Each game of this National League Championship Series, we’re going to take a microlevel look at an intriguing matchup of the day.
Tonight’s matchup: Cristian Javier’s fastball against the Phillies’ lineup
In last night’s game against the Astros, the Phillies were prepared to see a lot of breaking pitches. I briefly detailed how much Lance McCullers likes to throw his slider and wouldn’t you know it, he threw a ton of them.
You saw what happened when he did.
Being prepared for a certain repertoire is one thing. Executing against that repertoire is another. We saw the evidence that the team clearly was ready for what McCullers had to offer when Bryce Harper whispered sweet nothings into Alec Bohm’s ear and the rest was history. What changed a bit was that once the two relievers Houston brought in, Ryne Stanek and Jose Urquidy, went away from that plan, the offense was largely shut down. Both pitchers started to feature mostly fastball and from the look of most of them, they blew the Phillies’ offense away with these offerings.
Cristian Javier, the game four starter for the Astros, features an arsenal that likes to depend heavily on the fastball to get ahead, then a slider to finish the job.
60% of the time, hitters knew they were going to see the the high, hard one from Javier. Everything else was down in the zone, a continuation of that philosophy that Houston popularized of changing eye levels with the fastball and breaking pitches in order to generate more swings and misses.
Javier has never faced the Phillies in his career, so it will be a new experience not just to face the Philadelphia lineup, but to face the Philadelphia atmosphere. One can argue that a pitcher of Javier’s magnitude will not be affected by what is happening around him, to which you can simply point at the previous six games played in Philadelphia these playoffs and gesture wildly at them. I would point out that his 1.79 ERA across 70 1⁄3 innings post-All Star game point to a pitcher that is on quite a roll, but this stadium has done some things to pitchers this postseason.
Javier’s fastball may not have the most velocity to it, but it is effective. Otherwise, he wouldn’t use as much as he does to such outstanding results. The Phillies will be wise to try and avoid the ones Javier tries to climb the ladder with, but they must do damage when a fastball is in the zone. Luckily, it seems their lineup right now is capable of doing just that.