NEW YORK — Hammered by Aaron Judge and the New York Yankees all season, Baltimore manager Buck Showalter wasn’t about to let that happen again.
Even if it meant bringing the potential winning run to the plate in the bottom of the ninth inning. Even it meant rankling his relief ace.
So Showalter intentionally walked Judge with two outs, putting two runners on base. Closer Zach Britton made the strategy work, fanning Gary Sanchez to preserve the Orioles’ 6-4 win over the Yankees on Sunday.
“It’s not something I would’ve chose,” Britton said. “Obviously, I wanted to attack Judge. I like my chances there. It wasn’t my call.”
No, it wasn’t.
Then again, Showalter once notably issued an intentional walk to Barry Bonds with the bases loaded while managing Arizona. That move worked out, too.
“It came up heads today, tomorrow it might be tails,” Showalter said.
Ubaldo Jimenez struck out 10 in just five innings and Tim Beckham hit a three-run homer as Baltimore stayed 5½ games behind Minnesota for the second AL wild-card spot.
The Orioles had lost nine of 10 overall before halting a team that had battered them all season. Baltimore finished 7-12 against the Yankees this year, giving up 154 runs along the way — the most any team has allowed to an opponent in a season since the White Sox scored 158 against Boston in 1960.
Didi Gregorius homered for the third straight day as New York’s four-game winning streak ended. The Yankees remained three games behind AL East-leading Boston, and hold a four-game lead over Minnesota atop the wild-card race.
“I mean we’re continuing to play well, even on a day that we lose, we have an opportunity in the ninth inning and that’s what you want,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said.
Judge went 26 for 61 (.426) against the Orioles this year with 11 home runs, 24 RBIs and 24 walks. He scored 31 runs vs. the O’s, the most by a player against a single opponent in a season since Ted Williams’ 31 for Boston against the St. Louis Browns in 1947. The Browns moved to Baltimore for the 1954 season.
Judge, who leads the AL with 43 homers, doubled and scored in the eighth — the 17th straight game he crossed the plate vs. Baltimore.
With two outs and a runner on third in the ninth, Showalter wanted no part of the rookie slugger for a final swing. But with the way the Yankees have been hitting, there weren’t a lot of guys he wanted to see, either.
“If that was the case, we’d walk just about all of them,” he said. “Just picking your poison, two really good young hitters.”
Sanchez stepped into the batter’s box with 31 home runs this year.
“I was ready for the battle. If they were not going to pitch to him, they were going to pitch to me,” Sanchez said through a translator. “Unfortunately, I couldn’t do it.”
Britton struck him out on a low fastball for his 15th save in 17 chances.
Jimenez (6-10) had been hit hard lately, and was 0-3 in his previous five starts. He gave up three hits and one run — Gregorius’ 24th homer tied the Yankees’ record for a shortstop set by Derek Jeter in 1999.
Sonny Gray (9-11) allowed five runs in four innings during his shortest start this season.
In a possible preview of the AL wild-card matchup, the Twins visit Yankee Stadium for a three-game set beginning Monday night. Yankees ace Luis Severino would be on regular rest if he pitched Wednesday, but Girardi says Masahiro Tanaka is mostly likely to start that day. The Yankees might not want to give Minnesota a free look at Severino before the wild-card game scheduled for Oct. 3. Severino has never faced the Twins, not even in spring training.
Severino is now set to next pitch Friday night at Toronto. As for having the pitching line up for a potential wild-card game, Girardi said, “It’s too early to do that.”
“But obviously that’s a question that I’m probably going to be asked a lot, he said.
Orioles: CF Adam Jones didn’t start, getting a day to rest general soreness. “Scuffling a little bit,” Showalter said.
Yankees: CF Jacoby Ellsbury and INF Chase Headley were out of the starting lineup for rest. Both of them pinch-hit in the late innings.
Orioles: RHP Dylan Bundy (13-9, 4.03 ERA) starts at home Monday night vs. Boston RHP Doug Fister (5-8, 4.40).
Yankees: RHP Jaime Garcia (5-9, 4.35 with Atlanta, Minnesota and New York) pitches at home Monday night vs. Twins RHP Ervin Santana (15-7, 3.35). Garcia is winless in six starts for the Yankees.
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