And not one of them knew it until after they pitched.
“The whole bullpen had no idea," lefty Andrew Chafin said. "Completely oblivious."
“I had no idea until after my inning,” said Ryan Tepera.
“I had no clue when I came into the game,” closer Craig Kimbrel said.
As Cubs fans sat on the edges of their seats in the late innings of Thursday’s game against the Dodgers, the bullpen was unaware of what was transpiring.
Zach Davies started things off by not allowing a hit through six innings. But his pitch count sat at 94, in part due to five early walks, leading manager David Ross to turn to his three-headed relief monster, starting in the seventh.
“When there's a lot of traffic on the bases, you don't really assume that they're all walks,” said Kimbrel of the eight walks Cubs pitchers allowed. “You kind of figure maybe one of them is a single or something like that.”
But it wasn’t just that the bullpen figured the Dodgers, with all that traffic, were in the hit column. Their view of the scoreboard was obscured.
“All we can see is batting averages, the count, outs, and stuff like that,” Chafin said.
And while there’s a TV in the bullpen airing the game, that specific feed didn’t show the number of hits.
Tepera was first to take the mound after Davies, entering in the seventh. He threw a scoreless frame but walked Gavin Lux with two outs on a 3-0 slider, a pitch Willson Contreras called and Tepera shook off twice before throwing.
“I didn't want to groove one in there to begin with,” Tepera said. “But, you know, it's kind of funny now.”
Said Ross: “I was wondering why Tep was throwing the 3-0 slider.”
When Ross asked Tepera about that pitch after he got through the inning, it all hit the right-hander.
“I looked at the scoreboard and was like, ‘Ah ha,’” Tepera said.
Tepera said he wanted to tell Chafin what was going on, after the lefty pitched a hit-less eighth, but didn’t want to jinx things.
So, Chafin returned to the dugout, going downstairs to complete his arm care routine. While talking with a couple of Cubs trainers, he noticed the TV broadcast displaying how there were already six no-hitters thrown in MLB this season.
“I was like,” Chafin said, “‘Wait a second. Why would they be showing that stat at this point in the game? Oh, s---. I might have just ruined it for us.’”
Kimbrel came on for the ninth, walking Chris Taylor on four pitches before getting Los Angeles’ next three hitters to finish the no-hitter.
Only then did Kimbrel find out.
“When Willy gave a big fist pump, I knew something was up,” he said. “Then Tep ran out there and whispered in my ear, ‘You have no idea what happened.’
“Then Javy [Báez] put me in a headlock. I knew pretty fast what had just happened.”
Maybe it’s fitting the Cubs bullpen, the team’s biggest strength this season, was involved in a no-hitter. The Cubs entered the day first in MLB in relief ERA (2.63).
But was it better that they didn’t know?
“It wouldn't have mattered,” Chafin said. “I would have thrown the same stuff anyways.”
Said Tepera: “It probably worked out for the best.”