The Orioles looked like they were in good shape. It was August 19, and Henry Urrutia had just hit the Orioles’ third game-ending home run of the last six games.
Urrutia had never hit a home run, but he did to begin the ninth inning, and the Orioles beat the New York Mets 5-4.
It was the Orioles’ fifth win in their first six games on their season-long 10 game homestand.
The Orioles were five games out of first place in the AL East, and they were just a half-game behind the Angels for the second wild card.
With four games against Minnesota, and the season at its three-quarter mark, things were looking positive for the Orioles.
Instead, the season turned sour. The Orioles lost six straight and 12 of 15.
RELATED: For starters, what derailed the Orioles in 2015?
By then, the Orioles were tied for last place in the AL East and stuck behind seven other teams for the second wild card.
While the Orioles finished creditably, winning 16 of their final 25 games, it wasn’t enough. They finished five games behind Houston for the second wild card, and three other teams: the Angels, Twins and Indians were ahead of them.
The Minnesota series began horribly with a 15-2 loss. After a 2 ½ hour rain delay, Miguel Gonzalez allowed seven runs.
A rare loss by Darren O’Day followed as the Orioles dropped three more games to Minnesota by a run. In each of those losses, the Orioles led after the sixth inning.
In the final game, the Orioles led in the ninth, but Zach Britton allowed a run, and in the 12th, manager Buck Showalter was forced to use Manny Machado at shortstop for the first time in his major league career and Jimmy Paredes at third.
J.J. Hardy had aggravated a strained groin. He couldn’t play, and Paredes had pinch run for him in the 11th.
In the 12th both Machado and Paredes made errors on the first balls hit to them, and the Orioles season went south.
The ensuing seven game road trip was a disaster. They lost three of four in Kansas City and three to the suddenly hot Texas Rangers.
The first game was a dizzying 8-3 loss where the Orioles actually held a 3-1 lead after 5 ½. Seven Kansas City runs scored, seemingly in a matter of moments, and the Orioles had dropped back down to .500.
By trip’s end, the Orioles were angry. Manny Machado seethed after the second loss in Texas. He was unjustly called out on a check swing, he thought, and the Orioles had lost another one-run game.
Even though the Orioles had a 25-26 record in one-run games doesn’t look awful, they won eight of their last 10, and by then, their season was over.
After the final loss to the Rangers, a mostly empty clubhouse awaited. Adam Jones was there. In what had become a familiar scene, Jones was speaking for the team. There were no jokes, no smart remarks—only sense.
“My biggest thing about sports is when somebody doubts an effort or another player or something like that. That’s basically calling him a coward. You know what I mean? Whenever someone says, ‘Oh you don’t give an effort. You’re not playing (with) effort. That’s kind of calling someone a coward,” Jones said.
“We go out there and play our tails off. Some days it looks pretty, some days it doesn’t but the effort is always there. For some people to say that our effort level isn’t there just because we struck out 11 times. We could strike out 20 times. But to say our effort level wasn’t there, that’s a slap in the face and I want to slap somebody in the face who says that.”
Thirty-two games remained. The Orioles were 11 games out of the AL East lead, but some drama and history remained.
On Sept. 23, Jonathan Papelbon threw a ball over Machado’s head before hitting him in the shoulder. Papelbon was a “coward,” Machado said, and the Nationals imploded.
That weekend, the Orioles failed to score a run in Fenway Park, the first time in 58 years they’d been shut out in three straight games.
Those three losses were the final three of 54 road losses the Orioles suffered, leaving Showalter at a loss for an explanation.