Astros no-hit Phillies in Game 4 of World Series

Astros no-hit Phillies in Game 4 of World Series

PHILADELPHIA — The night before, they dressed inconspicuously in their adjacent lockers in the quiet, defeated visitors’ club. But late Wednesday night, after they started and finished their history-making mission on the mound in the with a 5-0 victory in Game 4 of the World Series at Citizens Bank Park, Astros pitchers Christian Xavier and Ryan Pressly were surrounded by cameras, microphones and notebook computers to document what they did.

Silencing a Phillies lineup that produced a hit five home runs by Lance McCullers Jr. in Game 3 on Tuesday night, Javier, Bryan Abreu, Raphael Montero and Pressly didn’t just change the momentum of the best-of-seven set, now in knots two wins each. They authored the first combined no-hitter in the World Series — a feat that joins Don Larsen’s 1956 perfect game as the only no-hitter in 118 editions of the Fall Classic.

“You get slapped [in Game 3]”, Pressly said to the packed lockers, “and you want to come back today and make a statement. In this game, you try to have the mind of a goldfish.”

The short memory of a goldfish and the cold-blooded instincts of a reptile.

“We just stayed focused, we just came out motivated after that [Tuesday’s] loss,” Javier said through a translator. “We had positive energy in the clubhouse. We told ourselves we’re going in today to win.”

“It’s funny, my parents told me I was going to throw a no-hitter,” Javier said, “and thank God I was able to do it.”

The backbone of Javier’s brilliance was the four, which he threw 72% of the time. His low arm slot and vertical break make it difficult to track 96 mph.

How does one describe that fastball?

“Clearly, unsuitable?” Pressly said.

Without a doubt. And that led to a stunning shift in tone. The Phillies entered Game 4 with a chance to put a stop to this streak, to take a 3-1 lead that 85% of previous participants had cashed in on their way to a championship.

But one night after their impromptu home run, the Phils hit a drought. They had absolutely nothing to offer against Javier, whose fastball-slider combination kept them uncomfortable through six innings in which they mustered just two walks.

Schwarber’s screeching grounder in the third inning that went down the first-base line but fouled just before going over the bag (with umpire Lance Barksdale making a great call in the moment) was as close as the Phillies got to a hit by Javier , who needed 97 pitches to get 18 outs and didn’t complain when manager Dusty Baker pulled him after the sixth.

“He was electric,” said Baker, who has now been in the visitors’ dugout for two of his three postseason no-hitters (also as Reds manager in Halladay’s 2010 no-hitter). “He was throwing the ball up, down, and it shows you that the best pitch in baseball is still a well-located fastball. He was calm, cool. Christian Vázquez had a great game for him. I think it’s the first time I’ve seen two guys with the same battery name. So maybe that was part of it.”

Pitching coach Joshua Miller said the plan all along was for Javier to max out around 100 pitches this outing.

A more aggressive hook was one made by Phillies manager Rob Thomson. In the fifth, back-to-back singles from Chas McCormick, Jose Altuve and Jeremy Peña loaded the bases against Phillies ace Aaron Nola.

As he did during this Fall Classic, Thomson didn’t hesitate to call on one of his best weapons. Instead of driving in Nola, who had only hit 67 pitches, Thomson turned to José Alvarado, whose assignments usually come much later, but who was pitching in the fifth for the second time in this World Series.

The result? Alvarado’s first pitch scored Alvarez in the back and brought home the first run of the game. It was the first time in World Series history that the go-ahead hit had been scored on a bases-loaded pitch, and — more importantly — snapped the Astros’ 16-inning scoreless streak.

“He was just out a little bit,” Thomson said of Alvarado, who hasn’t played in five days. “It’s a tough situation to bring him in, but we were just trying to minimize the damage, I guess. It just got away from us.”

Indeed, it is. Alex Bregman doubled the opposite side to right field to bring home two runs, Kyle Tucker followed with a sacrifice fly to score another and Yuli Gurriel finished the outing with a ground ball single through the left side for another RBI that made it 5-0.

It was the fourth time in this Series that a team went up 5-0 (or more), and the third time the Astros did it. As in Game 2, the lead held, thanks to Javier’s brilliant effort, in which he pitched the first individual hitless bid of at least six innings in a World Series since the Mets’ Jerry Koosman went six against the Orioles in Game 2 in 1969.

Even with Javier out, the Phillies’ once-mighty offense remained powerless. Abreu held them hitless until the seventh. Montero did the same in the eighth. Finally, in the ninth, Pressly rocked Citizens Bank Park. He retired Brandon Marsh with a called strikeout for the first out. Schwarber drew his walk, but Pressly got Rhys Hoskins to fly out to right and JT Realmuto to ground out to Bregman at third to complete the feat.

“As soon as that ground ball hit Bregy’s glove,” Pressly said, “I was pretty excited.”

This was it 19th combined no-hitter in Major League history, with four of those coming from Houston. The only other postseason combined no-no to go past the seventh was in Game 3 of last year’s World Series by the Braves (Ian Anderson, AJ Minter and Luke Jackson), against these Astros.

Game 4 was a reminder of how quickly the game can humble its heroes and how quickly the narrative of the Fall Classic can change. For one night, the Phillies were unbeatable. Next, Javier and Co. were unsuitable.

Now, with history of two very different kinds being made at Citizens Bank Park, tiebreak game 5 is coming up. In all best-of-seven series tied 2-2, the winner of Game 5 won the series 45 of 64 times (70%).

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