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.