LOS ANGELES – The biggest question wasn’t about the pitches the threw or event the gravity of the moment in Cubs and Major League Baseball history.
All everyone wanted to know from Craig Kimbrel was whether he knew that the team had a no-hitter going against the Dodgers on Thursday night in Los Angeles. He told Marquee Sports Network in his postgame interview with Elise Menaker that he didn’t, and confirmed that with the traveling media soon after.
“I had no clue when I came into the game that I had a no-hitter,” said Kimbrel when asked if he indeed wasn’t aware of what the previous three pitchers had accomplished.
So when did he find out?
“When Willie (catcher Willson Contreras) gave a big fist pump, I knew something was up,” said Kimbrel. “Then ‘Tep’ (Ryan Tepera) ran out there and whispered in my ear and said ‘You have no idea what happened.’ Then Javy (Javier Baez) put me in a headlock, I knew pretty fast what had just happened.”
That was the first combined no-hitter in the history of the franchise after the previous 16 ones by the Cubs were all accomplished by one pitcher. Zach Davies pitched six innings of no-hit ball, but at 94 pitches, manager David Ross elected to turn the game over to the bullpen.
Ryan Tepera had the seventh, Andrew Chafin had the eight, and Kimbrel had the ninth. Each allowed a walk but no hits in three combined scoreless innings. They also shared another thing in common: They didn’t know there was a no-hitter going.
“I knew after my inning, I looked up at the scoreboard, and I was like, ‘Oh Wow,'” said Tepera. “Now it all makes sense, you know.”
Some might think it doesn’t make sense that the bullpen pitchers didn’t notice what was going on since no-hitters, especially combined ones, are rare in the franchise’s history. Chafin offered up a simple explanation when speaking to reporters on Thursday night, and it’s all about location.
“From that bullpen, like our perspective of the field, all we can see is batting averages, the counts, and stuff like that,” said Chafin when explaining how the bullpen remained a bit out of the loop on the no-hitter. “But we couldn’t see the scoreboard with the line or whatever at the bottom.”
Chafin said that he found out about it when he saw a stat about Cubs’ no-hitters on one of the televisions in the clubhouse. While the bullpen was oblivious, Ross was not, and he had the typical nerves that come along with a “no-no.”
“I don’t know that I’ve been as nervous in a long time with a 4-0 lead and Craig Kimbrel on the mound with two outs in a long time,” said Ross.
Luckily his pitchers out of the bullpen didn’t feel the same, especially the closer he mentioned on that historic evening.