Yankees manager Aaron Boone takes the ball from starting pitcher...

Yankees manager Aaron Boone takes the ball from starting pitcher Luis Gil during the second inning against the Baltimore Orioles at Yankee Stadium on Thursday, June 20, 2024. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

Well, that’s one way to curtail Luis Gil’s workload this season.

Not the ideal method, of course. The Yankees would have preferred something a bit more gentle than Thursday’s implosion at the Stadium, where Gil melted faster than a popsicle on the sizzling 161st Street pavement in teeing up seven runs over a shockingly brief 1 1/3 innings.

The fact that it was the Orioles who turned up the blowtorch on the Yankees’ first-half ace made the horror-show matinee that much worse. The temperature in the Bronx was 90 degrees when Gil fired his first pitch, and Gunnar Henderson ripped that opening fastball for a 110.4-mph line drive that Juan Soto badly misplayed into a leadoff double.

It was all down-Gil from there, in nearly every aspect for the Yankees, who were humiliated during a 17-5 rout that looked even uglier than the lopsided score. Not only that, dropping the first two series to the Orioles, and falling to 2-5 against their chief AL East rival (with six head-to-head games left) could ultimately carry October repercussions in terms of a division tiebreaker.

But let’s get to the more immediate concern first, and that would be Gil, who won’t be around for the playoffs — or even in the rotation too much longer — if Thursday’s gruesome performance was indicative of bigger issues, or the onset of workload-related fatigue. The Yankees have maintained that Gil isn’t on any sort of innings limit this season, but he’s plowing into uncharted territory only two years removed from Tommy John surgery, and that can’t be completely discounted in assessing his physical status.

Gil topped out at a career-high 108 2/3 innings in 2021, and only pitched four innings last season coming back from the TJ procedure. He’s now at 81 1/3 and it’s only late June, so the meter’s running, and the Yankees aren’t sure of what the toll is going to be just yet. But six weeks after Gil shut down the Orioles for 6 1/3 scoreless innings at Camden Yards, that previous magic was gone. With Gil’s location out of whack, the Baltimore hitters barreled up nearly everything he threw.

“That’s still an area of growth, even when he’s dominated,” manager Aaron Boone said. “He’s overwhelming you with stuff and being able to throw strikes. But he’s still a work in progress from a command and control standpoint. I think you saw a good hitting team with a game plan — get on some fastballs — and not missing.”

Something was up, because this seemed to be more than just a glitch, even for a pitcher who launched himself from spring-training obscurity to being the odds-on favorite to start next month’s All-Star Game. Gil (9-2) suffered his first loss April 15, ending his 11-start unbeaten streak, and Thursday’s short cameo also snapped the rotation’s streak of pitching a minimum of four innings in 76 consecutive games, a franchise record.

How much of an outlier was Thursday’s disaster? Gil entered the game with the AL’s lowest ERA (2.02) and dropped to seventh (2.77) upon his exit from the mound. He hadn’t pitched fewer than five innings since April 7, when Gil lasted only 4 1/3 in a no-decision to the Blue Jays, and the Orioles ripped him for six hits and six runs in the second inning alone before Boone mercifully removed him.

Gil’s velocity was normal, with his fastball sitting 97.1 mph (season average: 96.6) and a max of 98.8 mph. There also wasn’t any noticeable variance in his spin rates, either. The flashing red light, however, was that terrible location. Or maybe the Orioles swinging like they had an idea of what was coming, after seeing him last month. Boone didn’t dismiss the possibility of Gil tipping his pitches — it’s always a concern for the entire staff — but they wouldn’t know until going over the video in Friday’s routine post-start debriefing.

“For me it was the same preparation, the same routine,” Gil said through his interpreter. “I did all my work between starts to put myself in the best position possible, but today I definitely missed pitches. They weren’t exactly where I wanted them and they didn’t miss. They took advantage of it.

“But it’s definitely a learning experience. Tomorrow I’ll sit down calmly, I’ll go over videos and everything I need to look at so that I can make the necessary adjustments and be ready for the next one.”

Gil was supposed to be the ace up the Yankees’ sleeve for the series finale. Instead, he turned in the rotation’s worst performance of the season, and is now another potential crack in what we previously thought was the favorite to win the AL East. The Orioles exposed them all in their two meetings — from a vulnerable lineup to a wobbly bullpen — but the biggest stunner was Gil being non-competitive Thursday, a game so humbling that Jose Trevino had to take the mound for the ninth. And he was more effective than Gil.

“You don’t expect that,” Boone said of Gil’s brutal showing.

Only time will tell what Gil’s clunker means in the long run. And perhaps it could be shorter than the Yankees were hoping for.

ONE-DAY SALE26¢ for 5 6 months

ACT NOWSALE ENDS SOON | CANCEL ANYTIME