urgency infiltrates the World Series like an unwanted invader. The first couple of days are coloured by lofty ambitions and exuberant anticipation. But after one too many defeats, the nights become restless and the days tense.
Wednesday’s Game 3 defeat moved the Astros to the brink of elimination. A team that made it to the World Series without suffering a loss discussed the possibility of securing only one victory in Philadelphia to return home. Could the Astros respond to the alarm? Would they be able to move their bats in time?
In Game 4, Javier gave that time. He tore through Philadelphia’s lineup with the ferocity of an ace attempting to rescue the fall.
As Javier annihilated the Phillies, the Astros batters kept turning the offensive combination lock until the correct numbers displayed. This season, a club that ranked third in the American League in runs scored went scoreless for 16 innings, beginning in Game 2 and extending through the first four innings of Game 4. The frustration was obvious. The Astros were 0 for 4 when scoring position was present.
The breakthrough occurred in the fifth inning. Three consecutive singles loaded the bases and ended the night for Philadelphia starter Aaron Nola. As he did in Game 1, Phillies manager Rob Thomson aggressively summoned left-handed reliever José Alvarado, who often pitches later in the game, to face Yordan Alvarez.
In the first game, Alvarado used a pop-up to pacify the Astros.
On Wednesday, though, Alvarado struck Alvarez with his first pitch, a 99 mph fastball. This allowed the first run to score for Houston, and the rest of the inning went downhill for the Phillies.
This summer, he made a career-high 25 starts and appeared in five games in relief. This summer, he topped the American League among pitchers with at least 130 innings thrown in opponent batting average (.170) and was second in strikeouts per nine innings (11.1).
He played this role against the Phillies. Throughout the fourth and fifth innings, he struck out five consecutive batters, including J.T. Bryson Scott, Bryce Harper, Nick Castellanos, Alec Bohm, and J.T. Realmuto.
At that time, it looked like Nola, not Javier, would be the focus of the evening’s events. But there was still a long way to go, and Javier continued to improve.
Before Game 4, Houston manager Dusty Baker remarked, “There is greater urgency,” mostly in answer to a query about whether he would have a faster hook with his pitchers than in Game 3’s 7-0 rout. “Nevertheless, there is a distinction between urgency and terror. There is a thin line separating them.”
On a night when the Astros needed every advantage possible, Javier’s pitch-by-pitch reinforcement of such sage advice was essential.