Image credit: Cristian Javier (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
PHILADELPHIA—When Cristian Javier was 16 years old, he was an outfielder with a light bat, little speed and a strong arm. He wasn’t a top prospect on anybody’s radar in the Dominican Republic. With no future as a position player, he converted to pitching at the suggestion of family friend and Astros scout Leocadio Guevara, who lived in the same town as Javier and had known him since he was seven.
Javier’s fastball sat just 84-86 mph in his first workouts as a pitcher. He topped out at 89 after months of work. The Astros decided to sign him for $10,000 a week before he turned 18, nearly two years older than most international signees, as a pure flier and with little expectation the investment would ever yield much of a return.
Seven years later, the converted outfielder with a light fastball stood on the mound in the World Series with his team desperately needing a win to keep its championship dreams in reach. Facing an offense that has bashed opposing pitchers into submission again and again, Javier calmly delivered one of the most dominant playoff starts of the last 50 years to put his team in the history books and get them back in the series.
Javier combined with Bryan Abreu, Rafael Montero and Ryan Pressly to pitch the second no-hitter in World Series history and lead the Astros to a 5-0 win over the Phillies on Wednesday night. Javier delivered six no-hit innings before handing it off to his bullpen, which finished the job to join Don Larsen’s perfect game in 1956 as the only no-hitters in World Series history. The series is tied at two games apiece and is guaranteed to return to Houston.
Javier was at the center of it all. With 45,693 fans roaring at Citizen’s Bank Park, the former $10,000 signee threw up zero after zero to silence the most raucous home crowd in baseball and put his team en route to victory.
“I’m very happy and very grateful to God for giving me this opportunity,” Javier said through an interpreter. “I really didn’t focus on the signing bonus. I just tried to do the best that I could every single year. And I knew every single year that I was in the minors that I didn’t have anything promised, that I would just have to give my best every single year out, and thankfully I’m here.”
Javier became the first pitcher to throw six no-hit innings in a World Series game since Mets lefthander Jerry Koosman in Game 2 of the 1969 World Series. He struck out nine, walked two and retired the final 11 batters he faced. The Phillies offense came in averaging nearly three home runs per game at home in the postseason. Against Javier, they only managed to hit two balls out of the infield.
Javier did what no other pitcher has been able to do this postseason and beat the Phillies at home. The Phillies were 6-0 this postseason at Citizen’s Bank Park, beating a list of pitchers that included Joe Musgrove, Charlie Morton, Lance McCullers and Spencer Strider.
Against Javier and his high-spin, low-90s fastball, they were simply no match.
“He was electric,” Astros manager Dusty Baker said. “He threw the ball up, down, and that shows you that the best pitch in baseball is still the well-located fastball.”
The performance may have been Javier’s coming out party on a national stage, but in reality, it was merely a continuation of the dominance he’s displayed since he debuted in 2020.
Javier posted a 2.54 ERA during the regular season and pitched 5.1 scoreless innings against the Yankees in the ALCS in his first career postseason start. He was already a part of one combined no-hitter this year, pitching seven innings of a combined no-no with Pressly and Hector Neris against the Yankees on June 25.
As noted by Baseball America co-executive editor Matt Eddy, Javier has held opponents to a .178 batting average in his career, the lowest among all pitchers with at least 300 innings pitched since 2020. The next pitcher on the list, Brewers ace and reigning National League Cy Young Award winner Corbin Burnes, has allowed a .195 opponent average, a full 17 points higher.
That came after Javier led the minors with a .130 opponent average in 2019, a full 22 points lower than the next closest pitcher.
Put another way, Javier has been the most difficult pitcher to get a hit off of everywhere he has pitched the last four seasons. His riding fastball, which he threw 70 times in 97 pitches on Wednesday, is the main reason why.
“I think that’s the best fastball right now in baseball,” said Astros catcher Christian Vazquez, who previously faced Javier as a member of the Red Sox. “The action is going up. It’s like a screwball fastball. I think that’s the only thing I can tell you. 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 success with that pitch.”
Javier’s removal from the game after six innings provided no respite for the Phillies. Abreu, another Astros bargain international signee who signed for just $40,000, entered in the seventh and struck out Bryce Harper, J.T. Realmuto and Nick Castellanos swinging. Montero entered in the eighth and nearly lost the no-hitter with two outs, but Jean Segura’s hard liner the opposite way stayed up and found the glove of charging right fielder Kyle Tucker to keep the no-hitter intact. Pressly worked around a one-out walk to Schwarber to finish the job, with third baseman Alex Bregman fielding a ground ball from Realmuto and throwing across the diamond to first to end it.
Javier trotted out of the dugout with a smile on his face after the final out and joined his teammates in celebration on the mound. His parents flew in for the game and watched from the stands as he made his first World Series start. It was the first time his dad had ever seen him pitch live in the major leagues.
As an amateur, he struggled to find any team interested in signing him. Now, with his parents there to witness it, he’s forever etched into World Series history.
“For me, it was the best gift that I could have ever given them,” Javier said. “I know that they’re really proud of me for what I was able to accomplish today.”