World Series: Astros toss combined no-hitter in Game 4 vs. Phillies, make history after brilliant Cristian Javier start

Houston Astros pitcher Cristian Javier pitched the first six innings of a historic no-hitter in Game 4 of the World Series against the Philadelphia Phillies on November 02, 2022 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
Houston Astros pitcher Cristian Javier pitched the first six innings of a historic no-hitter in Game 4 of the World Series against the Philadelphia Phillies on November 02, 2022 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

The Houston Astros — led by starter Cristian Javier — have thrown the second no-hitter in World Series history. Javier and three relief pitchers combined to blank the Philadelphia Phillies in Game 4 Wednesday night, 5-0, and pull Houston even in the series in historic fashion.

The combined no-no joins Don Larsen's perfect game for the 1956 New York Yankees in World Series lore. It is the third postseason no-hitter, and comes in the same ballpark as the second: Roy Halladay's NLDS no-no for the Phillies in 2010.

Javier, the preternaturally calm 25-year-old Astros starter, fired six no-hit innings to help Houston quiet the Philadelphia crowd and rebound from a rough Game 3, striking out nine and walking two. After 97 pitches, manager Dusty Baker shook his hand and turned to the bullpen. Bryan Abreu, Rafael Montero and Ryan Pressly each pitched an inning to close it out. Overall, the Astros struck out 14 Phillies and retired 18 in a row between walks in the third and ninth innings.

"I mean, it's crazy," Astros third baseman Alex Bregman said after the game, reflecting on the history his club's pitchers made. "We grew up watching the World Series. We know the baseball's been going on for a long, long time. So to be a part of, just be a teammate on a team that did that and what Javy and all the guys did is really special."

Cristian Javier has a star turn on World Series stage

Javier will cap his first full season as a major-league starter by entering the record books as the author of the longest hitless World Series start outside of Larsen's perfecto.

He eclipses Atlanta Braves pitcher Ian Anderson, who went five innings without allowing a hit in 2021's World Series Game 3 against the Astros. The Braves bullpen eventually allowed the first hit leading off the eighth.

This was no fluke, either. Javier tossed seven spotless frames to start a combined no-hitter against the Yankees earlier this season, and allowed the lowest batting average in baseball in the second half among starting pitchers.

The Phillies were also victims of a combined no-hitter earlier this year, going hitless against the New York Mets in April.

Coming off a major breakout that established him as a bonafide starter, Javier is nicknamed "El Reptil" — The Reptile — because early in his career coaches deemed him cold-blooded, a descriptor that now seems particularly apt. After the game, Javier told Ken Rosenthal his parents had assured him he would throw a hitter.

Javier now has a 0.71 ERA in 12 2/3 innings in the 2022 playoffs. And he may not be done. Baker said Javier could be available for two to three innings in Game 7 if the series stretches that far.

How Cristian Javier's fastball flummoxed Phillies

He tamed the Phillies — who shelled Lance McCullers Jr. one night earlier in a Game 3 win — mostly with a fastball they may be seeing in nightmares. Out of Javier's 97 pitches in Game 4, an astounding 70 were fastballs.

There are two things to understand about his devastating four-seamer: He throws it high. And to hitters, it looks like it's rising as it approaches the plate.

That's a much sought after combo in baseball. He achieves that with effective spin on the ball, which helps his four-seam rank among the game's best for vertical movement that creates the illusion of "rise." He accentuates it by using a lower three-quarters arm angle to make the flight path of the ball even more difficult for hitters to pick up. Out of 169 pitchers who fired at least 500 four-seamers in 2022, Javier's average fastball placement was higher than all but eight, according to Statcast. But his release point was lower than 127 of them.

Hitters managed a paltry .183 batting average against the pitch during the regular season, one of the 10 best marks in baseball. The Phillies actually hit high fastballs as well as any MLB team in 2022, but not all fastballs are created equal, and aggression likely cost them chances at runners in Game 4.

Owing to that rising action on the fastball, Javier generates an unusually high number of pop-ups and fly balls. When balls in the air aren't squared up, they tend to be almost automatic outs. Six of the nine balls the Phillies put in play against him were in the air, and three were pop-ups.

Astros starter Cristian Javier's pitch chart against the Phillies in World Series Game 4. (Courtesy Baseball Savant)
Astros starter Cristian Javier's pitch chart against the Phillies in World Series Game 4. (Courtesy Baseball Savant)

Oh, and just when hitters are busy trying to deal with that, he rips off a biting slider or looping curveball.

Behind the plate, Christian Vazquez got just his second postseason start as Astros catcher, and first since ALCS Game 3. Afterward, he reflected on the weapons Javier has to beat hitters.

A trade deadline acquisition from the Boston Red Sox, Vazquez had served as Boston's primary catcher during their championship run in 2018. He's now in an exclusive club with Yogi Berra as backstop who called World Series no-hitters.

Astros ensure World Series will end in Houston

All of Houston's runs came in the fifth inning. They chased Phillies starter Aaron Nola by lashing three straight singles. When Phillies relief star Jose Alvarado came in, he plunked Yordan Alvarez to drive in the first run, then Bregman followed with a two-RBI double.

The Astros win guarantees the series will return to Houston, requiring at least six games to crown a champion. Three of the last four World Series have ended in Houston, and the one that didn't was 2020's neutral site Fall Classic in Arlington, Texas.

Game 5 will still be in Philadelphia, though.

The Phillies struck a defiant tone after the no-no, saying they are turning the page. Asked about the dubious feat, leadoff man and clubhouse leader Kyle Schwarber told reporters, "I really don’t give a s***. I guess we’ll be in the history books."

In Game 5, Astros ace Justin Verlander will take on the Phillies' Noah Syndergaard, likely with a heavy dose of the bullpen. That starts Thursday night at 8 p.m. ET on FOX.

How'd we get here? Catch up on everything you need to know for the World Series: