NEW YORK — A sellout crowd swarmed Yankee Stadium on a sunny Saturday afternoon hoping perhaps to see a no-hitter, which is always a chance with ace Gerrit Cole on the mound. They instead witnessed the coming-out party of Astros pitcher Christian Javier, who outshone Cole and the Yankees and helped make history in the process.
Javier, who signed for $10,000 as an undrafted free agent out of the Dominican Republic in 2015, combined with relievers Héctor Neris and Ryan Pressly to upstage 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, anywhere you do it,” Pressly said. “The fact that it was here in 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, in general, it’s going to be special.”
Javier, behind a deceptive fastball that averaged 94.6 mph and was located extremely well, threw seven no-hit innings before Neris worked around two walks and some close calls in the eighth, then Pressly — who blew the save in Thursday’s loss in New York — rebounded with a 1-2-3 ninth. Yankees slugger Giancarlo Stanton made the final out, grounding to third base to spark a celebration on the diamond.
Javier struck out a career-high 13 batters, throwing a career-high 115 pitches (71 strikes) in the process. That’s the most strikeouts by a Houston starter since Cole struck out 14 batters on Sept. 24, 2019.
“The whole thing of pitching is about control, control, control,” Astros manager Dusty Baker said. “Everybody talks about velocity all the time, but velocity without command and control is no good. He was getting ahead of some real good hitters over there. That’s a day he’ll never forget, and us either.”
Javier has bounced between the rotation and the bullpen the last two years, but the Astros believe his future is as a starter. His performance on a big stage against the Yankees has helped bolster 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 any emotions, no matter how big the stage — playoffs, World Series,” he said. “The guy’s the same. He can give up 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 guy, but he can be in the game for a long time,” Neris said.
The mighty Yankees, the team with the best record in baseball behind a vaunted offense that leads the Major Leagues in runs scored, home runs and OPS, have been held to one run in consecutive losses to Houston.
It’s the first time the Yankees have been no-hit since six Astros pitchers combined to no-hit them on June 11, 2003, at the old Yankee Stadium. Those are the only two no-hitters thrown against the Yankees since 1958. The Astros are no strangers to celebrating at Yankee Stadium, having beaten the Yankees in the 2015 AL Wild Card Game and eliminating them in the ALCS in both ’17 and ’19 .
The Astros circled this stretch of games on their calendar — nine in a row against the Mets and Yankees — and have played their best baseball of the season so far. They’re 4-1 in that stretch, with the only loss coming Thursday when they blew a three-run lead in the ninth.
“A lot of people are talking about the Yankees and they don’t talk much about the Astros,” Maldonado said. “I feel like we’re still the same team. We love competing out there, especially coming against good teams. We felt like it was the playoffs coming into the series.”
Josh Donaldson was the only Yankee to reach base against Javier. He drew a first-inning walk on a close 3-2 pitch in which he held up on a check swing, and he reached again in the seventh on a throwing error by third baseman Alex Bregman.
“Today was his day,” Donaldson said. “Obviously, it’s shocking; I mean, we have a really good lineup. He made it tough today. He fell behind a few times and then really did a good job of locating when he was behind. He was really good.”
Javier was at 91 pitches through six ins when pitching coach Josh Miller told Baker that Javier had maybe 15 pitches left in him. He wound up throwing 24 in the seventh, striking out Gleyber Torres on a 3-2 breaking ball to keep the no-hitter alive.
“Honestly, I wasn’t even aware of how many pitches I had at the moment,” Javier said. “I was just trying to stay focused, trying to stay in sync with Maldonado. He was giving me good energy throughout the game.”
It’s the 14th no-hitter in Astros history and the first since Verlander spun the third of his career on Sept. 1, 2019, in Toronto. Houston’s combined no-hitter at Yankee Stadium 19 years ago came after starter Roy Oswalt left with an injury after one inning and relievers Pete Munro, Kirk Saarloos, Brad Lidge, Octavio Dotel and Billy Wagner finished it off.
Cole, who carried a no-hitter into the eighth inning in 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-measure homer to right field with two outs in the seventh. Jose Altuve added a solo homer in the eighth off reliever Michael King.
“We’ve got two world-class offenses out here today,” Cole said. “Obviously, I personally have a ton of respect for the guys on the other side of the field. We were pretty good today and we got outpitched, so tip of the cap to Javier. Special day for him.”