PHILADELPHIA — It was Christian Javier’s masterpiece but of course, an ex-Met made a cameo.
The Houston Astros threw a combined no-hitter in a 5-0 win over the Philadelphia Phillies in Game 4 of the World Series on Wednesday night at Citizens Bank Park with Javier throwing the first six innings. The series is now tied 2-2.
But in a series littered with former Mets, it was fitting that one played a role.
Manager Dusty Baker was in a tough spot with Javier at 97 pitches through six innings. He went to right-hander Bryan Abreu for the seventh inning and former Mets’ right-hander Rafael Montero for the eighth. Montero retired the side to preserve the no-hitter. Ryan Pressly worked around a one-out walk in the ninth to help the Astros complete the third no-hitter in postseason history.
“You don’t want to bring a guy out of the bullpen in that situation with a guy on base, so I wanted a fresh arm,” Baker said. “Our guys have been rested. Our guys hadn’t pitched in a couple days, our back end of the bullpen guys. So it’s always tough to take a guy out, but you have to weigh the no-hitter and history versus trying to win this game and get back to 2-2 in the World Series.”
Montero is yet another familiar face from an era in which the Mets drastically underperformed despite a desire to contend. Noah Syndergaard and Zack Wheeler, two of the Mets’ “Five Aces” will pitch in Games 5 and 6.
Montero was a highly-ranked prospect that never figured it out with the organization that signed him out of the Dominican Republic in 2011. He fell into a familiar pattern with the Mets, dominating minor-league pitching but struggling at the big-league level. The right-hander would pound the zone in spring training games and Triple-A games but nibble around the corners in the big leagues. And when he nibbled, he got beat.
Montero went 6-16 with a 5.38 ERA in 58 games (30 starts) with the Mets from 2014-2017 and he frequently shuttled back and forth from Triple-A. He underwent Tommy John surgery in the spring of 2018 and became a free agent after the season after refusing a minor league assignment.
Every organization’s worst nightmare is a prospect going somewhere else and flourishing, but that’s exactly what happened when he went to the Texas Rangers in 2019. Eventually, he was traded to the Seattle Mariners and then the Houston Astros last season. He appeared to be regressing with the Mariners, but the Astros saw a good fastball and a changeup, two pitches he wasn’t using frequently.
A former AL scout said the Mariners had lost so much confidence in Montero they even asked him to stop throwing his changeup. But Houston knew they could get him as a throw-in piece in the Kendall Graveman trade and tap into his upside if they used him correctly.
Now 32 years old and being used in a way that’s more advantageous, he’s throwing his curveball for outs and has an improved fastball. He’s been a key piece for the Astros in the postseason out of the bullpen, having only allowed one earned run over nine innings.
Just to add to the Amazin’ Mets ties in the series, this same Phillies squad was no-hit by the Mets earlier this season. Tylor Megill and four relievers combined for the April 29 win.
“We were no-hit earlier in the year in New York against the Mets and we came back the next day and won,” Phillies manager Rob Thomson said. “So these guys, they got a short memory. They’re going to go home tonight. They’re going to go to bed and come back in here tomorrow and prep and compete like they always do.”
This came one night after the Phillies hit a record five home runs in a 7-0 win. The bats went from scorching hot to ice cold in what seemed like an instant, showing just how quickly a series can turn.
“This is a daily game filled with daily emotions,” Baker said.
Even when they’re out of action, the Mets always find a way into the history books.