Sixty-six years and 25 days after Don Larsen’s perfect game, the World Series finally has another no-hitter to celebrate and marvel at.
This one wasn’t perfect and it also wasn’t singular. Houston Astros starter Cristian Javier and three relievers issued three bases on balls.
But it’s still a no-hitter, and perhaps can be considered remarkable in its own right.
Houston Astros no hitter does not reach Don Larsen’s level
Will history regard Larsen’s gem as superior? Doubtless. Not only did he retire all 27 Brooklyn Dodgers he faced without allowing any baserunners, but Game Score – a Bill James yardstick designed to evaluate starting pitcher performance in a particular game – scored it at a lofty 94.
In lasting only six innings before giving way to his bullpen teammates, Javier accumulated a Game Score of 77. That’s excellent by the standards of the modern six-inning starter, but unremarkable by historical yardsticks.
Still, Wednesday’s no-hitter had some remarkable aspects of its own. Those who have analyzed the Larsen no-hitter agree that his effort was saved by two plays ranging from difficult to spectacular. In the second inning Jackie Robinson lined a ball off third baseman Andy Carey’s glove that caromed to shortstop Gil McDougald, who threw Robinson out by a step. Three innings later, Mickey Mantle made a difficult backhanded running catch of a Gil Hodges line drive in the left-center field gap.
There were no such fielding heroics required in support of Javier or relievers Bryan Abreu, Rafael Montero, and Ryan Pressly Wednesday. The closest thing to a hit was probably Jean Segura’s eighth inning line drive to right field, but even that didn’t especially tax the fielding abilities of Kyle Tucker.
Larsen struck out seven Dodgers in fashioning his 1956 perfect game. Javier and Friends fanned 14 Phillies, providing one succinct measure of how much the game has changed over the years.
Larsen famously required only 97 pitches to complete his 1956 no-hitter. Coincidentally, Javier’s last pitch Wednesday was also his 97th…although it merely concluded the sixth. As a group, Houston Astros pitchers threw 137 pitches Wednesday night.
Larsen also faced off against the tougher mound opposition. His pitching opponent, Sal Maglie, pitched an eight-inning complete game allowing just two runs and five hits, walking two. Maglie’s losing Game Score was a respectable 67.
Javier’s starting opponent, Aaron Nola, lasted only into the fifth inning explosion that gave the Astros all five of their runs. He allowed three of those runs on seven hits, producing a tepid Game Score of 40.
There’s one other difference between the Larsen and Javier et al no-hitters that is at least worth noting.
As you might expect, Larsen was at his literal best in producing his World Series perfect game. His 94 Game Score was 13 points higher than the Yankee’s next best effort that season, a complete game 5-0 shutout of the Washington Senators on Sept. 3.
In his 14-season career spanning 171 regular season and six post-season starts, the next highest Game Score Larsen ever produced was a 91. He did that on Aug. 10, 1955, in pitching the Yankees to a 3-2 13-inning complete game victory over the Boston Red Sox at Yankee Stadium.
By contrast, Javier had three games this season alone that – judging by Game Score – were more elite than his Wednesday World Series no-hitter. The first was also a combined no-hitter, one he started against New York on June 25. In that game, Javier completed seven innings for the Houston Astros before yielding to Hector Neris and Pressly. He finished with a Game Score of 89.
A few days later, on July 1, Javier faced off against the Los Angeles Angels in Houston. This time the Angels did tap him for a hit – just one, Shohei Ohtani’s first inning home run. But Javier again completed seven innings and struck out 14, good for a Game Score of 85.
Then on Sept. 25, Javier went six innings in a 6-3 victory over Baltimore, producing a 78 Game Score.