ACES IN THE HOLE MAKE HISTORY – Unheralded Javier, bullpen, no-hit Phillies to even World Series 2-2

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Ray Stubblebine/UPI/Shutterstock (13606128r) Houston Astros starting pitcher Cristian Javier throws in the fifth inning against the Philadelphia Phillies in game four of the 2022 World Series at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia on Wednesday, November 2, 2022. 2022 World Series, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States – 02 Nov 2022

ACES IN THE HOLE MAKE HISTORY – Unheralded Javier, bullpen, no-hit Phillies to even World Series 2-2

No one outside of Houston (or New York) had heard of Cristian Javier before Wednesday night.

The world sure knows who he is now.

Javier, perhaps the most under-appreciated ace in baseball, combined with three relievers to no-hit Philadelphia in a 5-0 victory to win Game 4 of the World Series, tying up the best-of-seven at two games apiece and guaranteeing at least one more game at Minute Maid Park. It was the second no-hitter in World Series history – the Yankees’ Don Larsen had a perfect game against the Dodgers in Game 5 in 1956 – and just the third in postseason history.

With the season on the brink and the Astros’ dream of another World Series on the ropes, Javier took the ball, the hopes of the Astros and their fans and put them on his electric right arm. And as he has done all season, he delivered in a big way.

The 25-year-old quietly had an outstanding regular season, with an 11-9 record, a sparkling 2.59 ERA, a team-best 11.7 strikeouts per nine innings and a fantastic WHIP of 0.948, second on the team only to presumed Cy Young winner Justin Verlander. Javier threw seven no-hit innings against the Yankees in the regular season, and then pitched 5 1/3rd one-hit innings to beat the Yankees in the ALCS. So, New York knows who he is.

Now, so does everyone else.

While Verlander and Framber Valdez get all the attention, Javier has been one of the best pitchers in baseball. He entered the game with a 1.35 ERA in the postseason and improved on that Wednesday. He became the first pitcher in World Series history with nine strikeouts and five no-hit innings to start a game against the Phillies.

Even with that, he needed help from the dormant bats.

The struggling Astros’ hitters finally broke through in the fifth with their first runs after 15 scoreless innings. Chas McCormick, Jose Altuve and Jeremy Pena had consecutive singles to load the bases. That ended Phillies’ starter Aaron Nola’s night. Jose Alvarado, one of the Phillies’ high leverage pitchers, hit Yordan Alvarez with a pitch to make it 1-0 Astros. Alex Bregman followed with a two-strike double to make it 3-0. Kyle Tucker got a sacrifice fly to make it 4-0, with Bregman moving to third. Yuli Gurriel banged yet another two-strike single to score Bregman, and it was 5-0. Christian Vázquez struck out, and Aledmys Diaz, who has been an automatic out, did it again to end the big inning. But the damage was done.

You could see the inning coming. The Astros had their chances early, but the bats continued to struggle with runners on base and could not quite break through until the fifth. They missed a chance to get off to a good start in the second. They got one of those little hustle plays that gave them a chance. Tucker had a lead-off double. Gurriel grounded out to third, but after looking the fielder off, Tucker hustled to third to beat the throw from first. Vázquez got hit with a pitch to put runners on first and third with one out. But Diaz struck out on yet another empty at bat where he was completely overmatched, and McCormick followed with a strikeout to end the threat.

Nola got the meat of the order in the third, and the game stayed 0-0.

Diaz once again left two more on in the fourth with a soft groundout to end yet another threat.

However, the fifth-inning outburst finally happened, and that would be enough.

That, and the Astros’ pitchers after Javier. Bryan Abreu kept the no-hitter going with a perfect seventh, and Rafael Montero did the same in the eighth. Ryan Pressly worked around a walk in the ninth to complete the no-hitter.

In the end, however, the series is tied because of one man. Wednesday night, Cristian Javier announced his presence to the world with authority, helping the Astros make history.

And the world heard him, loud and clear.

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