LOS ANGELES — The first few months of the 2021 baseball season have seen no-hitters occur at an unprecedented rate. The Cubs’ combined effort on Thursday at Dodger Stadium was the seventh no-no of the season, tying a Modern Era (since 1900) AL/NL record.
This all happened unbeknownst to the bullpen that was part of making that history.
Craig Kimbrel, who closed out the Cubs’ 4-0 win and first-ever combined no-hitter, came to the realization that the team accomplished the feat through his batterymate Willson Contreras. The smattering of applause at Dodger Stadium for a visiting team couldn’t be heard as the Cubs rushed the mound.
“When Willie gave a big fist bump, I knew something was up,” Kimbrel said. “And [Ryan] Tepera ran out there and whispered and he’s like, ‘You have no idea what happened.’ And then [Javier Báez] put me in a headlock. I had no clue when I came into the game that we had a no-hitter.”
When he took the mound in the seventh, Tepera needed to keep the lead intact that starter Zach Davies left behind. The right-hander faced four batters and issued one walk, but kept the Dodgers off the board. When he walked into the visiting dugout, Tepera knew he accomplished what he was called to do.
He had no idea that he had pitched an inning as part of a brewing no-hitter.
“It’s kind of tough to see the game here,” Davies said. “This is my first time at Dodger Stadium, so being in the bullpen was my first time, so it’s kind of tough to like to see and keep up with the game, so I can completely understand why most of the bullpen had no idea.”
Left-hander Andrew Chafin found out his name was on the verge of being added to history after he pitched the eighth inning. While his teammates celebrated his clean frame, nothing appeared out of the ordinary. Chafin carried on with his routine and walked into the clubhouse to start his preparation for next day.
“I’m sitting there with a couple of trainers and there was a stat on the bottom of the TV saying something about there’s been six no-hitters already this year,” Chafin said. “I started talking to them about it and then I turned around and they both went looking in the opposite direction.
“Then I was like, ‘Wait a second, why would they be showing that stat at this point in the game? [Then I said], ‘Oh, [shoot], I might’ve just ruined it for us.’ But yeah, it worked out.”
Tepera, Chafin and Kimbrel combined for three innings with three walks and three strikeouts. The combined no-hitter was the 17th no-hitter overall in Cubs franchise history.