For it being his first Major League start, Christian Javier said he wasn’t all that nervous to face a potent lineup such as the Los Angeles Dodgers’ Wednesday night at Minute Maid Park.
“Felt good, really was focused on locating pitches and didn’t have time to think about the nerves,” Javier said after the game.
That readiness was exemplified in his first inning where he struck out the first three batters he faced – Max Muncy, Mookie Betts and Cody Bellinger – becoming the first Astros pitcher to do so in his first Major League start since Frank DiPino helped Houston beat San Diego, 5-4, on Sept. 7, 1982.
“It helped,” Javier said of settling in after the hot start. “More than I think just from being able to throw strikes from the beginning and knowing I had my location really helped me from the get-go.”
Javier went on to strike out seven of the first 10 batters he faced through the three innings while the only hit he allowed in that time was a solo home run to Corey Seager in the second. He finished his first MLB start with eight strikeouts compared to just one walk over 5.2 innings and allowing two hits and the lone earned run.
“Outstanding, he had great composure and control, he made his pitches when he needed to make them against some pretty tough hitters, especially the left-handed hitters,” said Houston manager Dusty Baker. “He changed speeds effectively, (catcher Martin) Maldonado guided him through, which is a catcher’s job. He did outstanding, we’re all happy for him.”
After the Dodgers opened the scoring, the Astros responded with a singular run of their own in the home half of the second inning with Michael Brantley starting things on his ninth base hit of the season via a ground-rule double. After a fielder’s choice advanced him, it was the speedy Myles Straw that legged out an infield hit in 4.18 seconds that put a run on the board for the home team.
However, it wasn’t again until the 11th inning when the teams again traded singular runs to send the game deeper into the Houston night. It was both team’s first experience with the new extra-inning rules where the player who made the last out of the previous inning starts the next frame on second base.
It wasn’t taken advantage of until the top of the 13th when Edwin Rios took Cy Sneed deep to right field to give the visitors a lead they would not surrender. Combined, the teams stranded 23 runners on base and hit 5-34 with runners in scoring position.
The Astros fell in back-to-back games for the first time in the abbreviated season and dropped the first rematch of the 2017 World Series. In Tuesday night’s series opener, tensions boiled over in the sixth inning when Dodgers reliever Joe Kelly fired pitches in the direction of Alex Bregman and Carlos Correa and was given an eight-game suspension from MLB Wednesday afternoon.
Houston will now embark on its first road trip of the season, traveling to Los Angeles to play the Angels before stops in Arizona and Oakland and Brantley mentioned the players are wary of how quickly the Miami Marlins’ season was put on pause after a plethora of positive tests.
“It’s a real virus out there, we need to make sure we prepare for it properly,” Brantley said. “We see how fast this can spread so our main goal is to keep everyone safe and healthy to play baseball.”