Hammered the night before, Cristian Javier and the Houston Astros desperately needed to figure out how to keep Bryce Harper and the Phillies in the stadium
How about a no-hitter, would that be enough?
Javier and Houston’s bullpen combined on the second no-hitter in World Series history, silencing a booming roster and raucous fans as the Astros shut out the Phillies 5-0 on Wednesday evening to tie the game at two games apiece.
The only precedent no-hitter in the World Series was a perfect game by Don Larsen of the New York Yankees against the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1956.
Javier and three relievers weren’t perfect, but they were close. Plus, they’ve done it before: Javier, the starter on a combined no-hitter against the New York Yankees in June, was retired with a pending no-hitter after 97 pitches this time.
Bryan Abreu, Rafael Montero and Ryan Pressly each followed with a no-hitter, ensuring this year’s championship will be decided this weekend at Minute Maid Park.
The pitching quartet posed with receiver Christian Vázquez near the visiting dugout moments after the game, each putting a hand on the ball for a shot. It’s a picture no one could have imagined 24 hours earlier, when Philadelphia broke a series record with five homers in a 7-0 game in Game 3.
“It’s crazy, man,” Vázquez said. “It was special.”
Javier said his parents predicted Tuesday night that he was going to throw a no-hitter.
“I just came out hanging on to God, trying to be positive, trying to attack the strike zone,” he said via a translator. “Thank God I was able to accomplish this.”
Game 5 is Thursday night in Philadelphia. Astros ace Justin Verlander will chase down that elusive first World Series victory again when he takes on Noah Syndergaard.
They can only hope to throw as well as Javier.
By the time the 25-year-old right-hander from the Dominican Republic came out, the only hitter from the Philadelphia side who showed up on the scoreboard was rocker Bruce Springsteen, pictured surrounded by Phillies fans.
And a few innings later, as fans began to leave Citizens Bank Park, there were actually boos for playoff star Harper and the Phillies. First lady Jill Biden, a notorious Phillies fan, was among the crowd of 45,693 who had little to say.
“To me? I mean, a loss is a loss,” Phillies manager Rob Thomson said. “That’s how I see things.”
Alex Bregman delivered the hit Houston desperately needed, a two-run double in a five-run fifth inning, and it was enough for the Astros.
Fully in charge, Javier hit nine, walked two and barely allowed any hard contact. He tamed a club that had been 6-0 at home this postseason while hitting 17 homers.
Opponents hit just .170 against Javier during the regular season, the lowest mark in baseball among pitchers with at least 130 innings.
Very still on the mound, Javier carved out his own quiet corner amid the Phillies storm. Stepping back on the grass, straightening his hat, rubbing the ball, taking deep breaths, he moved at his own pace.
Next year Javier won’t be able to work quite that way. Major League Baseball institutes a pitch clock — 15 seconds to pitch with the bases empty, 20 with someone on base — and Javier often exceeded those limits that night, drawing boos from a hungry crowd. stock.
Anyway, it worked at first.
When Javier held the Phillies scoreless through the first three innings, it was no mean feat. No visiting pitcher had done that in the playoffs at this bouncy stadium.
In Javier’s last start, he shut out the Yankees on a 5 1/3 inning hit in the Bronx in the AL Championship Series.
This performance by Javier came a year after Ian Anderson was knocked out of Atlanta after going five no-hitter innings against Houston.
The Phillies were closest to a hit in the third inning, when Kyle Schwarber fouled hard in front of first base. On fair balls, nothing.
“That’s cool,” Schwarber said sarcastically. “We’ll be in the history books, I guess.”
Philadelphia was untouched by five New York Mets pitchers in April, one of several crushing losses that led to manager Joe Girardi being fired two months later.
“We came back the next day and won,” said Thomson, then bench coach. “So these guys, they have short memories.”
It might have been the move from the team in the orange tops, or the lucky lunch manager Dusty Baker had at a Philadelphia hoagie spot, but the Astros certainly looked different from the night before, when they were ruled out on a low five single.
Blanked for 16 innings, Bregman and the Astros showed their playoff pedigree while escaping against Aaron Nola in the fifth, setting up a hitting clinic by not trying to do too much at home plate.
The singles of Chas McCormick, Altuve and Jeremy Peña loaded the bases and finished Nola. Relief pitcher José Alvarado hit Yordan Alvarez with his first pitch, forcing a run, then Bregman lined up a 100 mph warmup the other way for a two-run double.
Kyle Tucker followed with a sacrifice fly and Yuli Gurriel added an RBI single, and just like that, for the fourth game in a row, a team held a 5-0 lead.
Houston’s shots also echoed far and wide.
Chants of “Let’s Go, Astros!” broke when highlights and scoring were shown at Toyota Center as the Houston Rockets hosted the Los Angeles Clippers in an NBA game.
And the Astros are expected to cheer at NRG Stadium in Houston on Thursday night when the Texans take on the Philadelphia Eagles, the NFL’s only undefeated team, in a game that will be played concurrently with Game 5.
It was quiet in Philly, however, as fans who wanted to see a win were reduced to simply hoping for a hit.
Astros: Verlander is 0-6 with a 6.07 ERA in eight World Series starts after failing to hold a five-point lead in Game 1. Verlander is likely to win his third Cy Young Award later this month, but his struggles in the Fall Classic are perplexing. Again, Hall of Famers Greg Maddux and Tom Seaver lost records in the Fall Classic despite good pitches, and Don Sutton was hit hard. And fellow Cooperstown members Tom Glavine, Randy Johnson and Mike Mussina had postseason ratings below .500.
Phillies: RHP Noah Syndergaard was expected to start Game 3 before he was knocked out on Monday night. He’s pitched three times this postseason — including a three-inning start against Atlanta — and allowed a run in five innings. His last full departure was on October 1.