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Why the Cubs bullpen didn’t know they were throwing a no-hitter

3 years agoAndy Martinez

Nestled in right field between sections 52 and 302 at historic Dodger Stadium sits the visitors’ bullpen.

The blue wall of advertisements is broken up in the corner of the stadium with a chain-linked door that swings open to allow visiting relievers to enter the playing field. The bullpen is tucked between the two seating sections and a plaza area above and behind it, with the only direct view onto the field through that chain-linked fence.

“It’s kind of tough to see the game here,” Cubs reliever Ryan Tepera admitted.

The only relief for the visiting relievers is a small TV where they can catch the game and see what their eyes can’t.

“But with the new rules it’s just kind of like an overhead so there’s not the box score and all that kind of stuff going on,” Cubs’ closer Craig Kimbrel said.

Couple that with the movement that the Dodgers had on the basepaths — the Dodgers drew 8 walks Thursday night — and it’s easy to see why Cubs’ relievers thought they were just coming in to preserve a 4-0 lead.

“When there’s a lot of traffic on the bases, you don’t really assume that they’re all walks,” Kimbrel said. “You kind of figure, ‘OK maybe one of them’s a single or something like that.’”

Except that was from the truth.

Tepera, Andrew Chafin and Kimbrel were all entering the game, trying to preserve the no-hitter that Zach Davies had carried through six innings.

“Completely oblivious,” Chafin said.

Tepera was the first guy tasked with trying to preserve the no-no.

He induced a flyout to Albert Pujols and a groundout the AJ Pollock for the first two outs. Then he worked a 3-0 count on Gavin Lux. Willson Contreras called for a rare, 3-0 slider.

“I shook and then shook again, and he went back to it, so I went, “All right.” I just threw it,” Tepera said.

It was a four-pitch walk. Contreras wasn’t taking any chances with a chance at his first no-hitter as a catcher.

Tepera finished the inning inducing a lineout from Austin Barnes to second baseman Eric Sogard. Tepera strolled off the mound, walked into the dugout and looked at the scoreboard.

“‘Oh, wow. Now it all makes sense,’” Tepera thought to himself.

Then, it was Chafin’s turn.

He got Steven Souza Jr. to flyout to lead off the inning, then walked Mookie Betts. Against Max Muncy, Chafin forced a groundball to Anthony Rizzo at first. Rizzo tagged the base, flipped the ball to Javy Báez at second and he tagged Betts to end the inning.

Chafin walked into the Cubs dugout to have some arm work done so he’d be ready to go Friday if needed. That’s when he had a similar reaction as Tepera.

“I’m sitting in there going with a couple of trainers that were in there and it had a stat at the bottom of the TV saying something about there has been six no-hitters this year,” Chafin said. “I was like, ‘wait a second,’ why would they be showing that stat at this point in the game?”

That’s when it hit him.

“Oh, [expletive],” Chafin thought.

The rest of the no-hitter lay on Kimbrel’s lap. He was warming up in the Cubs’ pen with Dan Winkler and was looking at a rare non-save opportunity.

“I had no clue when I came into the game that we had a no-hitter,” Kimbrel said.

Kimbrel started the inning off with a 4-pitch walk. All three Cub relievers had one walk Thursday night.

“I think they all needed to get a walk in just to make the heart rate go up a little bit,” David Ross joked after the game.

Then it was vintage Kimbrel. He struck out Cody Bellinger, Pujols and Will Smith to end it and seal the Cubs 17th no-hitter in franchise history.

Only, Kimbrel still didn’t know. He walked towards Contreras to shake his hand on what he thought was an ordinary June win.

“When Willy gave a big fist pump, I knew something was up,” Kimbrel said.

Then Tepera came sprinting onto to the field with the rest of the Cubs dugout and hugged Kimbrel.

“You have no idea what happened,” Tepera whispered into Kimbrel’s ear.

A few moments later, it hit Kimbrel. And from the pitcher’s mound on Dodger Stadium, there was no doubt what had just happened.

There were no obstructed views to history.

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