PHILADELPHIA – Cristian Javier and the Houston Astros had to be hammered hard the night before to figure out how to keep Bryce Harper and the Phillies in the margins.
How about a no-hitter, would that be enough?
The Javier and Houston bullpen combined to form just the second no-hitter in World Series history, silencing a thriving lineup and rowdy fans as the Astros beat the Phillies 5-0 on Wednesday night to win the title. match-up in two matches each to equalize.
The only previous 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’d done this before: Javier, the starter in a combined no-hitter against the New York Yankees in June, was drawn with a no-hitter pending after 97 pitches this time.
Bryan Abreu, Rafael Montero and Ryan Pressly each followed with a hitless inning, meaning this year’s championship will be decided this weekend at Minute Maid Park.
The quartet of pitchers posed with catcher Christian Vázquez at the visiting dugout shortly after the game and each put a hand on the game ball for a photo. It’s a picture no one could have imagined 24 hours earlier, when Philadelphia hit a Series-record five home runs in a 7-0 romp in Game 3.
“That’s crazy, man,” Vázquez said. “It was special.”
Javier said his parents predicted he would throw a no-hitter on Tuesday night.
“I came out holding God, trying to be positive, trying to attack the attack zone,” he said through a translator. “Thanks to God I was able to achieve that.”
Game 5 is on Thursday night in Philadelphia. Astros ace Justin Verlander will once again be chasing that elusive first World Series win when he takes on Noah Syndergaard.
They can only hope to pitch as well as Javier.
By the time the 25-year-old right-wing left the Dominican Republic, the only Philadelphia side hitmaker to appear 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 even booing for postseason star Harper and the Phillies. First Lady Jill Bidena noted Phillies fan, was among the crowd of 45,693 who had little to cheer about.
“For me? I mean, a loss is a loss,” said Phillies manager Rob Thomson. “That’s kind of how I look at it.”
Alex Bregman delivered the hit Houston so desperately needed, a double-run double in a five-run fifth inning, which was enough for the Astros.
Completely in control, Javier struckout nine, walked two and allowed hardly any loud contact. He tamed a club that had been 6-0 at home this postseason while hitting 17 home runs.
Opponents hit only .170 against Javier during the regular season, the lowest run in baseball among pitchers with a minimum of 130 innings.
Very quiet on the hill, Javier carved his own quiet spot in the midst of the Phillies storm. He backed into the grass, straightened his hat, rubbed the ball, took a deep breath, and continued at his own pace.
Next year Javier won’t be able to work quite like this. Major League Baseball sets a pitch clock — 15 seconds to throw with the bases empty, 20 with someone on base — and Javier often exceeded those limits on this night, receiving booing from a crowd eager for action.
At least it worked in the beginning.
When Javier held the Phillies scoreless in the first three innings, it was no small feat. No visiting pitcher had done that in the postseason in this bouncing stadium.
In Javier’s last start, he ruled out the Yankees with one basehit in 5 1/3 innings in the Bronx during the AL Championship Series.
This appearance by Javier came a year after Atlanta’s Ian Anderson was eliminated after pitching five hitless innings against Houston.
The closest thing to a hit was the Phillies in the third inning, when Kyle Schwarber made a hard error past first base. On fair balls, nothing.
“It’s cool,” Schwarber said sarcastically. “We’ll be in the history books, I think.”
Philadelphia was not hit by five New York Mets pitchers in April, one of many crushing losses that led to the resignation of manager Joe Girardi two months later.
“We came back the next day and won,” said Thomson, then the bench coach. “So these guys, they have short memories.”
Maybe it was the team’s move to orange tops, or the lucky lunch manager Dusty Baker had at a hoagie spot in Philly, but the Astros certainly looked different from last night when they were shut out due to a weak five singles .
For 16 innings, Bregman and the Astros showed their postseason pedigree as they broke out against Aaron Nola in the fifth, striking out by not trying too much at the plate.
Singles by Chas McCormick, Altuve and Jeremy Peña loaded the bases and finished out Nola. Relief pitcher José Alvarado plopped down Yordan Alvarez with his first delivery, forcing a run, then Bregman lined a 100 mph heater the other way for a double-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, one team was leading 5-0.
Houston’s hits also resonated far away.
Chants of “Let’s Go, Astros!” erupted as highlights and score were displayed at the Toyota Center when the Houston Rockets hosted the Los Angeles Clippers in an NBA game.
And there’s an Astros cheer at NRG Stadium in Houston on Thursday night as the Texans take on the Philadelphia Eagles, the NFL’s only undefeated team, in a matchup to be played. at the same time as game 5.
It was quiet in Philly, however, as fans who came to win were reduced to just hoping for a hit.
Astros: Verlander is 0-6 with a 6.07 ERA in eight World Series starts after failing to hold onto a five-point lead in the opener. Verlander is likely to win his third Cy Young Award later this month, but his battle in the fall classic is mind boggling. On the other hand, Hall of Famers Greg Maddux and Tom Seaver had lost records in the Fall Classic despite often throwing well, and Don Sutton was hit hard. And fellow Cooperstown members Tom Glavine, Randy Johnson and Mike Mussina had less than 500 points in the postseason.
Phillies: RHP Noah Syndergaard was set to start Game 3 before it was washed out Monday night. He pitched three times this postseason — including a three-inning start vs. Atlanta — and gave up one run in five innings. His last start full-fledged start was October 1.