ATLANTA (AP) — Cristian Javier spun after Dansby Swanson drove a 95 mph fastball with an 0-2 count to right field and watched the opposite-field drive sail over Michael Brantley and an inch or two over the top of the 16-foot brick wall, landing 359 feet away.
Pitching coach Brent Strom went to the mound and pinch-hitter Jorge Soler walked to the plate. Javier fell behind 2-1, and Soler sent a belt-high slider soaring to left.
Javier turned the other way and watched Yordan Alvarez crash into the 6-foot chain link fence armpit first as the ball whizzed just over for the fourth go-ahead home run by a pinch-hitter in Series history.
“Even though they had two homers, he made good pitches tonight,” Astros second baseman Jose Altuve said. “I don’t think he pitched bad. He’s really good. He has a bright future in front of him.”
Javier had been perfect this postseason, getting 27 outs without allowing a run. Less than 6 inches was the difference for him and the Astros in a 3-2 defeat Saturday night that dropped Houston into a 3-1 World Series deficit against the Atlanta Braves.
“He’s really good,” Swanson said. “This postseason he’s been unbelievable, and he’s obviously got really great stuff. In that moment, I think the compete factor is what went through the roof.”
Javier had allowed just four hits this postseason coming in, striking out 15 and walking five.
He exceled with a 56-pitch 2 2/3 inning-outing against the Chicago White Sox in Game 3 of the Division Series, seven strikeouts over five innings in a pair of Championship Series wins over Boston and a four-out hold in the Game 2 World Series win over the Braves.
Javier became Houston’s fourth reliever when he followed Phil Maton to start the seventh, protecting a 2-1 lead. He struck out Adam Duvall leading off but wound up allowing the third set of consecutive tying and go-ahead home runs in Series history, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig of the Yankees accomplished the feat off the St. Louis Cardinals’ Bill Sherdel in Game 4 of 1928, and the Los Angeles Dodgers’ Pedro Guerrero and Steve Yeager did it off the Yankees’ Ron Guidry in Game 5 of 1981.
Swanson and Soler were the first pair to go back-to-back from the bottom two spots in the batting order. Soler matched the go-ahead pinch-homer feats of Dusty Rhodes (1954),. Kirk Gibson (1988) and Ed Sprague (1992).
A 24-year-old Dominican right-hander, Javier made nine starts and 27 relief appearances during his second major league season, going 4-1 with a 3.55 ERA.
“He’s just now learning how to get warm as a reliever,” Astros manager Dusty Baker said. “None of these guys are perfect. They could have popped those balls up, but they didn’t. These things happen.”
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