After combined no-hitter vs. Phillies in Game 4, Astros back in control of World Series

PHILADELPHIA – It took nearly a week, but the Houston Astros finally showed up to the party. 

They dominated on the mound in historic fashion. 

They thoroughly thrashed at the plate. 

They pulled the right moves in the dugout. 

And now are the ones in complete control of this World Series. 

The Astros, throwing the first combined no-hitter in World Series history behind Cristian Javier’s sensational start, stymied the Philadelphia Phillies, 5-0, Wednesday night, sending the Phillies to their first postseason loss at Citizens Bank Park this year, and assuring that the World Series will be headed back to Houston.

The World Series may be tied at 2-2, but let’s be honest, the powerful Astros are back in the driver’s seat. 

They have probable Cy Young winner Justin Verlander on the mound Thursday in Game 5 against swingman Noah Syndergaard. 

Astros' Christian Vazquez and Ryan Pressly celebrate a combined no-hitter to defeat the Phillies 5-0.

NO-HITTER: Cristian Javier, Astros silence Phillies for first Fall Classic no-no since 1956

THURSDAY: World Series collides with TNF, both feature Philly, Houston teams

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Then, they have their hottest pitcher, Framber Valdez, who overpowered the Phillies in Game 2, going against Zack Wheeler in Game 6. Wheeler sustained a sudden loss of velocity in his last outing that had Phillies manager Rob Thomson push his start back two days. 

Really, everything is all lined up the Astros to win their first World Series title since 2017. 

Then again, these are the Phillies, a model of resiliency. 

They shouldn’t even be here. 

They finished third in their own division. They were the last team to even qualify for the postseason. They have been underdogs in every postseason series. 

But here they are, turning this World Series into a best-of-three series. 

It was Javier who suffocated the life out of the Phillies’ offense this night, becoming only the second pitcher in World Series history to pitch six no-hit innings. 

The Phillies hit a record five home runs in the first five innings in Game 3. 

Javier put on one of the greatest pitching performances in World Series history, extending his scoreless streak to six consecutive starts, spanning 36 ⅔ innings. He toyed with the Phillies all evening, dazzling them with his 94-mph exploding fastball and devastating slider. He struck out five consecutive batters at one point, and wound up with nine strikeouts overall.

The only blemishes on his night was two walks. 

If this were a different time, a different era, perhaps Javier would be permitted to stay in the game and a chance for history. Yet, he was at 97 pitches, and had never thrown more than 106 pitches in a game this season, and has already thrown more than 60 innings than at any time in his three-year career. 

And, oh yeah, if there is a Game 7, guess who’ll be ready in relief? 

Yep, the guy the Phillies never want to see again. 

The Astros, who scored all five of their runs in the fifth inning when they knocked co-ace Aaron Nola out of the game, knew this was a must-win. They weren’t giving up if they had lost, but the odds of overcoming a 3-1 deficit were overwhelming. 

Teams who have taken a 3-1 lead in the World Series have won 84.8% of the time, winning 39 of 46, including 12 of the last 13 times. 

“We didn’t want to go there,’’ Astros manager Dusty Baker said before the game. 

Now, it’ll be the Phillies under heavy pressure, hardly wanting to take their chances of going down 3-2 and having to win consecutive games on the road at Minute Maid Park. 

Now Verlander has the opportunity to leave a lasting legacy in Houston where he already has one World Series title, one Cy Young award, and perhaps a second Cy Young and World Series ring, too. 

Verlander has been haunted by World Series ghosts, going 0-6 with a 6.07 ERA in eight World Series starts, but take a closer look. 

He has a 7.96 ERA the first time he starts in World Series games, but it declines to a 3.18 ERA in his three games he started the second time in a World Series. 

Verlander was shown the statistical difference Tuesday, smiled, and said, “Ok, let’s do it.’’ 

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