Four pitchers, one catcher: Contreras savors no-hitter in LA
The Cubs used four pitchers in Thursday's combined no-hitter against the Dodgers, but just one catcher.
So in many ways, the 17th no-hitter in Cubs history belonged to Willson Contreras.
"It means a lot, especially from catching this team since 2016," Contreras said after the game. "I've been catching a lot of shutout games, but nothing close to a no-hitter. Tonight was one of those nights, super-special in my life that will be hard for me to forget. I'm really proud."
This was the first time Contreras caught a no-hitter. Jake Arrieta's no-hitters in 2015 and '16 happened before Contreras made his Cubs debut on June 17, 2016.
Then Victor Caratini caught the Alec Mills' no-hitter in Milwaukee last September.
"I didn't realize we had a no-hitter going on until the sixth," Contreras said. "Then from the seventh on, my heart, just started racing and racing. I was trying slow the game down, to put the right finger down, to call the right pitch. It was something that worked out really good."
Cubs manager David Ross suggested this result was a good illustration of how Contreras has improved his pitch-calling over the years. Cubs pitchers survived despite piling up 8 walks.
Contreras also hit a 2-run homer on Thursday and made the defensive play of the game, picking Mookie Betts off first base in the third inning.
"I think he just continued to not give in, continued to take every pitch with what was working," Ross said. "As soon as they lost it, he steered them back into the strike zone. Just was a really nice night for him of keeping the hitters off-balance, knowing when they might try to ambush 0-0.
"You saw a lot of off-speed in some moments, especially early on. I thought he did a nice job of controlling the tempo of the game. It seemed to flow really nicely, even when runners got on."
Zach Davies threw 94 pitches in the first six innings, then was lifted for a pinch-hitter in the top of the seventh. Ross said he considered sending Davies back out for the seventh inning, then changed his mind when the Cubs put runners on first and third with nobody out. Jake Marisnick hit for Davies and produced an RBI single to make it 4-0.
"He (Davies) was a little too quick to home plate and I told him to slow down and stay behind a little more so the changeup was effective," Contreras said. "We didn't mind walking guys, especially on this team. They can really do damage."
A comical sidebar to Thursday's game was all three of the Cubs relievers -- Ryan Tepera, Andrew Chafin and Craig Kimbrel -- claimed they had no idea they were pitching a no-hitter when they took the mound. One reason given is the visitors bullpen at Dodger Stadium does not offer a view of the full scoreboard.
Ross thought Tepera knew, because he figured why else would Tepera throw a 3-0 slider to Gavin Lux in the seventh inning? That's typically the spot for a fastball down the middle. But Tepera said that pitch, and the resulting free pass, was all Contreras.
"I had no idea until after my inning," Tepera said, "Willson called it and what's funny was I shook and then shook again and he went back to it. I said, 'All right.' I just threw it. I didn't want to just groove one in there to being with, but it's kind of funny now."
Kimbrel walked his first batter on 4 pitches, then struck out Cody Bellinger, Albert Pujols and Will Smith swinging to end the game in dominant fashion.
"When Willson gave a big fist pump, I knew something was up," Kimbrel said. "Then Tep ran out there and whispered in my ear, he's like, 'You have no idea what happened.' Then Javy (Baez) put me in a headlock and I knew pretty fast what happened. I had no clue when I came into the game that we had a no-hitter."
Dodgers even series:
The Dodgers hit a pair of 2-run homers in the eighth inning to beat the Cubs 6-2 late Friday night in Los Angeles.
A.J. Pollock drilled a 2-run shot to left off Ryan Tepera, then Max Muncy delivered his own 2-run homer to right off Tommy Nance as the Dodgers broke open a tie game.
Kris Bryant homered in the first inning to put the Cubs ahead. Trailing 2-1, they tied it in the seventh when a single by Jake Marisnick set up a sacrifice fly from Joc Pederson.
Starter Jake Arrieta had a decent outing, giving up 2 runs in 5 innings. He worked out of some trouble, giving up 5 hits and 3 walks. His biggest mistake was failing to get a bunt down in the top of the fifth with two runners on and nobody out.
The Cubs got a scare in the sixth inning when catcher Willson Contreras was hit on the left hand by a 98 mile per hour fastball from Joe Kelly. Contreras seemed to be in great pain, but got checked out at first base and stayed in the game.
Before Friday's game, Ross told reporters that injured pitchers Justin Steele, Trevor Williams and Dillon Maples are planning to take the mound in rehab assignments with the Iowa Cubs this weekend.