Coffee leaves only stain on Javier's night

Astros starter recovers from pregame mishap to deliver 7 innings of shutout ball

April 28th, 2021

HOUSTON -- About the only misstep Astros right-hander made Tuesday night came when he dumped a cup of lukewarm coffee on the front of his uniform while he was walking to the mound for pregame warmups against Seattle, where spilled coffee is considered a sin.

Javier refused to change into a clean uniform, choosing instead to pitch with a brown stain on the front of his white jersey and pants. And after throwing a career-high seven scoreless innings in a 2-0 win over the Mariners at Minute Maid Park, Javier might want to consider the coffee dump a part of his warmup routine going forward.

• Box score

“If he’s going to pitch like that,” catcher Martín Maldonado said, “might as well, right?”

Javier ran his scoreless streak to 17 innings by pitching his third consecutive scoreless start to lead the Astros to their fifth win in six games. He threw a career-high 107 pitches, allowing two hits and three walks while striking out six batters.

“It’s really important for me to be able to pitch deep into games and stay in games, especially to be able to help out the bullpen,” Javier said. “Anytime I can get to the seventh, it’s big for me. Thankfully I was able to help out the bullpen a little bit.”

The only Seattle player to reach second base against Javier and relievers Brooks Raley and Ryan Pressly was Kyle Seager, who had a one-out double in the fourth inning. In 20 2/3 innings in four starts, Javier has a 0.87 ERA, a .155 opponents’ batting average and a 0.82 WHIP.

“He gave us what we wanted,” Astros manager Dusty Baker said. “He gave us seven innings, and then Raley came in and threw very well in a clean eighth. And I don’t know the last time I have seen anybody throw 11 straight strikes [like Pressly in the ninth].”

Suddenly, an Astros rotation that had struggled to work deep into games in the first three weeks of the season has found its footing. Houston starters are 5-1 with a 1.72 ERA and four quality starts in the team’s past six games. And that doesn’t include Kent Emanuel throwing 8 2/3 innings in relief of Jake Odorizzi on Saturday.

“This is what we needed, especially during a stretch of 13 consecutive games [without a day off],” Baker said.

Javier, who finished third in the American League Rookie of the Year Award race last year, threw his four-seam fastball 68 times (64 percent) against the Mariners, getting 10 swings and misses. The pitch, which averaged only 92.8 mph, is extremely hard for batters to pick up right away, which makes it seem harder.

“Sometimes velocity is overrated,” Baker said. “It depends on how you can hide the ball. When I first got to Spring Training last year, I remember everybody telling me about the invisible fastball that [Javier] had. It appears [the batters] don’t catch up to it or they don’t see it as well. That’s half of hitting. If you don’t see the ball or pick up the ball, it gets on you before you know it.”

Baker is showing more trust in his 24-year-old right-hander and let him face Seattle’s four through six hitters in the seventh inning despite finishing the sixth with 88 pitches. Javier got Kyle Lewis and José Marmolejos to line out and struck out Sam Haggerty to end the seventh, punching his fist into his glove as he walked from the mound in a rare display of emotion.

“You see how calm and cool his demeanor is on the mound,” Baker said. “Like, he spilled coffee all down his pants today and everybody wanted him to change and he didn’t want to change. Maybe next time he pitches, he’ll spill coffee on himself again. It was great watching him pitch, and we really needed it as a team.”