BALTIMORE -- The offensive philosophy that Gene Michael always encouraged the Yankees to follow involved finding players who could make pitchers work, steal an occasional base and slug home runs. When they did all three in the first inning of Thursday's 9-1 victory over the Orioles, manager Joe Girardi remarked that they'd just witnessed "a Stick special."
Wearing black armbands on their left jersey sleeves to mourn the passing of the longtime player, scout, manager and general manager, the Yankees hit four homers -- including Aaron Judge's 39th, reclaiming a share of the American League lead -- as they supported Sonny Gray's solid effort and notched their first series victory in Baltimore since September 2013.
"I'm sure he would have liked that," said Brett Gardner, who battled back from an 0-2 count against Kevin Gausman to spark the Yankees' three-run first inning. "He obviously meant a lot to this organization, and I'm sure he'd be happy about how the game went today. We don't usually leave here winning the series, especially not recently, so it's a good feeling."
"That was for Stick," Girardi said. "He's meant so much to this organization. He's done a great job of scouting players, managing players, acquiring players and was just a sounding board for all of us. Yeah, we thought about him a lot."
Gausman lasted just three innings, permitting five runs and five hits. In the first, Didi Gregorius doubled home Gardner before Judge launched a two-run homer to right-center field. Matt Holliday and Jacoby Ellsbury tacked on third-inning RBIs against Gausman, who was unable to complete five innings for the ninth time this season.
"I threw a lot of good pitches early on, but they kind of battled, fouled off a lot of good pitches, and I obviously left a pitch up to Judge," Gausman said. "But overall I just wasn't throwing enough strikes. I tried to go deep into the game, especially [because] this was a pretty important game for us."
Seeking his third victory in seven starts since being acquired by the Yanks, Gray had all the support he needed, holding the O's scoreless until Adam Jones scored an unearned run on a sixth-inning Gregorius error. Gray scattered six hits in 5 2/3 innings, walking two and striking out five in a 102-pitch effort as he picked up his first win in four career starts at Camden Yards.
"It was definitely real nice to take the mound with a three-run lead, but what was really impressive and what I was real happy about was we didn't just stop," Gray said. "We kept putting the pressure on them, and that's something that you have to do, especially when you score runs early. You have to continue to put together good at-bats and put some runs across the board, which we did."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED All Rise: Gausman had been 5-2 with a 2.03 ERA in nine starts coming into Thursday's contest, but Judge again proved to be his Kryptonite. The big-swinging rookie has hit Gausman well this season, improving to 6-for-12 (.500) with three homers and a double after mashing a 420-foot drive into the seats in the first inning. The homer -- placing Judge second on the all-time rookie HR list -- was Judge's second in his last four games, an encouraging sign following his extended slump.
"I think he's getting closer. His home runs have meant something," Girardi said. "To give us a 3-0 lead on this team in the first inning, it helped Sonny relax a little bit, because their order is extremely dangerous. They run out eight guys, every night almost, that are going to hit 20 home runs in the course of a season. They're dangerous."
Sonny side up: Though the Yankees built a 7-0 lead through their first four turns at bat, Gray said that he believed the complexion of the game could have changed quickly had he not evaded trouble in both the fourth and fifth innings. Baltimore had two men on in each frame but Gray wriggled free, and he would have gotten out of the sixth scorelessly if not for an error.
"That's kind of the turning point of this game," Gray said. "For me, the first couple of innings seemed to come pretty easy and they put some good at-bats together. They got some hits with two outs and a couple of walks, but just making the one pitch to the one batter in certain situations to get out of innings was big for me today. It definitely was."
O'S PROSPECT HAYS DEBUTS
Austin Hays, rated as the O's No. 2 prospect by MLBPipeline.com, entered for defense in the top of the ninth for his Major League debut and had his first MLB at-bat in the bottom of the ninth, grounding out to short to end the game.
"It was very surreal to be able to step into a big league box for the first time," Hays said. "That's better than I ever could have imagined."
WHAT'S NEXT Yankees: The Yankees will travel to Arlington to open a three-game series against the Rangers on Friday evening, sending right-hander Masahiro Tanaka (11-10, 4.54 ERA) to the mound opposite left-hander Martin Perez (11-10, 4.87 ERA). First pitch from Globe Life Park is scheduled for 8:05 p.m. ET.
Orioles: The Orioles open a three-game series in Cleveland against the red-hot Indians. Left-hander Wade Miley (8-11, 4.91 ERA) starts for the Orioles against Indians right-hander Mike Clevinger (8-5, 3.50 ERA). Game time at Progressive Field on Friday is 7:10 p.m. ET.