Chicago Cubs: Andrew Chafin, Craig Kimbrel clueless about no-hitter

(Photo by Michael Owens/Getty Images)
(Photo by Michael Owens/Getty Images) /

As a relief pitcher, there are few higher pressure scenarios than being entrusted with a no-hit effort after a starter is pulled. Yet that’s exactly the situation Ryan Tepera, Andrew Chafin and Craig Kimbrel found themselves in on Thursday after Chicago Cubs right-hander Zach Davies departed after six hitless frames in lieu of a pinch hitter.

So how do you make sure you don’t deviate from the game plan and let the moment get too big? Well, for Chafin and Kimbrel, it was pretty simple: they had no idea the team was carrying a no-hitter when they pitched. You can see that when Kimbrel records the final out via strikeout in his extremely muted reaction, as if it were just another day closing the door in the ninth.

"“When Willie gave a big fist bump, I knew something was up,” Kimbrel said after the ballgame. “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.”"

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For Kimbrel, it’s hard to imagine he’d ever be overwhelmed by the gravity of a moment, especially given his brilliant return to form here in 2021. He already ranks ninth all-time in big league history in saves – and can now add closing out a combined no-hitter to his ever-growing list of career achievements.

Chicago Cubs: Craig Kimbrel, bullpen, continue to dominate opponents

Kimbrel, Tepera and Chafin have been the best bullpen trio in baseball this season – and they showed why again on Thursday, combining for three scoreless, hitless frames – albeit walking a trio of walks in the process. In true Kimbrel fashion, though, he struck out the side in the ninth with a nonchalance comparable to what one might possess unloading a dishwasher.

Chafin, who has quickly become a fan favorite in Chicago, put two and two together in the dugout after coming out of the game. All the relievers noted that, based on the location of the visitor bullpen at Dodger Stadium, they couldn’t see the runs and hits columns throughout the game.

"“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.”"

Next. Cubs pitchers combine for a historic no-hitter in LA. dark

Indeed it did. This marks the Cubs’ first combined no-hitter in franchise history, which is pretty astounding given Chicago has now thrown 17 no-no’s over the years. It was unexpected, to say the least, coming on the road against a high-powered Dodgers offense – but a very welcome surprise, to be sure.