Cristian Javier followed up his performance in a combined no-hitter last weekend with another lights-out start.
Javier struck out a career-best 14 while giving only one hit in seven innings to lead the Houston Astros over the Angels 8-1 on Friday night for their fourth consecutive win.
"Confidence breeds confidence," Astros manager Dusty Baker said. "And confidence breeds success. That’s what he’s demonstrating."
The 25-year-old was brilliant in his first start since he struck out 13 in seven innings of a combined no-hitter against the New York Yankees on Saturday. Shohei Ohtani was the only Angels baserunner Javier permitted, hitting a homer with two outs in the first.
Javier was asked about shaking off the home run.
"I just try to stay positive," he said through an interpreter. "And I said to myself: ‘I need to hold them here to give the team my chance to come back.’ “
Javier (6-3) sailed through the rest of his outing, retiring the next 19 batters before leaving to a standing ovation after seven innings. He got an assist from his defense when Chas McCormick made a leaping catch just in front of the wall in left field for the first out of the sixth to rob Andrew Velazquez of a hit.
Javier became the first pitcher in the modern era to strike out 27 batters while giving up only one hit over a span of two games. He is the fourth pitcher in franchise history to have 13 strikeouts or more in consecutive games and the first to do it since Gerrit Cole in 2019.
"I think in the past, I used to be a little bit more careful inside the strike zone, so to not give up hits," Javier said. "But right now, I’ve just been trying to attack the strike zone as much as possible."
A pair of relievers completed the combined two-hitter, and Houston pitchers struck out a total of 16.
Yuli Gurriel, Jake Meyers and McCormick all homered for the Astros as they jumped on Angels starter Michael Lorenzen (6-6) for eight runs in just three innings.
"I’m not going through it because I’m not trying," Lorenzen said. "But trying isn’t good enough in this league. You’ve got to get results. Got to get the job done. I want to pull my hair out right now. I’m going crazy. I’ve got to keep working."
Ohtani gave the Angels an early lead with his home run before the Astros got going.
They evened the score when Gurriel homered to left-center to start the Houston second. There was one out in the inning when Meyers hit his first home run this season into the seats in right field to put the Astros up 2-1.
Houston scored six times in the third. Jeremy Pena led off the third by reaching on third baseman Tyler Wade’s error, Kyle Tucker followed with a single, and Alex Bregman hit a sacrifice fly to make it 3-1.
Gurriel walked, J.J. Matijevic doubled, Meyers followed with an RBI single and McCormick homered to extend the lead to 8-1.
Pena returned after missing Thursday’s game following a nasty outfield collision with Yordan Alvarez on Wednesday, but Alvarez remained out.
Lorenzen gave up eight hits in his third straight loss.
Astros: Baker said Alvarez was feeling better Friday and should return Saturday. Catcher Jason Castro was put on the 10-day injured list with left knee discomfort Friday and Houston’s No. 2 prospect, catcher Korey Lee, was called up from triple-A Sugar Land to take his spot on the roster. Lee made his major league debut as a pinch-hitter in the eighth inning and was retired on a pop fly.
Angels catching coach Bill Haselman will be the team’s acting interim manager Sunday and Tuesday while acting interim manager Ray Montgomery and interim manager Phil Nevin serve their suspensions for last week’s benches-clearing brawl with the Seattle Mariners. Right-hander Ryan Tepera appealed his suspension from the altercation and had it reduced from three games to two and began serving it Friday night.
Houston’s Jose Urquidy (6-3, 4.36 ERA) opposes left-hander Patrick Sandoval (3-2, 2.63) when the series continues Saturday.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.