BOSTON—Ryan McKenna was ready for another celebration. All he had to do was catch Masataka Yoshida’s routine fly ball to left field and the Orioles would have had their second straight one-run win over the Boston Red Sox.
Instead, the ball popped out of McKenna’s glove, and the game continued. Félix Bautista threw a 1-0 four-seam fastball to Adam Duvall, and he homered for the second time in the game, and the Orioles suffered an improbable loss, 9-8 to the Red Sox before an announced crowd of 29.062 at Fenway Park on Saturday.
If they had won, the shaky outfield defense in the first two games may not have been overlooked, but it wouldn’t have been the takeaway from an action-packed game.
Fans might have been talking about Austin Hays’ 5-for-5 day, and the second straight game the Orioles had stolen five bases, the first time the Orioles had ever done that. It’s the first time in major league history a team has done that in their first two games.
Hays, who dresses next to McKenna in the cramped visitors’ clubhouse, knew his fellow outfielder couldn’t have felt worse.
“I’ve got a lot of faith in McKenna. I’ve seen him make some amazing plays,” Hays said. “I know he’s a great outfielder. You play this game long enough, you’re bound to have one of those plays happen … I know he makes that catch 999 times out of a thousand.”
In both games, McKenna, Hays, centerfielder Cedric Mullins and Anthony Santander made several costly plays, a nasty surprise from an outfield that was solid defensively in 2022.
“I ran into it pretty hard. It was in the sky. I guess I didn’t follow all the way through with it,” McKenna said. “Hit the butt of my glove and just fell out. It was unfortunate timing.”
McKenna attributes the Orioles’ outfield shakiness to the weather.
“It’s been cold. There’s a lot of stuff going on. It’s early in the season, and we’re still trying to get our reps in,” he said. “We’ve got to do our jobs well and execute when we need to. It didn’t happen today, but I know going forward, we’ll do a better job.”
Oriole players and coaches tried to console McKenna, who’d made just three errors in his first 166 games in the outfield.
“Keep my head up. Stay confident. It’s a long season. Don’t let that take away from anything that’s going to help you positively,” he said they told him.
A game after catcher Adley Rutschman went 5-for-5, Hays followed with two doubles, two singles and a home run—and the Orioles’ fifth stolen base, but that was overlooked because of the rough outfield defense.
“We’ve got some areas we need to clean up,” Hays said. “It’s been uncharacteristic so far, but it’s just got to be better. That’s putting it simply. We’ve got to be better out there, and our pitchers are doing a good job. We’ve just got to pick those guys up.”
Manager Brandon Hyde has been surprised by the outfield errors.
“We have some really good defensive outfielders,” Hyde said. “We’ve just had a tough couple of games. Tough conditions the other day. A little windy today, but we’ll play better outfield defense.
“Mac’s going to make big plays for us. Hays is a really plus-outfielder. Ced’s a really great outfielder. We didn’t play our best defense here the first couple of games. We need to.”
The Orioles jumped to a 7-1 lead in the third. A two-run home run by Ryan Mountcastle, a three-run homer by Mullins and Hays’ homer helped to knock Chris Sale out of the game after three, but Dean Kremer allowed five runs in three innings, and he was gone, too.
“We haven’t pitched our best couple of games and we haven’t played our best defense,” Hyde said. “Happy with how we swung the bat. I wish we could have added on there in the middle-to-the late innings.”
Santander, who was the designated hitter, had an RBI double in the fourth to give the Orioles (1-1) an 8-5 lead, but they had just three singles and didn’t score in the last five innings.
Mike Baumann and Danny Coulombe pitched scoreless innings. Austin Voth threw a scoreless sixth, but he allowed a home run to Kiké Hernández to start the seventh. Cionel Pérez allowed a ground-rule double to Duvall, who had already tripled and homered, and it was 8-7.
Logan Gillaspie got two outs in the eighth, and Keegan Akin got the third out. Bautista, who allowed two runs, one unearned, in the ninth on Thursday, was set to walk off the mound with his second save—until McKenna’s error and Duvall’s game-winning homer.
“It is surprising,” Bautista said about McKenna through a translator. “He’s a really good outfielder. He has a really good glove, so we’re all a little bit surprised that it happened, but at the end of the day, there’s still 160 games left.”
Bautista, who had a late start in Grapefruit League games because of knee and shoulder injuries, said he’s fine, and Hyde thinks he is, too.
“He got the first three outs, and then he gave up the homer there after that,” Hyde said. “Félix has got great stuff. He’ll be fine.”
Hyde and Hays think McKenna will be fine, too.
“I just let him know he’s a great outfielder, and I have a 100 percent faith and confidence that he’s going to catch every ball, and just because this one play happen, that doesn’t change,” Hays said.
Notes: Kyle Bradish, Tyler Wells and Kyle Gibson (1-0, 7.20) are scheduled to face Jon Gray, Andrew Heaney and Jacob deGrom (0-0, 12.27) when the Orioles visit the Texas Rangers Monday and Tuesday night and Wednesday afternoon .. Kremer is in line to start the Orioles’ home opener on April 6th against the New York Yankees. … According to STATS, Ramón Urías, who batted leadoff for the first time in his career, is the second Oriole to strike out in each of his five at-bats. Don Buford was the other against Chicago on August 26th, 1971. … Rutschman singled in his first at-bat, becoming the first Oriole to reach base in his first seven plate appearances of the season. … Shortstop Jorge Mateo stole two bases for the second straight game. He’s just the second player since 2000 with two or more steals in his first two games. San Diego’s Tommy Pham did it in 2020 … Coie Irvin will face Tanner Houck on Sunday at 1:35 p.m.
Lester homers three times: First baseman Josh Lester tied a Norfolk club record with three homers as the Tides defeated Durham, 13-4. Lester, who also homered in Norfolk’s opener on Friday night, hit two-run homers in the third and fifth and a solo shot in the seventh.
Leftfielder Hudson Haskin hit a two-run home run in the ninth. Haskin and shortstop Cadyn Grenier each had three hits.
Bruce Zimmermann allowed two runs on four hits in 4 2/3 innings, striking out seven and walking one. Eduard Bazardo (1-0) pitched a scoreless 1 1/3 innings.
Follow Rich Dubroff on Twitter @RichDubroffMLB