LOS ANGELES -- A night that started with a home run blast in the first inning turned into history on the mound at Dodger Stadium. Chicago starter Zach Davies set the tone with six spotless innings, followed by Ryan Tepera, Andrew Chafin and Craig Kimbrel for the Cubs’ first combined no-hitter in franchise history.
The effort marked the seventh no-hitter of 2021, which ties the Modern Era (since 1900) AL/NL mark also set in 1990, 1991, 2012 and 2015. It was the 17th no-hitter in Cubs history, the most recent one coming from Alec Mills last season against the Brewers.
As the game unfolded, it grew increasingly clear that the Cubs had something special in the making. Any time the Dodgers connected on a pitch, the crowd roared in hopes that the team’s first hit would land anywhere. But Chicago was placed perfectly to catch anything hit in the air or on the ground.
Davies’ first inning elevated his pitch count to 24 after he faced five batters, highlighted by an eight-pitch at-bat to Dodgers center fielder Cody Bellinger that resulted in the second walk of the inning. But the right-hander settled in with a heavy mix of his sinker and changeup to keep Los Angeles off the board.
Over the course of his next 70 pitches, the first-year Cubs pitcher was untouchable. He finished off his night with a season-high five walks with four strikeouts. As Davies pitched through the Dodgers’ lineup, he was well aware that he was embarking into historical territory in the midst of the third inning.
“You kind of pay attention to what's going on with the game. The way I pitch is very mental, so you kind of pay attention to the way the game is going,” Davies said. “But it doesn't really set in until like the sixth or seventh inning when it's real.”
Tepera, Chafin and Kimbrel -- unaware of the in-progress no-hitter -- took over for Davies as his pitch count neared 100 and combined for three innings as they each walked one batter to contribute to the Cubs’ eight total free passes.
In Tepera’s seventh inning, he retired Albert Pujols and AJ Pollock on nine pitches before issuing Gavin Lux a walk on four consecutive balls. Three pitches later, Austin Barnes lined out to end the inning and pave the way for Chafin in the eighth.
“It’s definitely an honor. What an accomplishment,” Tepera said. “As a bullpen this year so far, we’ve been really good and it’s kind of a cool thing, you know. And to make history like that, as a baseball player, that’s all you can really ask for.”
Chafin was tasked with facing some of the Dodgers’ biggest hitters in Mookie Betts and Max Muncy. The southpaw recorded the first out on five pitches, then battled an eight-pitch at-bat against Betts. Chafin relied on his four-seam fastball to get the former American League MVP to swing outside the zone, but ultimately issued him a base on balls. But two pitches to Muncy erased any threat, as Chafin forced him to ground into a double play on a 91.8 mph sinker, per Statcast.
“It hasn’t set in yet,” Chafin said postgame. “I’m still kind of out there on it. I don’t know. It’s pretty cool.”
Kimbrel was manager David Ross’ next and final call out of the bullpen. Regardless of the no-hitter, Ross emphasized that the ninth inning belonged to the right-hander.
Kimbrel led off the inning with a walk to Chris Taylor on four pitches. Two former National League MVPs, who are known for their home run capabilities, awaited him next. Kimbrel blew three pitches past Bellinger to record a swinging strikeout on a 87.3 mph curveball for the first out.
The four-seam fastball garnered Kimbrel’s second out, as Pujols swung through a 1-2 offering. When it came down to the final out, it was between Kimbrel and Dodgers pinch-hitter Will Smith.
Kimbrel fired his signature knuckle curveball for the first strike. Smith watched the fastball land as the second strike. In the 0-2 count, Kimbrel let out one last knuckle curve and induced a swinging K to put the finishing touches on the Cubs’ first combined no-hitter.
“When you have that confidence and how these guys have been throwing, obviously that’s a huge deal and a part of it, you feel really secure about a four-run lead,” Ross said. “Then you get to the ninth, I don’t know that I’ve been as nervous in a long time with a 4-0 lead and two outs with Craig Kimbrel on the mound than I was tonight.”
The Astros were the last team to throw a combined no-hitter -- a four-pitcher effort against the Mariners on Aug. 3, 2019.
"This is an awesome moment. I think the World Series, something like that, probably tops it,” Davies said. “But even though it wasn't a solo, it was a combined effort, just being a part of history and something like that is fun for myself, for family members, for friends, and definitely for the guys that came in the game and contributed.”