Cristian Javier of the Astros should have stayed in Game 4

Christian Javier

Christian Javier
Photo: Getty Images

Last night, the Houston Astros pitching staff combined for the second no-hitter in World Series history. Cristian Javier, Bryan Abreu, Rafael Montero and Ryan Pressly allowed just three baserunners (all walks) while striking out 14 Phillies en route to World Series night. There were only four other games all season where the Phillies struck out more times.

The highlight of the game was undoubtedly Astros starter Christian Javier, who collected nine strikeouts in six innings while walking just two batters. He was lights out like Super Bowl 47. He hadn’t allowed a baserunner since the third inning, and was only 97 pitches through six. The old adage is that you want to throw under 15 pitches per inning, and while Javier was over that mark, he was still well under season high pitch crowd from 115.

This series will go at least six games, and at this rate, no one would be shocked if they go 7 innings, which makes it even more important to save the team’s bullpen.

It’s not about Javier hitting a no-hit solo. While that would obviously have been awesome to see, and people would probably have tuned in to potentially watch it unfold, that’s not the point. Dusty Baker and the Astros don’t care about no-hitters. They care about winning and that’s how it should be. If Baker thought that removing Javier was the best decision to help his team win, good for him. Disagree.

Javier leaving might have IT CAN he slightly hurt his team’s chances in Game 4 (this is obviously unproven), but it would also help his team in the long run. Ryan Pressly is an All-Star caliber closer who has posted a 2.98 ERA, 12.1 K/9 and 2.31 FIP in 2022. He has already pitched in three games this World Series. Rafael Montero is an elite man. He played in three games in that series. The best arms in this Astros bullpen are on fire and letting Javier in would perhaps give this bullpen some much needed rest. Sure, the World Series was postponed and both teams were given an extra day of rest, but your arms can never be too fresh and using guys like Pressly and Montero when Javier probably could have gone one or two still entries are bad. decision that could hurt the team if a Game 7 is required.

It’s easy to sit back and watch what unfolded last night and assume the best decisions were made. After all, how can you go wrong when your team throws a no-hitter? And if I’m being honest, there are a few counter-arguments that could be made. For one, Javier had only gone over 100 pitches twice all season. In both of those instances though, Javier didn’t allow a single hit in his final inning. In fact, he only allowed one baserunner (Josh Donaldson, who walked by mistake). Overall, the batters went 0-for-7 with four strikeouts. He has the arm to get deep into plays and has proven to be effective in those situations.

Javier’s career ERA in 7th inning games is 2.93 with a .572 OPS against. This is a very stable number. And sure, the heart of the Phillies lineup was coming in the seventh — JT Realmuto, Bryce Harper and Nick Castellanos — and that would be the third time they’d face Javier in that game, but remind me how those three fared against him Javier at that point? Oh yeah, 0-for-5 with five strikeouts and a walk.

Obviously, big hitters make adjustments and those are three great hitters, but Javier didn’t do anything special or difficult on the mound. He was throwing gas, over 70 percent fastballs and just dominating Phillies hitters. It was clear he had their number and likely wouldn’t need to make any adjustments to cut down on the 3-4-5 hitting Philadelphia.

Sure, there’s a fear that the Phillies could score five quick runs again like they did in Game 1, but Verlander wasn’t on the same tear as Javier, and I’m not saying that if Javier had come back for the seventh, his strap it should have been a lot. Baker would still have the trigger, ready and waiting for any sign of backing down from Javier, and would have pulled the trigger at the first sign of trouble.

Maybe Javier’s arm was getting tired? Maybe a little, but Javier didn’t play like his hand. In the first inning of that ballgame, Javier threw 13 fastballs and four sliders. The fastball was hitting 93-95 miles per hour. The slider was hitting 80-81. In the sixth inning, Javier threw 16 fastballs and three sliders. Every fastball was either 92 or 93. Every slider was either 79 or 80. He had lost a mile per hour on his fastball, which is definitely something, but not enough to warrant concern about wear, especially when your man he throws the best game in recent World Series memory.

“But what if Baker wants to use Javier in Game 7?” you might be thinking.

This is the best counter argument to my claim. The Phillies hit Lance McCullers really well in Game 3. There are rumors that McCullers was throwing his pitches as well. We’ve all seen the breakdowns. It looks like it was. You could tweak McCullers’ technique to prevent this from happening again, but making those changes in the middle of a World Series, especially when he’s scheduled to play a Game 7, could prove disastrous and not worth the risk. Sure, he would be on short rest, but Javier could definitely play in Game 7 if he needed to. If this is the case, my argument folds.

However, that would also likely mean a short outing for Javier – four, maybe five innings if they’re lucky. That’s potentially half a game the bullpen will have to cover. Wouldn’t it be nice to have your best guys fresh then? That’s one possible downside I can think of.

The last aspect I want to talk about is the perspective of leaving Javier in the game. What if Baker kept Javier in the game and he took the lead? Not good. Obviously, this question would be difficult to answer if the press brought it up. However, this argument goes both ways. What if the bullpen ended up blowing the lead? What would it look like if Baker struck out someone who threw a no-hitter and the bullpen lost the game? It would also be a bad look. We’ve seen it happen before, as recently as 2020 when Tampa Bay Rays manager Kevin Cash pulled Blake Snell in Game 6 of the World Series after 5.1 innings of one ball and just 73 pitches. See how this was done.

There were people calling for Kevin Cash’s head after that decision. Are you telling me that leaving Javier would be worse than this? I don’t buy it.

Apparently, it all worked out in Game 4. While I’m concerned about the longevity of the Astros bullpen going into the game, it’s not a major concern and will only come into play if the streak reaches seven games.

I also admit, I’m a little biased. As a baseball fan, I would have liked to have seen Javier go for the solo no-hitter, but I know he was never going to make it through nine innings. However, there would be some legitimate benefits to keeping Javier around long-term. Like I said, it’s easy to look at how dominant Abreu, Montero and Pressly were in the final third of the game and say “Yeah, taking Javier off was the right call.” I’m just not so sure.

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