Although a series split with the last-place Baltimore Orioles is far from ideal, the New York Yankees fought hard to salvage the series with a 9-0 win over their AL East rivals. Sonny Gray bounced back with his best start in over a month and Greg Bird launched a grand slam to provide a stress-free victory.
The big story early on was how Sonny Gray would look in his latest try after his two most brutal starts of the season. After a scoreless first inning, he walked the tightrope in the second. However, he notched a big strikeout of Danny Valencia on a 3-2 curveball with two runners in scoring position to escape the early jam. After so many recent struggles, it was a nice change of pace to see Gray get out of trouble.
Meanwhile, it looked like it was going to be another quiet start for the Yankees offensively. Even though they were making Dylan Bundy throw a lot of pitches and they worked some walks, they didn’t get their first hit until Judge singled in the third, putting runners on the corners with just one out. From there, Brett Gardner got caught in a rundown on a groundball to the pitcher, and it looked like the Yankees would go down scoreless again.
Instead, the floodgates opened up. Giancarlo Stanton came through with a hard-hit single into left that evaded two diving Orioles to score a run. Aaron Hicks drew a walk next, loading the bases for Greg Bird. After four consecutive 2-2 foul balls, Bird demolished a hanging curveball (the ninth pitch of the at-bat) deep to right and off of the foul pole for a grand slam, making it a 5-0 lead. The Yankees’ avian slugger has had a strong series in Baltimore, and that was the icing on the cake.
An early 5-0 lead also allowed Gray to settle down and breathe easy on the mound. His fastball velocity was up, his breaking pitches generated whiffs and his pace was noticeably quicker than before. His two-seam fastball, in particular, had some wicked movement and regularly hit 96 mph.
He even made a terrific defensive play in the fourth, sliding on his knees to field a chopper before firing to first to end the inning. He finished with eight strikeouts over six shutout innings, allowing just three hits in the process. Gray still has a long way to go, but this was an encouraging start.
The Yankees weren’t finished scoring, though. Tyler Wade tacked on an insurance run in the sixth with his first big-league home run on a drive to right-center. Austin Romine also added a solo shot in the seventh inning to straightaway center, all but putting the game out of reach for the Orioles. The Yankees scored two more runs on an error in the eighth and a Stanton single in the ninth, capping the scoring at 9-0. A.J. Cole and Chasen Shreve finished off the game for the Yankees, combining for three scoreless innings.
Next up, the Yankees will conclude their pre-All-Star break road trip with a four-game series in Cleveland. Things will kick off with a must-see ace matchup on Thursday, as Luis Severino will lock horns with Corey Kluber. A.J. Hinch better be watching, because these will be his top two choices to start for the American League in the All-Star Game next Tuesday night in Washington. Here’s to hoping that he picks Severino.