BALTIMORE — For one night, the Yankees’ Sonny Gray crisis passed.
The righthander, who failed to make it through three innings in his previous two starts, produced one of his best outings as a Yankee, allowing three hits in six innings against the Orioles Wednesday in a 9-0 victory at Camden Yards.
“It’s one start to build on,” Gray said. “Hopefully, I continue down this path.”
Gray walked one and struck out eight to match a season best. He received plenty of support, including Greg Bird’s first career grand slam, Tyler Wade’s first career homer and the sixth homer of the season from Austin Romine. A resurgent Giancarlo Stanton had four hits and Wade had three as the Yankees (60-31) salvaged a split of the four-game series with the last-place Orioles.
“It’s big for our team,” Bird said of his slam, which he hit off the rightfield foul pole on a 2-and-2 curveball from Dylan Bundy in the third inning. “Big for Sonny. Big start by him. He threw the ball great all day.”
Gray (6-7, 5.46) retired 11 straight after walking Chris Davis with two outs in the second, a streak broken up by Caleb Joseph leading off the sixth. The Orioles (26-67) put two on in the inning, but Gray struck out Mark Trumbo with his 90th pitch, a curveball, which he had working all night.
“That was probably the best I’ve seen it,” Romine said.
After the Yankees stranded Brett Gardner at second in the first, Gray needed 16 pitches in a perfect bottom half.
Gray struck out Trumbo looking at a fastball to start the second. The Orioles got their first hit a batter later. Jonathan Schoop, who singled in the winning run the night before, sliced a double to right. Gray walked Davis, who was hitting .160 with a .234 on-base percentage, on five pitches.
Gray eventually got out of it, striking out Danny Valencia with a full-count curve and getting Joey Rickard to bounce to third.
“My biggest plan of attack was to drive the ball down through the zone,” Gray said. “I thought I threw a lot of good fastballs at the bottom of the zone with late life and action going down.”
The Yankees, thanks to Bird, provided Gray a substantial lead in the third.
Brett Gardner walked with one out and went to third on Aaron Judge’s single to left-center. Didi Gregorius fell behind 1-and-2 and banged one back to the pitcher. Gardner broke on contact and Bundy came home for an easy 1-2 putout. Stanton grounded a single sharply through the hole between third and short, making it 1-0 and improving to 14 for his last 44.
Aaron Hicks walked to load the bases, and Bird’s grand slam made it 5-0 and gave him eight RBIs in the last two days. (Bird hit a three-run homer Tuesday.) He fouled off four straight two-strike pitches — a fastball, slider, changeup and fastball — before connecting off Bundy (6-9), who allowed five runs and five hits over four innings.
After struggling at the plate for the most part since his season started May 26, Bird is 5-for-17 in his last five games with two homers and nine RBIs. Of his 25 hits, 16 have gone for extra bases. Getting the lefthanded swinger going would do wonders for a lineup loaded with righthanded power.
“Huge,” Aaron Boone said. “Look, when he’s right, we real ly believe he’s that on-base power presence from the left side. Him playing well is a big deal for us. Hopefully, we’re starting to see him get a little bit settled in.”