World Series Game 4: Takeaways from no-hitter Astros, offensive breakthrough against Phillies

The 2022 World Series is now a best-of-three and the Houston Astros won Game 4 in historic fashion on Wednesday night. Cristian Javier and three relievers combined to throw the third no-hitter in playoff history and only the second in World Series history, joining Don Larsen’s perfect game for the New York Yankees in the fifth 1956 Fall Classic game.

Javier and the Astros shut out the Philadelphia Phillies in Game 4 to tie the series at two games apiece (HOU 5, PHI 0).

It’s the second combined no-hitter thrown by Javier in 2022 — he and two relievers combined to not hit the Yankees on June 25. It’s also the second time the Phillies have gone no-hitter this year; they were on the wrong end of a five-pitch combined no-hitter by the New York Mets on April 29. They are the only combined no-hitters in baseball during the regular season.

Aaron Nola, coincidentally, was the starting pitcher the two times the Phillies were untouched in 2022. Here are some takeaways from Game 4 and Houston’s no-hitter performance.

1. The Astros finally broke through offensively

Houston’s offense entered the fifth inning of Game 4 on a 16-run scoreless streak dating back to the fifth inning of Game 2. They grounded a runner in the first inning against Nola and two runners in the second and fourth innings, but finally broke in the fifth inning and put a crooked number on the board.

Back-to-back singles from Chas McCormick, Jose Altuve and Jeremy Peña loaded the bases with no outs, ending Nola’s night. With the game scoreless and 3-4-5 hitting ahead, Phillies manager Rob Thomson went to reliever ace Jose Alvarado, who was unable to provide damage control. Alvarado pitched Yordan Alvarez with his first pitch to force a run, then the Astros made four more runs to open the game. The 16-inning scoreless streak was officially over.

Alvarez’s shot-for-shot (on a 99.2 mph fastball, no less) was the first in World Series history, if you can believe it. Seven times previously, a batter had been hit by a pitch with the bases loaded in the World Series, although all seven came with the player’s team already ahead. Alvarez was the first to carry a pitch with the goals loaded and put his team ahead.

The Astros also held a 5-0 lead in Games 1 and 2 and, according to ESPN, they are the third team to take a 5-0 lead in three of the first four World Series games. The other two teams, the 1937 Yankees and the 1989 Athletics, won the Fall Classic. The Phillies are of course back to winning Game 1, so even though the Astros had three 5-0 leads, the series is tied at 2-2.

2. Javier was untouchable again

No starting pitcher has held hitters to a lower batting average than Javier in the regular season (.170) and he was even better in the playoffs. Javier went six hitless innings against the Phillies in Game 4 and walked out with his pitch count at 97. He hadn’t thrown that many pitches in a game since Aug. 20, and he had an incredible run lately :

Javier has made one relief appearance (ALDS Game 1) and two starts (ALCS Game 3 and World Series Game 4) this postseason and the batters are 2 for 39 (.051) against him. The Phillies put nine balls in play against Javier and all nine combined for an expected .118 batting average based on exit velocity and launch angle. There was nothing close to a hit in his six innings.

Javier became the first individual pitcher to go six hitless innings in a World Series game since Jerry Koosman started Game 2 of the 1969 Fall Classic with six hitless frames. Bryan Abreu, Rafael Montero and Ryan Pressly each pitched an inning to close the no-hitter combination behind Javier. At one point, they struck out 18 Phillies in a row, 11 of them via strikeouts.

There have only been two no-hitters in playoff history: Larsen’s perfect game in the 1956 World Series and Roy Halladay’s no-hitter in Game 1 of the 2010 NLDS. Halladay pitched his playoff no-hitter at Citizens Bank Park as a member of the Phillies, with guest manager Dusty Baker on the other side of the diamond. Two of the three playoff non-hitters were thrown into the same stadium, which isn’t even 20 years old. Unbelievable.

Since the sixth inning of Game 3, the Phillies batters are on a 1-for-37 (.029) slip with three walks and 17 strikeouts. The Bats have turned icy since hitting five homers against Lance McCullers Jr.

3. The Phillies lost at home

For the first time this post-season. The Phillies were 6-0 at Citizens Bank Park in the playoffs heading into Game 4, and they had outscored opponents 42-15 in six games. They weren’t just winning at home, they were dominating, outscoring their opponents by an average of 4.5 points per game. In Game 4, the Astros became the first visiting team to win a game at Citizens Bank Park since the Braves on Sept. 23. That was just eight home games ago for the Phillies, but still. It had been a long time since they suffered a loss in their home ballpark.

4. The Astros have dramatically improved their chances of winning the World Series

The series is now tied at 2-2, meaning it’s essentially a best-of-three series. If it lasts seven games, the Astros will play the majority of those remaining games at home. Add to that the fact that the Astros are almost certainly the best team overall, and they have anything north of a 50% chance of winning it all. Call it 55% given these factors.

What if they had lost Game 4 and trailed the Phillies by a count of three games to one? Teams in those situations — down 3-1 in an MLB best-of-seven postseason series and having opened the series at home, as the Astros did — have managed a successful comeback just 17.9 % time. Needless to say, this made Game 4 a huge pivot point, and the Astros found themselves on the right side.

5. See You Next

Game 5. Thursday night’s winner will take a 3-2 series lead and be one win away from a championship. The Phillies will start Noah Syndergaard (10-10, 3.94 ERA) in Game 5 and the Astros will counter with ace Justin Verlander (18-4, 1.75 ERA). This will be the last game played at Citizens Bank Park in 2022. The World Series will be played at Minute Maid Park for the third time in the past four years in one way or another.

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