BALTIMORE — Aaron Judge looked at the large screen in the massive centerfield scoreboard to see a replay.
The rightfielder, solid to spectacular in the field all year, had just misplayed a third-inning line drive that contributed to two runs in what would be a 10-4 Yankees’ loss Wednesday night at Camden Yards.
It was the first time this season the rookie shared in the goat horns after a loss.
“If Aaron catches that ball,” Joe Girardi said, “maybe it’s different.”
Now, to be clear, Girardi wasn’t pinning the loss on Judge, who did go 2-for-4 with a walk. Masahiro Tanaka was the primary cause of the defeat, the second in three games here for the AL East-leading Yankees (30-20).
Tanaka (5-5, 6.34 ERA) could not make it two straight good starts as he was hit hard throughout 5 2⁄3 innings, allowing seven runs and nine hits.
It marked the third time this season that Tanaka, who fell behind in too many counts and who again didn’t have a good split or slider, allowed seven runs or more. The outing was an emphatic rejoinder to the simplistic narrative that he can pitch effectively only to Austin Romine, who started Wednesday night rather than Gary Sanchez.
“It’s tough,” Tanaka said through his translator. “Obviously the games I’ve been pitching we’ve been losing. Just try to keep fighting.”
The biggest blow came in the fourth when Adam Jones, who missed the first two games of the series with hip and ankle issues, crushed a three-run homer on a flat, first-pitch splitter that gave the Orioles (27-24) a 7-1 lead.
Still, Judge’s misplay loomed large.
J.J. Hardy and Seth Smith singled with one out in the third. Jones ripped a hanging first-pitch slider off the wall in left-center for an RBI double. After the skidding Manny Machado struck out for the ninth time in the series, Mark Trumbo pounded a first-pitch fastball to right. Judge broke in, which allowed the screaming liner to fly over his 6-7 frame, the two-out, two-run double making it 3-0. Chris Davis’s single made it 4-0.
“I just misread it,” Judge said. “I have to make that play in that situation. Tanaka’s out there battling in a tough situation . . . what really did me in was taking the first two steps in on a ball like that. That was the difference.”
The Yankees scored in the fourth. After Judge lined a one-out single to center and Chase Headley walked, and Ronald Torreyes grounded to short, the start, it appeared, of a 6-4-3 double play. Jonathan Schoop’s relay throw, however, caromed into the crowd, allowing Judge to score to make it 4-1.
Tanaka retired the first two batters in the bottom half before Hardy doubled down the leftfield line. Smith walked and Jones launched his ninth homer.
Orioles righthander Kevin Gausman, the starter in New York April 28 when the Yankees rallied from a 9-1 deficit, was not sharp but consistently got out of trouble. Gausman (3-4), who hauled a 6.14 ERA into the night, allowed three runs (two earned), eight hits and five walks in 5 1⁄3 innings.
The Yankees had their chances, leaving the bases loaded in the first and going 1-for-12 with runners in scoring position and stranding 11.
But on this night, it was overwhelmingly about an ace again not pitching like one and trying to get it right.
“You saw what he’s capable of last time,” pitching coach Larry Rothschild said of Tanaka’s outing last Friday against Oakland, when he struck out 13 and allowed only one run in 7 1⁄3 innings. “He knows that the stuff is there, we just have to tap into it.”