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Martín Maldonado catches Astros combined no-hitter

NEW YORK — The Astros pitchers were dealing on Saturday afternoon as they pitched a combined no-hitter in a 3-0 win against the Yankees at Yankee Stadium. No surprise that Astros catcher Martín Maldonado was behind the plate when history was made. He showed once again why he is one of the best defensive catchers in baseball.

Maldonado was the one guiding right-hander Cristian Javier, who pitched seven innings and struck out a career-high 13 batters. Relievers Héctor Neris and Ryan Pressly pitched the final two innings. It marked the 18th time in MLB history that a team tossed a combined no-hitter.

Javier’s four-seam fastball and slider were unhittable. He said that he and Maldonado were on the same page throughout the game.

“All the pitches he was calling, I was already thinking in my head. I wanted to throw those pitches,” Javier said through interpreter Jenloy Herrera. “Thanks to God, everything worked well. Having Maldonado at the plate is important to us.”

Maldonado was aware that Javier was talented enough to be part of a combined no-hitter. Maldonado first saw the skills when Javier made his Major League debut in 2020.

“He is one of the most exciting pitchers to catch. He always keeps improving,” Maldonado said. “We call him the ‘El Reptile,’ because he doesn’t show any emotions. It doesn’t matter how big the stage — playoffs, World Series. I asked him, ‘Do you ever get scared?’ It doesn’t matter if he gives up five [runs] or throw a no-hitter. He is still the same guy.”

Maldonado seems to be in the middle of special events. On June 14, he was behind the plate when Luis Garcia and Phil Maton each threw an immaculate inning against the Rangers.

“I take a lot of pride behind the plate,” Maldonado said. “Every time you make history is amazing. … Those are memories that are going to last [a] long [time].”

Maldonado is so important behind the plate to Houston, it doesn’t matter what he is doing in the batter’s box. Maldonado is hitting .150 with five home runs and 16 RBIs.

Astros manager Dusty Baker says Maldonado does his homework and follows both Houston’s and his own game plan every night.

“He judges things by the score, the pitcher’s command that day and what inning it is. He takes pride in game-calling, throwing and catching,” Baker said. “He also takes pride in hitting because it bothers him that he is not hitting. He works hard at it. The no-hitter couldn’t happen to a better guy than Maldy.”

The losing pitcher was Gerrit Cole, who was a teammate of Maldonado’s when both were with the Astros in 2019. Cole wasn’t surprised that Javier threw a great game with Maldonado behind the plate.

“We got outpitched, so tip of the cap to Javier,” Cole said. “Special day for him. He was excellent all-around mixing his pitches. Maldonado was sharp behind the plate for him, and that’s the way the chips fell.”

Yes, the Yankees have the best record in baseball, but Maldonado said don’t forget about the Astros, who won their 45th game of the season.

“A lot of people talk about the Yankees and they don’t talk much about the Astros,” he said. “I feel like we are still the same team. We love competing out there, especially with a good team. We felt it was [the playoffs] coming into the series.”

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