MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Cristian Javier's second stingy October outing has the Houston Astros one win away from another American League Championship Series.
Javier restricted the Minnesota Twins to one hit over five perfect innings in his first postseason start since a combined World Series no-hitter last year,
and the Astros launched four home runs in a 9-1 victory at Target Field on Tuesday. Houston has a 2-1 lead
in the best-of-five division series and can advance to the ALCS for the seventh time in a row with a win on Wednesday.
Taking advantage of the shadows provided by the 3 p.m. start, Javier relied mainly on his slider -- ordinarily tricky to square, positively problematic
with the circumstances hindering batters' vision -- and generated 11 swings and misses. Following Max Kepler's first-inning double,
the 26-year-old Javier negotiated the dangerous Twins lineup without allowing any extra damage. He struck out nine batters while wriggling out of jams in the first,
third, and fifth innings, the latter of which he highlighted with back-to-back strikeouts of Kepler and Twins cleanup hitter Royce Lewis.
During the first inning, Twins supporters began counting down the pitch clock in unison in an attempt to get inside Javier's head.
The results were as expected for a player whose unflappability is as much a defining attribute as his undetectable fastball and sly slider.