Starter Sonny Gray, who has been erratic for much of this season, showed the Yankees his better side on Friday night in a 4-1 victory over the Orioles. Gray stumbled in the early innings, but then righted himself and shut down the slumping Baltimore offense.
The free-swinging Orioles had trouble with the biting curve and slider from Gray (4-4), who allowed one run on four hits and struck out six without giving up a walk over six innings. Manager Aaron Boone said on Thursday that Gray had been moving in a better direction and that the Yankees believed in the right-hander’s potential.
He has now won two of his last three starts, and lasted at least five innings in five of his last six outings. In his first five starts this season, Gray made it past the fifth inning just once.
Gray fell behind in the first inning on Manny Machado, who belted a solo homer, and escaped a jam in the second. Everything changed after that. The fastball and especially the breaking pitches proved effective, and the six strikeouts he registered came in his final five innings.
“I thought my breaking balls were good, my curveball was good, my slider was good,” Gray said. “I got in a little bit of a groove with my curveball, so I used it, probably a little bit more than I have. But at the end of the day, I had a good one, so I needed to throw it.”
Gray retired 12 of the last 14 batters he faced, and the Orioles did not put a runner in scoring position against him after the second. They left runners on first and third in that inning and missed a chance to extend their lead.
Austin Romine gave the Yankees a 3-1 lead in the sixth, lining an R.B.I. double just over the glove of right fielder Joey Rickard. Romine had two hits and extended his hitting streak to 10 games. Aaron Judge belted a solo homer off reliever Tanner Scott in the seventh that put the Yankees up, 4-1. Judge now has 12 homers in 30 career games against the Orioles.
Torres continued his hot hitting with a 2-for-4 night. He doubled in the fifth inning, but was thrown out at third trying to stretch the hit into a triple. Torres might have been handicapped on that effort, as one of his cleats came off while he raced from second to third. Still, Torres made the play close.
Boone said he thought about challenging the call, but was advised not to. Still, the play caused some discussion in the Yankees’ dugout — along with a few smiles.
“We were over there going, ‘Have you ever run out of your shoes before?’ ” Boone said. “I didn’t even see the throw come in. I saw the shoe go flying, and I was just hoping he could stay on his feet. We can laugh about it now.”
Torres said it was the first time that had happened to him.
“I think about back to the base, but I look couple seconds, ‘Do I have chance to go to third base?’ ” Torres said, partially through an interpreter. “So I go straight.”
Did he think he was safe?
“I don’t know,” Torres said. “I mean, 50-50.”
Chad Green came in for Gray in the seventh, and Dellin Betances took care of the eighth. Aroldis Chapman earned his 13th save in the ninth. The Yankees won their third straight game and handed the Orioles a sixth consecutive defeat.