The Astros pitching staff combined to no-hit the Phillies in a crucial Game 4. But everyone was talking about Cristian Javier who started with six perfect innings.
All odds were stacked against Cristian Javier.
Javier signed with the Houston Astros for $10,000 as an international free agent. He was never a highly-rated prospect. At one point, he was an outfielder. He transitioned to pitching, debuted in 2020 and began the 2022 season in the bullpen. He eventually worked his way into the rotation, starting a combined no-hitter against the New York Yankees in June.
Javier did it once again, this time on baseball’s biggest stage. With the Astros trailing 2-1 in the series, he pitched six dominant innings in what was the second no-hitter in World Series history as his patented “invisible” fastball overpowered and baffled hitters while his slider consistently kept them off balance.
What did everyone have to say after the six no-hit innings by Cristian Javier?
Here are immediate takeaways from the postgame clubhouse:
Rob Thomson: “He’s got that riding fastball. And I think the biggest thing for him was that he was laying his slider. He was throwing it for strikes for the most part and just kind of keeping guys off balance.”
Dusty Baker: “He was electric. He threw the ball up, down, and that shows you that the best pitch in baseball is still the well-located fastball. He was calm, cool. Christian Vazquez called a great game for him. I think that’s the first time I’ve seen two guys with the same first name as a battery. So maybe that was part of it.”
“I had heard an interview by Joe Torre that Game 4 is a pivotal game in a seven-game series, and that’s why we kind of wanted Javy pitching that fourth game. I mean, the guy was cool as if it was June or July. That’s how he is.”
“I heard his mom and dad were here from the Dominican. They got to see him pitch. It’s always great when you do something in front of your folks. I mean, this is a world stage here. People from all over the world are watching this, and he certainly put himself on the map.”
Christian Vazquez: “He was very, very electric tonight with the fastball. I think that’s the way he is and we always expect that. I think that’s the best fastball right now in baseball.”
On why Javier’s fastball is called invisible: “I think the action up, it’s going up and, like a tour ball fastball. I think that’s the only thing I can tell you. And then I think it’s electric. You can call it anytime. No matter who is in the batter’s box, you can call it and it’s going to be successful with that pitch.”
“When you think you got a chance with the fastball and he throws you the slider and it’s a big slider and I think he’s a special kid. It feels better catching than facing him.”
Prior to Game 4, Javier’s parents flew in from the Dominican Republic. While his mom had previously seen him play, this would be the first time his dad watched him pitch in person. And sometime before first pitch, they told Javier: “We think you’re throwing a no-hitter tonight.”
Cristian Javier: “When they told me that, obviously I got a lot more motivated. I kept my faith in God and obviously I knew I had a big commitment today being down 2-1 in the series. And obviously with my parents being here, I just tried to give my best, give my family the best that I could. And obviously having my dad here as well so he could enjoy the success that I’ve had, so he can come here and enjoy the game as well.
“For me, it was the best gift that I could have ever given ’em. I know that they’re really proud of me for what I was able to accomplish today.”
The Phillies bullpen advantage didn’t matter
Entering Wednesday, the Phillies were confident about the state of their bullpen. The bottom of their bullpen mowed through the Astros’ lineup the night before and their two best relievers, Seranthony Dominguez and Jose Alvarado, entered Game 4 with four days rest – a rarity this deep in the playoffs.
And while the Phillies viewed that as an advantage, perhaps it had the opposite effect. Alvarado relieved Aaron Nola in the fifth inning with the bases loaded and no outs. On the first pitch, he hit Yordan Alvarez, and it ultimately led to a five-run frenzy that blew the game open.
“Maybe a little bit,” Thomson said when asked if the four days off contributed to his struggles. “He had four days off. He hasn’t had four days off in a while.”
Still, it was the right move by Thomson and continued his ultra-aggressive deployment of his bullpen. It was the critical point of the game, and perhaps the defining moment of the series, and he went with one of his best late-inning relievers. It ultimately didn’t work out. But Thomson wanted to live and die by his best pitchers.
“He was just a little bit off,” Thomson said. “That’s a tough situation to bring him in, but we were just trying to keep the damage to a minimum. … I don’t know whether hitting Alvarez kind of threw him off or not. But yeah, just a little bit off today.”
The Phillies remain in good shape heading into Game 5 in what will be a bullpen game with Noah Syndergaard starting. Every reliever will be available, including Andrew Bellatti who has pitched three consecutive games.