PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Hammered the night before, Cristian Javier and the Houston Astros desperately needed to figure how to keep Bryce Harper and the Phillies in the ballpark.
How about a no-hitter, would that do?
Javier and Houston's bullpen combined on just the second no-hitter in World Series history, silencing a booming lineup and boisterous fans as the Astros blanked Philadelphia 5-0 Wednesday night to even the matchup at two games each.
"You get slapped in the face yesterday and you want to come back today and make a statement," closer Ryan Pressly said.
The only previous no-hitter in the World Series was a perfect game by Don Larsen of the New York Yankees against the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1956.
Javier and three relievers weren't perfect in Game 4, but they were close.
Plus, they'd done this before: Javier, the starter in a combined no-hitter against the New York Yankees in June, was pulled with a no-hitter in progress after six innings and 97 pitches this time.
Bryan Abreu, Rafael Montero and Pressly each followed with a hitless inning for the first combined no-hitter in postseason play. Astros arms totaled 14 strikeouts and three walks in ensuring this year's championship will be decided this weekend back at Minute Maid Park.
Soon after J.T. Realmuto grounded out to end it, the quartet of pitchers posed with catcher Christian Vázquez near the visiting dugout, each putting a hand on the game ball for a photo. It's a picture no one could've envisioned 24 hours earlier, when Philadelphia clubbed a Series record-tying five home runs in a 7-0 romp in Game 3.
"That's crazy, man," Vázquez said. "It was special."
The four pitchers and Vázquez also signed a ball headed to the Hall of Fame.
Javier said his parents predicted Tuesday night he was going to throw a no-hitter. The 25-year-old righty from the Dominican Republic said his father, Cecilio Javier, arrived in the United States on Tuesday, and this was the first time his dad saw him pitch.
"I just came out holding onto God, trying to be positive, trying to attack the strike zone," he said via translator. "Thanks to God I was able to accomplish that."
In 2010, Roy Halladay pitched a no-hitter for the Phillies in the NL Division Series, also here at Citizens Bank Park. Halladay's gem came against a Cincinnati team managed by Dusty Baker, Houston's current skipper.
"Oh, yeah, I was on the other end in this ballpark. I mean, that's what's strange about life," Baker said.
With Larsen and the Houston combo, those are the only three no-hitters in the postseason.
The closest the Phillies came to a hit was in the third inning, when Kyle Schwarber grounded a hard foul past first base. On fair balls, nothing.
"It's cool," Schwarber said, sarcastically. "We'll be in the history books I guess."
Game 5 is on Thursday night in Philly. Astros ace Justin Verlander will again chase that elusive first World Series win when he faces Noah Syndergaard.
They can only hope to pitch as well as Javier.
By the time Javier exited, the lone hit maker on the Philadelphia side who showed up on the scoreboard was rocker Bruce Springsteen, pictured surrounded by Phillies fans.
And a few innings later, as fans started leaving the stadium, there actually were boos for postseason star Harper and the Phillies. First lady Jill Biden, a noted Phillies fan, was among those in the crowd of 45,693 who had little to shout about.
"For me? I mean, a loss is a loss," Phillies manager Rob Thomson said. "That's the way I kind of look at it."
Alex Bregman delivered the big hit Houston hoped for, a two-run double in a five-run fifth inning, and that was plenty for the Astros.
Completely in charge, Javier struck out nine — including five straight — walked two and hardly allowed any loud contact. He tamed a club that had been 6-0 at home this postseason while hitting 17 home runs.
"New day, new opportunity," Abreu said. "What happened yesterday stays in the past. Today is a new opportunity."
Opponents hit only .170 against Javier during the regular season, the lowest mark in baseball among pitchers with at least 130 innings.
"When I first met him he told me he had a disappearing fastball and I'm like, `There is no such thing.' But I guess so," Baker said.
Javier threw 70 fastballs and the Phillies barely touched him.
"I think it's the best fastball I've ever seen," Vázquez said.
Very still on the mound, Javier carved his own quiet spot in the middle of the Phillies' storm. Backing off onto the grass, straightening his hat, rubbing the ball, taking deep breaths, he proceeded at his own pace.
Next year, Javier won't be able to work quite this way. Major League Baseball is instituting a pitch clock — 15 seconds to throw with the bases empty, 20 with someone on — and Javier often surpassed those limits on this evening, drawing boos from a crowd eager for action.
This performance by Javier came a year after Atlanta's Ian Anderson was taken out after pitching five hitless innings against Houston in the World Series. Pressly permitted the only other Phillies runner, walking Schwarber in the ninth.
Philadelphia was no-hit by five New York Mets pitchers in April, one of several crushing losses that led to manager Joe Girardi's firing two months later.
"We came back the next day and won," said Thomson, then the bench coach. "So these guys, they got a short memory."
This was the fourth no-hitter of the season — two combos by the Astros, the team job by the Mets and the only individual effort, by Angels rookie Reid Detmers.
Maybe it was the team's switch to orange tops, or the lucky lunch Baker had at a Philly hoagie spot, but the Astros sure looked different than the previous night, when they got shut out on a feeble five singles.
Blanked for 16 innings, Bregman and the Astros chased Aaron Nola in their big fifth.
Houston's hits resonated far away, too.
Chants of "Let's go, Astros!" erupted when highlights and the score were shown at the Toyota Center as the Houston Rockets hosted the Los Angeles Clippers in an NBA game.
And there figure to be Astros cheers at NRG Stadium in Houston on Thursday night when the Texans take on the Philadelphia Eagles, the NFL's only unbeaten team, in a matchup that'll be played at the same time as Game 5.
It was quiet in Philly, though, as fans who came wanting to see a win were reduced to merely hoping for a hit.
HUNGRY FOR A HOAGIE
Wawa encouraged Phillies fans hungry for a Game 4 win to dig in for a bite of their sandwiches during the game. One problem, the popular Pennsylvania-based convenience store chain tweeted of the Phillies an hour before first pitch, "Each time they get a hit, take a bite of your hoagie!"
Wawa might have bit off more than it could chew with that tweet.
Twitter fans had a field day at Wawa's expense.
Famished fans tweeted photos of skeletons next to untouched sandwiches. One snapped a photo of an unwrapped hoagie resting on a pants leg. Others cracked they died of starvation. Some asked what they should do with their stale hoagies.
Astros: Verlander is 0-6 with a 6.07 ERA in eight World Series starts after failing to hold a five-run lead in the opener.
Phillies: RHP Syndergaard had been set to start Game 3 before it was washed out Monday night. He'll now open a bullpen game.
Justin Verlander has a very tough act to follow.
Not only will he again be seeking his first World Series win Thursday night, he'll take the mound against the Philadelphia Phillies after four Houston Astros teammates combined on the Fall Classic's second no-hitter.
"He's one of the best," Phillies slugger Bryce Harper said after Houston's 5-0 victory Wednesday tied the Series at two games apiece. "Just got to go out there and have the best at-bats we can and do what we can to get some runs up there."
Verlander failed to hold a five-run lead in the opener, a 6-5, 10-inning loss for the Astros that left him 0-6 with a 6.07 ERA in eight World Series starts. The 39-year-old ace, expected to win his third Cy Young Award in a few weeks, has the highest ERA of any pitcher to throw at least 30 innings in the Fall Classic.
"I'm not going to sit here and dwell too much and be like, 'Oh, I just got hit all over the yard,'" he said. "I think you try to keep a positive mindset and say, 'Well, had a couple things gone my way, maybe things would have been very different.' So hopefully things will go my way next time."
Before starter Cristian Javier and three Houston relievers combined to blank the Phillies on Wednesday night, the only no-hitter in the World Series was a perfect game by Don Larsen of the New York Yankees against the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1956.
SERIES SCHEDULE (All times ET)
Game 5: Thursday in Philadelphia, 8:03 p.m., FOX
Game 6: Saturday in Houston, 8:03 p.m., FOX
Game 7 (if necessary): Sunday in Houston, 8:03 p.m., FOX
THIS BUD'S FOR YOU. AND YOU. YOU, TOO.
Losing a World Series game on a no-hitter could drive almost any Phillies fan to drink.
It helps when there's an open bar.
The wife of Philadelphia Phillies first baseman Rhys Hoskins turned section 104 of Citizens Bank Park into the hop corner when she bought around 100 beers for fans before Game 4.
Jayme Hoskins started putting beers on her tab earlier in the playoffs and got Phillies fans primed for another free round when she tweeted her location at the ballpark.
Wearing a red Phillies blazer with "Hoskins" printed on the back, Jayme had fans chanting her name Wednesday night as she sidled up to the closest bar to right field on the concourse before Game 4.
"If you know anything about baseball and it's quirks then you know where beers are about to be," she tweeted.
Rhys Hoskins was on board with his wife playing baseball bartender.
"Whatever it takes right now, really," he said before Game 4. "She's having a lot of fun with it. Obviously, the fans are enjoying it, too."
Good news for Phillies fans suffering from a no-hitter hangover.
She'll be back for Game 5.
YOU DOUBLE DIPPED!
Philly and Houston sports fans have double the reason for sports excitement on Thursday. The undefeated Eagles play the Texans and the Phillies and Astros are set for Game 5.
Thanks to a Game 3 rainout, both leagues have games on the same night and the same time, causing some headaches — though it's more sports heaven in Philly — for fans who would rather not divide their fandom.
The Texans know their audience is thirsty for baseball and plan to rotate the Astros score on the side panels of the video boards throughout the game. More than 50% of the televisions around the stadium that would normally show other NFL games will instead show Game 5.
Normally, the team features an NFL scoreboard during the games, but on Thursday, the Texans will drop in on the big screen to provide the World Series score and big-play updates.
PHILLY 'PEN FINALLY LEAKS
After a sturdy start to this World Series, the Phillies' bullpen finally cracked in Game 4.
José Alvarado replaced starter Aaron Nola with the bases loaded and nobody out in the fifth inning. The hard-throwing lefty drilled Yordan Alvarez with his first pitch, forcing in the initial run of the game. Alex Bregman laced a two-run double on an 0-2 delivery, Kyle Tucker lofted a sacrifice fly and Yuli Gurriel made it 5-0 with an RBI single past a drawn-in infield.
"That's a tough situation to bring him in, but we were just trying to keep the damage to a minimum, I guess," Phillies manager Rob Thomson said. "It just kind of got away from us."
Philadelphia relievers had fired 12 2/3 shutout innings to begin the World Series, the longest scoreless streak for a bullpen in a Fall Classic since Toronto in 1992.
Alvarado finished the fifth, throwing 22 pitches, and the next four relievers out of Philadelphia's bullpen each tossed a scoreless inning.
With right-hander Noah Syndergaard scheduled to start Game 5 on Thursday night, the Phillies will likely need another strong effort from the 'pen. Syndergaard has pitched three times this postseason, totaling just five innings. His most recent full-fledged start was Oct. 1.