2022 World Series: Astros’ Cristian Javier dazzles in combined no-hitter

PHILADELPHIA — Cristian Javier is not very tall. It doesn’t appear to be particularly strong, and it doesn’t throw abnormally hard. He doesn’t throw such a variety of pitches that opposing hitters can’t figure out what’s coming. He doesn’t command his pitches with such precision that hitters are stunned by backdoor third strikes.

What he does is fool the batters over and over again. Using an unusual three-quarter delivery, he relies on a fastball that spins so much that it works as a much sharper pitch. He holds the deception because he is especially quiet, on and off the mound.

In Game 4 of the 2022 World Series, Javier demonstrated his ability on an international stage so much that Hall of Fame officials asked for his autograph afterward, a memento of the second no-hitter in Series history World Cup and the first in 66 years.

Javier and three relievers not only etched their place in history with the combined feat, they keyed Houston’s 5-0 win over Philadelphia that evened the series at 2-2, with Game 5 on Thursday (8 p.m. ET on FOX and the FOX Sports app. .)

The final outing of the no-hitter

The final outing of the no-hitter

Four Houston pitchers combined to throw the second no-hitter in World Series history and just the third in the MLB postseason.

Javier’s fastball may be a simple pitch, but it’s a wonder that a man without the typical superlatives can throw an elite one.

“I think that’s the best fastball right now in baseball,” said Christian Vazquez, who caught it Wednesday. “You can call it anytime. It doesn’t matter who’s in the batter’s box, you can call it, and it’s going to be a hit with that pitch.”

Javier is a flyball pitcher. Citizens Bank Park is a music box. Javier throws 60% of his fastballs. The 2022 Phillies can handle the heat with the best of them. And yet Javier baffled them for six hitless innings here Wednesday, and three Astros relievers followed with hitless innings. Javier grabbed the last of them, Ryan Pressly, and lifted him to his feet to congratulate him.

The Houston Astros throw a no-hitter!

The Houston Astros throw a no-hitter!

Ben Verlander and Alex Curry break down Houston’s no-hitter in Game 4 of the World Series. Cristian Javier was dominant in six dazzling innings, and three relievers finished the no-no.

For all the reasons mentioned, baseball underestimated Javier for years. Even the Astros have underutilized him in recent seasons. Think back to last postseason, when Javier only pitched out of the bullpen. Or consider this postseason.

Javier performed better in September than any of their starters, but the Astros opted not to start him in the American League Division Series. That forced him to wait three weeks between starts, but he still delivered 5 1/3 scoreless innings at Yankee Stadium during the ALCS. All he did was wait another 11 days to start over.

Now, unless the Astros use him in relief or to start on short rest, Javier’s season is over. If so, he set his team up well to win it all, and almost certainly shattered any remaining skepticism about his ability.

Cristian Javier of the Astros pitches six hitless innings

Cristian Javier of the Astros pitches six hitless innings

Cristian Javier helped the Astros toss their second no-hitter in the World Series and just their third all-time in the MLB postseason.

This hesitation had hovered around him for a decade.

In his native Dominican Republic, it took Javier until he was almost 18 to stick with a major league team, two years later than his peers. He signed for less than one-hundredth ($10,000) of the bonuses that better-known peers commanded.

But it was Javier, now 25, who led the mound for the World Series on Wednesday.

The truth is that he has almost always dominated. Javier’s career-worst ERA was last season’s 3.55, posted as a swingman. He has never had the advantage in speed or movement, but has always maintained the advantage in his face. Little about Javier’s appearance on Wednesday betrayed that he was pitching in the most important game of his life.

“I mean, the guy was great like it was June or July,” Astros manager Dusty Baker said. – That’s how he is.

Dusty Baker on making history

Dusty Baker on making history

Tom Verducci talks with Houston manager Dusty Baker about managing his pitching staff at the no-hitter combine.

For his stoicism, Javier earned the nickname “The Reptile”. He now wears a nickname necklace.

Javier had started a combined no-hitter once: on June 25, about 100 miles northeast of here in the Bronx. He held the Yankees back when they were the hottest team in baseball.

With that no-hitter, too, he shut down what was arguably the hottest team alive. The Phillies had averaged seven runs per game at Citizens Bank Park throughout their postseason run.

And, this time, his father was present for the first time in Javier’s professional career.

It started by coaxing catchable flies off the bats of Kyle Schwarber and Rhys Hoskins. Then he started hitting the Phillies — nine of them in all, against just two walks. He made some counts, but never lost control of an inning. In the sixth, the Phillies forced him to throw 20 pitches, pushing his total to 97 and marking the end of his historic evening.

“100 was our high,” said Astros pitching coach Josh Miller, who acknowledged that the calculation of that number incorporated the possibility that Javier could be needed for an inning or two in a possible game 7.

Miller has coached pitchers in the Houston organization since Javier was signed. On Wednesday, he thought back to the days last decade when Javier’s fastball struggled to reach 90 mph, and he still got it.

“He lived in the area like that,” Miller said. “It’s just a unique look for guys.”

The Astros knew the Phillies’ tendencies with the fastball. But Javier’s fastball is not like the others. He’s never been like other fastballs, but the Astros accentuated his natural spin with focused work.

“Any team that hits fastballs is still going to struggle with Javi,” Miller said. “We never shy away from him throwing his fastball to anybody, and we showed today that he can play against anybody.”

Cristian Javier talks about no hits

Cristian Javier talks about no hits

Ken Rosenthal talks to Houston pitcher Cristian Javier about how it feels to just be a part of the second no-hitter in World Series history.

His 2022 proved it. No one who threw as many innings as Javier limited hits as effectively as he did. He struck out nearly 12 men every nine innings. He posted a 2.54 ERA. He earned postseason starts on the deepest staff in the sport.

“This guy is one of the best pitchers in the big leagues,” catcher Martin Maldonado said. “He’s taken a big step this year.”

On Wednesday, Javier took an even bigger step toward tying the World Series.

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Pedro Moura is the national baseball writer for FOX Sports. He previously covered the Dodgers for The Athletic, the Angels and Dodgers for the Orange County Register and LA Times, and his alma mater, USC, for ESPN Los Angeles. He is the author of “How to Overcome a Broken Game.” Follow him on Twitter @pedromura.

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