Two days ago, Rob Wooten, a veteran of 300 Minor League appearances, found out he would be making his second career start. Little did he know, it would wind up in the history books.
Wooten combined with Matt Marksberry and Jose Ramirez for a no-hitter Thursday night as Triple-A Gwinnett shut out Louisville, 3-0, at Louisville Slugger Field.
"I'm most surprised that I went six innings," Wooten said with a laugh. "The pitch count stayed down and we had a great game plan. I didn't shake [Braves catcher] Anthony Recker off one time. The defense was amazing behind me and we got a lot of first-pitch outs. I had all four pitches working, and once you get in that groove, it gets pretty fun."
The 30-year-old right-hander set the tone by retiring his first nine hitters, racking up four strikeouts along the way. After Wooten fanned Hernan Iribarren to begin the fourth frame, things got a little interesting. The 2008 13th-round pick struck out Jermaine Curtis, but the ball got past Recker and Curtis reached first. Then Scott Schebler reached on a fielding error by shortstop Sean Kazmar. Relying on his bullpen instincts, the veteran was able to strand the runners by getting Steve Selsky to fly out and Kyle Waldrop to ground out.
"I just kept making pitches," Wooten said. "It was kind of a weird game, I mean I got three at-bats. I don't think I've had three at-bats in my whole career. Everything was weird, but I had full confidence and it wasn't anything new to me. The guys played great behind me and we got out of it. I have that reliever mentality where I just go out there to make pitches to get outs. It was extremely fun. I'm excited that we did this, we kind of needed something like this as a team."
At that point, Recker could sense that something was up.
"It kind of started getting in my head pretty early," the Major League veteran said. "It crossed my mind after three or four innings that Rob hadn't given up a hit, just because I knew he was only making his second start of his career. We just wanted to see how long he could go because the bullpen could use a little bit of a rest. His job was just to eat up as many innings as he could. And it was an amazing job by him to get through six innings. It was a lot of fun to be a part of this and catch these guys."
Wooten retired the Bats in order in the fifth and sixth. In the longest outing of the University of North Carolina product's career, he set a career high with eight strikeouts.
"Two days ago when I found out I was starting, I was pretty excited about it," Wooten said. "But I didn't expect this. I just wanted to give our team a chance and get deep as I possibly could. Never in my wildest dreams did I think this would happen."
Marksberry struck out two over two clean innings to keep the bid alive before giving way to Ramirez.
"I was aware that he didn't give up a hit," the southpaw said. "Kudos to Rob, he did his thing and got through six. We were just hoping to get four or five out of him, and he just came in there and dealt."
Ramirez needed only 10 pitches to cement the first no-hitter for Gwinnett since right-hander Todd Redmond accomplished the feat, also against Louisville, on May 28, 2010. The righty reliever notched his fourth save.
"This is the first one that I've been a part of since JV ball, but that doesn't count," Wooten said. "I've watched one, but it was pretty cool to be on the good side of it this time around."
First baseman Blake Lalli got the Braves on the board with an RBI single in the second. Atlanta's No. 14 prospect Rio Ruiz doubled in a run in the third and Matt Tuiasosopo lofted a solo homer in the fifth.
Michael Leboff is a contributor to MiLB.com.