Cristian Javier made a habit of putting up miniscule ERAs in the Minor Leagues. Five outings into his Major League career, nothing’s changed.
The Astros’ No. 6 prospect navigated six one-hit innings in a 2-1 victory over the Mariners on Saturday at Minute Maid Park. He lowered his ERA to 2.91, following his own trend of never posting an ERA above 3.00 in five seasons in the Minors.
Javier (2-1) faced the minimum through four innings. The right-hander struck out the side in the first and issued walks in both the third and fourth, but a double play and a caught-stealing wiped both runners off the bases. His defense continued to back him up the fifth, with first baseman Yuli Gurriel starting a double play that got Javier through the inning, despite a walk and a single to open the frame.
The native of the Dominican Republic zoomed through his final inning, getting No. 60 overall prospect Evan White to whiff on a 2-2 slider for his fifth punchout and needing only four additional pitches to retire Mallex Smith and J.P. Crawford.
“I just have to keep believing in myself and keeping calm on the mound,” Javier told reporters. “I got a lot of help from [catcher Martín Maldonado] as well, to keep attacking the strike zone.”
Despite signing for only $10,000 in 2015, Javier has never posted a full-season ERA higher than 2.70. He began last year with Class A Advanced Fayetteville and made it to Triple-A Round Rock by Aug. 23. Over a career-high 113 2/3 innings across three levels, Javier posted a 1.74 ERA, averaged 13.5 strikeouts per nine innings and held opponents to a .130 batting average -- leading the Minors in all three statistics.
His success has carried over into The Show. In his first start this season, Javier struck out eight and allowed one run -- a home run by Corey Seager -- over 5 2/3 innings against the Dodgers. He posted six innings of one-run ball his next time out, and Saturday’s gem was a solid bounceback after the Athletics took him deep three times on Sunday.
Per Statcast, Javier’s velocity was up nearly 3 mph from that last start. His control, though, lacked. Javier threw only 48 of 88 pitches for strikes (54.5 percent), he delivered first-pitch strikes to only five of the 19 batters he faced and he walked three. That usually spells trouble for a hurler with an average fastball velocity of 92.4 mph this season. It’s the life on Javier’s pitches that’s key. Between his fastball and slider, which on Saturday he threw exactly one fourth of the time, there was enough life to thrive without pinpoint command.
“Tonight, he had life on his fastball from the opening pitch,” Astros manager Dusty Baker told reporters. “I always look at [Maldonado] and so he gives me the sign. The last time he pitched, he looked over and gave me the sign the ball is not jumping out of his hand and into the glove. Tonight, he gave me a positive sign. It’s just a matter of him finding the strike zone.”
Josh James, Brooks Raley and Ryan Pressly each supplied Houston one inning of relief. Only Raley gave up a run on White’s 439-foot solo homer to center in the eighth. The dinger, White’s second in the Majors and first since July 27, left his bat at 109.7 mph.
Mariners No. 24 prospect Taylor Guilbeau pitched a scoreless eighth to lower his ERA to 1.42.
In other action:
Phillies 6, Mets 2
Top Phillies prospect Alec Bohm drew an eight-pitch walk to load the bases and came around to score his first Major League run in a five-run fifth inning. The 24-year-old is 2-for-8 with a walk through three big league games. Rookie right-hander Ramon Rosso followed seven scoreless innings by Aaron Nola and finished up for Philadelphia, striking out two but surrendering a two-run homer to Dominic Smith . Box score
Braves 2, Marlins 1
In his second big league start, Marlins left-hander Daniel Castano allowed one run on four hits over six-plus innings. The 25-year-old cruised through six scoreless frames, walking two and striking out two, but Marcell Ozuna drove Castano’s third pitch of the seventh over the center field wall. That was all for Castano, who was part of the return Miami received when it traded Ozuna to the Cardinals in December 2017. Tenth-ranked Marlins prospect Monte Harrison launched his first big league homer to tie the game in the eighth. Box score
Cardinals 5, White Sox 1 (Game 1)
Top Cardinals prospect Dylan Carlson went 0-for-3 in his Major League debut, starting in left field and batting sixth. Top White Sox prospect Luis Robert went 1-for-2 and drew a walk, raising his average to .280 on the year. Chicago’s No. 19 prospect Danny Mendick accounted for the only other two hits for the White Sox, going 2-for-2 with a double and coming around to score on a groundout after that two-bagger. His average sat at .286 after the first game of the doubleheader. Box score
Cardinals 6, White Sox 3 (Game 2)
The story was different for Carlson in Game 2. MLB.com’s No. 18 overall prospect picked up his first Major League hit in the second game, a double dropped into right field. He finished the day with just that one hit but also walked. St. Louis’ No. 11 prospect Génesis Cabrera picked up the win in his first appearance of 2020, allowing two runs and striking out two in one inning. No. 14 Jake Woodford, the game’s starter, allowed one run and fanned three over three frames. Top White Sox prospect Luis Robert belted his third homer of the year to open the game’s scoring, his lone hit on the day. No. 28 Matt Foster tossed two perfect innings to start the game, and was followed by No. 27 Codi Heuer who turned in a scoreless third frame while walking one. No. 17 Zack Burdi gave up a solo homer to Paul Goldschmidt and later walked Carlson in his one innings of work. No. 19 Danny Mendick went 0-for-2. Box score
Indians 3, Tigers 1
No. 18 Tigers prospect Bryan Garcia tossed a scoreless eighth inning in relief. He worked around a bases loaded jam after walking two of the first three hitters and allowing a runner to reach on a fielding error. But with three straight outs, including a punchout of Oscar Mercado, Garcia lowered his ERA to 2.45. No. 30 Tigers prospect Rony Garcia followed with a spotless ninth inning. Box score
Orioles 7, Nationals 3
Orioles rookies contributed big-time to Baltimore’s seventh win in its last eight games. Andrew Velazquez went 2-for-4 with a triple, two runs scored and an RBI. Right-hander Cole Sulser earned his fifth save of the year by retiring all four batters he faced. Washington used five pitchers in the loss, and rookies Kyle Finnegan and Dakota Bacus were the only two to not allow any runs. Finnegan maintains a spotless ERA through seven career appearances. Box score
Rangers 6, Rockies 4
No. 26 Rangers prospect Jonathan Hernández allowed a run on two hits over 1 2/3 innings while earning his fourth hold of the season in Texas' win. He entered with two runners on in the seventh and induced an inning-ending double play from Trevor Story. And after yielding a run in the eighth, he stayed out of further trouble with another twin killing. Through 12 2/3 innings, the right-hander has a 2.13 ERA. Box score
D-backs 7, Padres 6
Third-ranked D-backs prospect Daulton Varsho doubled to left field in the third inning for his second two-bagger of the season. For the Padres, No. 19 prospect Jake Cronenworth went 0-for-2 but walked twice to increase his on-base percentage to .367. No. 21 prospect Edward Olivares entered in the second when Tommy Pham exited with a calf injury, then singled and scored in the ninth. Box score
A’s 7, Giants 6
Second-ranked A’s prospect Sean Murphy entered late for Austin Allen and provided a boost in a ninth-inning rally. Leading off the ninth, Murphy cranked the first pitch from Trevor Gott and sent it over the wall for his second homer of the year. The catcher has hit safely in four straight games and is batting .241 for the season. Box score
Dodgers 6, Angels 5
Fourth-ranked Dodgers prospect Brusdar Graterol made his second consecutive relief appearance. The right-hander came on in the seventh and gave up a leadoff single to David Fletcher, but erased it three pitches later by getting Tommy La Stella to ground into a double play. Graterol retired Mike Trout and Anthony Rendon before being lifted with one out in the eighth. Box Score
Joe Bloss is a contributor for MiLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @jtbloss.