Rookie Javier wins duel in his longest outing

September 3rd, 2020

HOUSTON -- Astros manager Dusty Baker looked into the eyes of catcher and then glanced over at rookie pitcher . Baker was trying to get a read on whether Javier’s night was over or whether he wanted him to face Rangers slugger Joey Gallo for a third time.

The mound visit came with one out in the seventh inning Wednesday night with one out and no one on base and the Astros holding a tenuous one-run lead at Minute Maid Park. After blowing a late lead Tuesday, the Astros couldn’t afford another meltdown.

“The eyes usually tell you if a guy’s done or not,” Baker said. “I said to him in Spanish, ‘Hey, man, do you have some more left?’ He goes, ‘Yes I’m fine.’ I looked at Maldy and Maldy said, ‘I’ll direct him. Let’s get these next guys out.’ He turned it up.”

Baker left Javier in and watched him strike out Gallo. He was pulled one batter later after walking Elvis Andrus, and Astros relievers , and shut the door and sent Houston to a 2-1 win. ’s first-inning, two-run homer was all the offense the Astros needed.

“It felt really good to have the confidence in my manager like that and all my teammates, too,” Javier said. “All the guys were there telling me, ‘We got this,’ and ‘You can get this guy out.’ It feels really good to have everybody behind you like that in that situation.”

Javier threw a career-high 6 2/3 innings, allowing two hits and one run -- on a 342-foot solo homer by Isiah Kiner-Falefa in the fourth inning -- and struck out three batters. He’s the first pitcher in Astros history to have five starts with three hits or fewer over in his first eight Major League starts.

“It feels really good to have this opportunity and take advantage of it like this,” said Javier, the team’s fifth-ranked prospect, per MLB Pipeline, who was thrown into the rotation because of injuries.

With Maldonado leading the way, Javier mixed his offspeed pitches well while relying on a fastball that averaged just 91.5 mph but is deceptive and gets on hitters quickly. He threw 60 of his 93 pitches for strikes.

“I know their guy doesn’t light up the radar gun, but he has a unique fastball,” Rangers manager Chris Woodward said. “He’s got that slurvy slider. There is something about his fastball that gets people off balance. I don’t know if it is his delivery or deception. It seems like our guys knew what was coming and couldn't be on time, for some reason. We were late on some fastballs, took some good rips and just didn’t put them in play. It was frustrating.”

One of the things that has made Javier an early success in the big leagues is his temperament. He rarely shows emotion on the mound, though the strikeout of Gallo swinging through a slider brought out a small fist pump.

“He’s a very mature young man,” Baker said. “You wouldn’t know that he had no big league experience and every little high Minor League experience. We’re proud of him. We need him, and he’s come through when we needed him.”

Pressly, who allowed a game-tying homer in the ninth inning Tuesday in a loss to the Rangers, closed the door on Texas in the ninth inning. The win got Houston to within 2 1/2 games of the first-place A’s in the American League West.

“I’ve always been told that one of the biggest downers in sports is a blown save, and we’ve had some of those this year,” Baker said. “But we’ve always bounced back from it, and it was nice to see Pressly come in with no drama and threw a very clean ninth inning.”