A Yankees Blowout Rooted in a Single Impossible Decision

A Yankees Blowout Rooted in a Single Impossible Decision

BALTIMORE — The relaxed rhythms of a baseball game allow time for thoughtful consideration. A catcher can ruminate about what sign to put down for his pitcher. A batter can survey the defense and infer how he will be pitched. And a manager is rarely stuck without sufficient time to get the right pitcher warm.

Every once in a while, though, a rapid-fire decision must be made.

And sometimes, as happened here on Wednesday night, the direction of a baseball game can pivot on it. While Greg Bird belted a grand slam, Sonny Gray delivered a salving performance and the Yankees got out of town with a resounding 9-0 victory over the Baltimore Orioles, the roots to their agreeable getaway could be traced to a single play.

With no score, runners at the corners and one out in the third inning, Didi Gregorius hit a crisp one-hopper back to pitcher Dylan Bundy and the course for the rest of the game was set in motion.

As soon as the ball settled into the glove of the right-handed Bundy, he faced a choice: throw home to get Brett Gardner, who had bolted from third, or turn and fire to shortstop Manny Machado at second to start a 1-6-3 double play.

There were other considerations to be made: Gregorius is a swift runner, so the double play would have to be turned crisply. But the reward for doing so would be considerable: It would strand the dangerous Giancarlo Stanton in the on-deck circle.

So, as Bundy gathered the ball, the quick calculus was made.

The sight of Gardner breaking for home proved alluring enough that Bundy threw to catcher Caleb Joseph, who ran at Gardner and tagged him out, removing a runner from third base.

“The ball was hit at me, and I don’t want the runner to score because I was able to see he was halfway down the line, and I gave it up to Caleb,” Bundy said. “I thought about that after the play, after I got back in the dugout.”

Gardner called his decision to go almost automatic.

“If it’s a little dribbler in front of the plate where I know I’m going to be out but they don’t have a chance to turn a double play, then I’m going to stay at third,” Gardner said. “But a ball that’s hit hard like that to the pitcher, I’m gone.”

Added the Yankees’ third-base coach, Phil Nevin: “Even with no outs, you want to do the same thing. That’s just a good baseball play.”

If Bundy wondered how the night might have turned out had he ignored Gardner and gone for the double play, his manager, Buck Showalter did not.

“Dylan’s a baseball player who happens to be a pitcher,” Showalter said. “He makes a lot of great decisions fielding his position. The game never seems to catch him by surprise.”

The extra work required of Bundy would prove his undoing. After throwing a pair of sliders that badly fooled Stanton — who had also swung at and missed a pair in his first at-bat — Bundy left another one over the heart of the plate.

Stanton’s grounder went off the glove of third baseman Tim Beckham and away from Machado, eventually reaching the outfield grass as Aaron Judge raced home from second.

Then the at-bats turned arduous.

Aaron Hicks worked a full-count walk to load the bases before Bird fouled off four consecutive 2-2 pitches: a fastball, a slider, a changeup and another fastball. By this point, Bird — who had struck out at the end of an 11-pitch at-bat against Bundy in the second — had seen all the right-hander had to offer.

So, when Bundy delivered a curveball — a pitch that Bird had taken for a strike twice already in the game — the left-handed hitter was not fooled. He drove it deep to right field and watched as it clanked off the foul pole for a grand slam.

It was the second night in a row in which Bird drove in four runs, but unlike Tuesday night, when the Yankees squandered a late lead and lost 6-5 on a game-ending single off Bird’s glove, his offense was plenty.

Gray, who lasted a total of four and one-third innings in his previous two starts, turned in one of his best outings of the season, shutting out the Orioles for six innings, allowing three hits, one walk and striking out eight.

It also may have saved Gray’s spot in the rotation when he returns from the All-Star break, though Manager Aaron Boone evaded that question before the game.

“To read in what it means exactly I don’t want to go there,” Boone said.

It was also an uplifting night for Tyler Wade, who was demoted in May and recalled last week when Gleyber Torres went on the disabled list. Wade, who entered with a .103 average, singled, doubled and homered — the first of his career. Austin Romine added a solo homer, his sixth of the season.

Mostly, though, it was a satisfactory end to a disappointing visit, in which the Yankees split four games with the woeful Orioles, who are 41 games below .500 but have beaten the Yankees five times in 10 games.

Now, the Yankees head to Cleveland, which will serve as a gateway to the All-Star break when they can unwind and spare themselves the type of decisions that can unspool a baseball game.

A version of this article appears in print on , on Page B11 of the New York edition with the headline: Small Decision by Orioles Leads to Big Offensive Night for the Yanks. Order Reprints | Today’s Paper | Subscribe

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