Sonny Gray struck out seven batters over six shutout innings in the Nashville Sounds' 9-2 win in front of 9,291 fans at First Tennessee Park Thursday night.
Pitching for the first time in a Sounds uniform, the Nashville native cruised through his six frames, allowing only two hits along the way. The right-hander did not walk a batter in the winning effort.
Franklin Barreto didn't waste any time giving Gray and the Sounds (7-11) an early lead. The 21-year-old led off the bottom of the first inning with his team-leading fourth homer of the season.
Ryan Lavarnway got in on the act when he drilled his second blast of the season, a solo shot down the left field line to give Nashville a 2-0 lead in the fifth.
It was more than enough for Gray who allowed his two hits in the third inning. Both went to left field through defensive shifts. Pitching on a Major League rehab assignment, Gray finished his night with back-to-back strikeouts in the sixth. He threw 77 pitches, 54 of which were strikes.
Joey Wendle - also playing with Nashville on a Major League rehab assignment - started the bottom of the sixth with a ground-rule double to center field. He came around to score moments later when Mark Canha launched a two-run home run to make it a 4-0 game.
The inning continued as New Orleans (8-13) pitchers struggled to find the strike zone. Kelvin Marte issued three walks in the inning before being relieved by Brandon Cunniff.
Bruce Maxwell chipped in an RBI single, Kenny Wilson had a sacrifice fly, and Wendle was at it again when he cleared the bases with a triple to the right-center gap. His second extra-base hit of the inning gave Nashville a commanding 9-0 lead.
New Orleans picked up a pair of runs in the eighth, but the game was out of reach. Josh Smith worked a 1-2-3 ninth inning to secure the win.
Wendle went 2-for-4 with a 3 RBI and a run scored, while Lavarnway and Canha each had a multi-hit game.
Game two of the five-game series is scheduled for Friday night at First Tennessee Park. Right-hander Paul Blackburn (0-2. 2.12) starts for the Sounds against right-hander Stephen Fife (1-0, 4.91) for the Baby Cakes. First pitch is scheduled for 6:35 p.m.
The 2017 season is the Sounds' 40th in franchise history and their third as the Oakland Athletics' top affiliate. Season ticket memberships are available now by calling (615) 690-4487 or by visiting www.nashvillesounds.com.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.