Astros connect to no-hit Yankees


Astros connect to no-hit Yankees

NEW YORK — A sell-out crowd flocked to Yankee Stadium on a sunny Saturday afternoon hoping to maybe catch a no-hitter, which is always a chance with ace Gerrit Cole on the mound. Instead, they witnessed Astros pitcher Cristian Javier’s coming-out party, who eclipsed Cole and the Yankees and helped make history.

Javier, who signed for $10,000 as an undrafted free agent from the Dominican Republic in 2015, teamed up with assists Héctor Neris and Ryan Pressly to portray the Yankees’ $324 million starter , by throwing a combined no-hitter in Houston’s scintillating 3-0 win in the Bronx.

“A no-hitter is pretty special either way, no matter where you do it,” Pressly said. “The fact that it was here at Yankee Stadium, that’s a really good lineup over there. Those are some good hitters. It’s special, but I think if you throw a no-hitter, it’s going to be special in general.

Javier, behind a misleading fastball with an average speed of 94.6mph and extremely good position, threw seven innings without a hit before Neris worked around two walks and some tight calls in the eighth, then Pressly – who was in Thursday’s loss at New York screwed up the save — recovered with a 1-2-3 ninth. Yankees slugger Giancarlo Stanton made the final, landing on third base to set off a celebration at the diamond.

Javier hit a career-high 13 batters while throwing a career-high 115 pitches (71 strikes). That’s the most strikeouts by a Houston starter since Cole struck out 14 batters on Sept. 24, 2019.

“Pitching is all about control, control, control,” said Astros manager Dusty Baker. “Everyone talks about speed all the time, but speed without command and control is not good. He was ahead of some really good players over there. This is a day he will never forget, and neither will we.”

Javier has bounced back and forth between rotation and bullpen over the past two years, but the Astros believe his future is a starter. His performance on a big stage against the Yankees helped elevate his status.

“I was just trying to stay calm,” said Javier, whose calm demeanor has earned him the nickname “El Reptile” from his teammates.

“He doesn’t show emotion no matter the size of the stage — playoffs, World Series,” he said. “The guy is the same. He can do without five [runs], he can throw a no-hitter – he’s still the same guy. Was I surprised he did it? No, just because I know how good he is.”

Neris compared Javier to teammate Justin Verlander and Hall of Famer Pedro Martinez.

“He’s a young man, but he can be in the game for a long time,” Neris said.

The mighty Yankees, the team with the best records in baseball behind a vaunted offense that leads the major leagues in runs scored, home runs and OPS, were held in one run in back-to-back losses against Houston.

It’s the first time the Yankees have gone without a hit since six Astros pitchers faced them on June 11, 2003 at old Yankee Stadium. These are the only two no-hitters thrown against the Yankees since 1958. The Astros are no strangers to celebrating at Yankee Stadium after beating the Yankees in the 2015 AL Wild Card Game and eliminating them in both ’17 and ’19 in the ALCS.

The Astros have circled that string of games on their calendar — nine straight games against the Mets and Yankees — and have played their best baseball of the season so far. They are 4-1 in that stretch, with the only loss coming on Thursday when they gambled away a three-run lead in the ninth round.

“A lot of people talk about the Yankees and not a lot about the Astros,” Maldonado said. “I feel like we’re still the same team. We love competing out there, especially against good teams. We felt like the playoffs were coming into the series.”

Josh Donaldson was the only Yankee to reach base against Javier. He pulled a first inning walk on a tight 3-2 pitch, which he maintained with a check swing, and in the seventh he equaled again from a throwing error by third baseman Alex Bregman.

“Today was his day,” Donaldson said. “Of course it’s shocking; I mean we have a really good line-up. He made it difficult today. He fell behind a few times and then did a really good job of figuring out when he was behind. He was really good. “

Javier was at 91 pitches in six innings when pitching coach Josh Miller Baker said Javier had maybe 15 pitches left. He threw a 24 in the seventh and beat Gleyber Torres with a 3-2 ball to keep the no-hitter alive.

“To be honest, I didn’t even realize how many pitches I had at the moment,” said Javier. “I was just trying to stay focused and stay in sync with Maldonado. He gave me good energy throughout the game.”

It’s the 14th no-hitter in Astros history and the first since Verlander shot the third of his career in Toronto on September 1, 2019. Houston’s combined no-hitter at Yankee Stadium 19 years ago came after starter Roy Oswalt left one inning with an injury and assists Pete Munro, Kirk Saarloos, Brad Lidge, Octavio Dotel and Billy Wagner finished it.

Cole, who carried a no-hitter into the eighth inning on his last start, didn’t allow a hit until two outs in the fifth and kept the Astros off the board until rookie JJ Matijevic hit a tape-measured homer to right field two outs in the seventh. Jose Altuve added a solo homer to Michael King in the eighth off-relief.

“We have two world-class offensive players out here today,” said Cole. “Of course I personally have a lot of respect for the guys on the other side of the field. We were pretty good today and we beat ourselves Tip of the hat to Javier. A special day for him.”

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