2022 World Series: Ben Verlander’s takeaways from Astros’ Game 4 win

HOUSTON — The rollercoaster ride of the World Series continues. A night after being blown out by the Phillies, the Astros shut out their National League nemesis in Game 4.

Cristian Javier pitched six near-perfect innings to lead a hitless combination and even the series at two games apiece.

Astros no-hitter combined pitching!

Astros no-hitter combined pitching!

Ben Verlander and Alex Curry broke up Houston’s 5-0 win over Philadelphia in just the second no-hitter in World Series history.

Here are my top takeaways from Houston’s historic 5-0 win over Philadelphia on Wednesday.

1. Javier’s historic performance

Javier has been dominant since the All-Star break. And he’s not a better-known name among the masses of baseball fans because he’s the No. 4 starter for the Astros. In fact, he didn’t start for much of the season this year.

He was a guy used in long relief because that’s how deep the Astros’ pitching staff is from top to bottom. But you get your No. 4 starter in the World Series by anchoring a no-hitter through six dazzling innings.

The man of the moment

The man of the moment

Cristian Javier talks to Ken Rosenthal about pitching six no-hit innings and becoming part of just the second no-hitter in World Series history.

Javier throws “invisiballs”. It’s so overpowering because of how nasty it is. His fastball is very difficult to catch. His slider was disgusting.

This Philly lineup that was hot and ended up not getting a single hit. This is one of the best starts in World Series history. And Javier controlled this World Series again for the Astros.

2. The Astros finish the combine hitless

A big key for me going into this series was the depth the Astros have over the Phillies, specifically in the rotation. They didn’t have to pass on Justin Verlander, they just used Javier in that four spot in the rotation. So you don’t have to stir, which turned out to be huge.

Ryan Pressly on closing it

Ryan Pressly on closing it

Ben Verlander talks to Ryan Pressly to get the final three outs.

We saw Aaron Nola on Wednesday, he was great early, and then he seemed to run out of gas. Maybe with another day off, who knows? But the depth of the rotation and bullpen was on display Wednesday night.

I don’t want a combined no-hitter to take anything away from me. It’s certainly rare (only 19 in baseball history). A combined no-hitter is important and very impressive in and of itself because you have to have all the pitchers involved on their A-game at the same time. It’s not just a guy who’s locked up.

3. Astros’ bats explode

At one point I looked at the scoreboard, and the Astros had seven hits and no runs scored. Eight of the nine players had a hit tonight. Compared to the last game when they had almost no hits and no runs scored, this was a pretty different ball game. You could see a different approach. They didn’t get too big on their swings. They stayed contained, pitchers worked, they took their singles – they loaded the bases on singles – but the big hit was Alex Bregman’s double.

It really was everyone in this Astros lineup after a game Tuesday in which they weren’t very good. They all looked in the mirror and went out to play tonight. I think that says a lot about his World Series experience. I keep coming back to this because I think it’s monumental. I think the experience they’ve had over the last six years, playing in these high-performance games, is the reason they can bounce back.

Astros take a 5-0 lead in Game 4

Astros take a 5-0 lead in Game 4

Houston scores five runs in the fifth inning, highlighted by a two-run double by Alex Bregman.

How easy is it to be out of the World Series and down 2-1, and you’ve got two more games on the road? There’s a chance you won’t come home and the World Series is over, but they responded and guaranteed a trip back to Houston.

4. Nola fails to deliver

I actually think Aaron Nola shot the ball well tonight. He ran into trouble in that fifth inning when they scored all the runs. The bases are loaded, they take him out. I think it was the right call, but I don’t think that takes away from what Nola did tonight.

This is a World Series game. If the Phillies got any runs on the board, we’re giving him a standing ovation as he walked off the field, but the game was different because he walked out with the bases loaded. I was super impressed. He had guys off balance and threw hard.

Jeremy Peña gives his point of view

Jeremy Peña gives his point of view

Astros shortstop Jeremy Peña describes what the no-hitter was like from his perspective.

In the regular season, Nola had 35 pitches over 95 mph. He’s already done it 16 times in the postseason, six more tonight. It’s really impressive what Nola is doing.

I think when you look at the box score, and you see Nola giving up a few runs, three earned, not great at all. I would actually disagree with that. I was really impressed with what he did, and then he came out of the game and all of his inherited runners scored.

5. Jose Alvarado struggles

I think you always want to come in with a clean inning, if you’re a reliever. You never think in the backyard, “World Series, the bases are loaded, I’m in.” I’d rather it wasn’t with the bases loaded.

Alvarado has dominated his last four playoff outings. He hasn’t given up on a career, but he does have control issues at times. And I learned that firsthand when I faced him in the minor leagues. I had to swerve the guy, and it was an absolute nightmare because he was throwing feathers at 100mph with no idea where he was going at the time. He’s since figured it out, and he’s one of the best lifeguards in Philadelphia, so I was totally on board with the decision.

Nola has been good, but I think Phillies manager Rob Thomson picked the right time to pull him. Maybe he noticed that his two studs (Zack Wheeler, obviously, was the other), didn’t have it as much as they did during the regular season.

The Phils bring Alvarado, and he had one of those nights where he wasn’t at his best. We’ve seen it before him. Sometimes that order can falter a bit, and we saw that here with the first pitch he threw when he struck out Yordan Alvarez.

6. Justin Verlander to start the pivotal Game 5

I’ve been around him every day since his last start, and obviously it wasn’t easy the night of Game 1. But the next day, he bounces right back. He’s in the clubhouse getting ready for that start.

You know you’re going to start the fifth game as long as there’s no sweep, and I don’t think anybody thought there was going to be a sweep either way here. You know you will have another start. And it has been prepared, and it has been prepared. The opportunity to have this moment is being consumed.

He hasn’t won a World Series in his career, and I think that adds to his fire. If you know Justin, you know his fire is unmatched. Know the narrative. He knows the record. He knows what’s going on. He doesn’t care about that. He just wants to win.

He has been the best pitcher in baseball all year with an ERA under 1.80. He will win the AL Cy Young Award and can now pitch his team to a 3-2 lead. And I will add: it must.

This game for the Astros is a must. You have a bullpen game on the other side for the Phillies. Noah Syndergaard will be on the mound for maybe two or three innings, followed by this bullpen that was pretty heavy on Wednesday.

The Phillies didn’t have to use their upper arms much, but they did use Alvarado. They’ll have to go to their bullpen early Thursday, and the Astros have their ace on the mound who had the best pitching season in baseball. You have to win Game 5 if you’re the Astros, and I know Justin is going to come out fired up.

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