A look back: The 10 most memorable Orioles moments of 2015

A look back at the top 10 moments (and stretches) of the Orioles' 2015 season.

The Orioles’ 2015 season was a disappointment, with the team following its division title with a .500 record and no playoffs, but that didn’t mean it was uneventful.

Third baseman Manny Machado emerged as one of the game’s top young stars. First baseman Chris Davis won his second home run crown in three years in what might've been his swan song in Baltimore.

Some of the most impactful moments had little to do with the nuances of the game but how the Orioles were affected by April’s riots after the death of Freddie Gray in police custody.

As 2015 comes to an end, we take a look at the 10 most memorable moments (or stretches) of last year’s Orioles season.

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1. April 29: The historic no-fans game
With the city still on edge following the Freddie Gray riots, the Orioles played on, but it was anything but normal. For the first time in baseball history, a major league game was played without fans in attendance. Fans gathered to watch the game outside the locked gates of Camden Yards and some even rented hotel rooms overlooking the park -- but a game in a ballpark full of empty green seats was surreal.

2. June 16: Orioles set new club record with eight homers
The Orioles assaulted Philadelphia Phillies pitching by setting a new club record for most homers in a single game. Manny Machado and Chris Parmelee hit two homers each in the 19-3 shellacking of the Phillies. Ryan Flaherty hit the history-making shot in the eighth inning, breaking the team’s previous record of seven (which occurred three previous times). But since Flaherty’s shot came off position player Jeff Francoeur, the infielder received some good-natured ribbing from Orioles pitchers after the game.

3. April 25: Lough hits walk-off homer with Camden Yards under lockdown
In one of the most bizarre endings in Camden Yards history, an announcement was made in the ninth inning asking fans to remain in the ballpark because of unrest in the city. Fans were not allowed to leave for about an inning, just before David Lough sent everyone home with a 10th-inning walk-off homer off former Orioles pitcher Koji Uehara to seal a 5-4 win over the Boston Red Sox.

4. April 8: Manny being Manny again
It might've been just one of the many fine defensive plays that Machado made in 2015, but it was the best. Machado ranged to his right, backhanded Tampa Bay Rays infielder Logan Forsythe’s grounder while sliding by the third-base line, and then rocketed a throw across the diamond to nab Forsythe. Again, it was one play, but it spoke volumes that Machado was back from another knee surgery and better than ever as he won his second Gold Glove.

5. May 1-3: Home sweet dome
The April riots forced the Orioles to relocate their home series against the Rays to Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. The Orioles wore their home white uniforms, batted in the bottom of the innings and “Thank God I’m a Country Boy” even played during the seventh-inning stretches. And while the Rays and their fans were gracious hosts, the crowds were scarce as the Orioles took two of three from Tampa Bay.

6. Aug. 14: Machado’s walk-off homer gives Orioles win in 13 innings
Machado hit many homers for the Orioles – a career-high 35 to be exact – but his most exciting came on this night against the Oakland Athletics. Machado hit a walk-off two-run homer in the 13th inning off Aaron Brooks to end a 4-hour, 27-minute marathon at Camden Yards. The 8-6 win kept the Orioles within 1½ games of the second American League wild-card spot, but their soon-to-come swoon took them out of contention.  

7. Aug. 20-23: Four-game sweep sends Orioles into tailspin
The Orioles were riding high in mid-August, reeling off three walk-off wins over a span of a week. And then, the Minnesota Twins came to Camden Yards and swept a four-game series. After the series-opening 15-2 Orioles loss, the other three defeats were one-run games as the Twins won with seeing-eye singles and small ball. That sweep began a stretch in which the Orioles dropped 12 of 13 and fell out of the division race.

8. July 18: Tillman terrific in Detroit
In the Orioles’ second game out of the All-Star break, right-hander Chris Tillman allowed a leadoff single to Detroit Tigers second baseman Ian Kinsler on his first pitch of the game, and then didn’t allow a hit thereafter. Tillman retired the final 23 batters he faced on his way to eight scoreless innings in a 3-0 win. It was the most dominant performance by an Orioles starter all season. Tillman pitched another gem in his next start before an ankle injury derailed his second-half momentum.  

9. Sept. 1-4: Davis ends season with a bang
Chris Davis was the Orioles’ best power threat all season, leading the majors with 47 homers, but he took his game to another level in September. He hit five homers in the first three games of the month and had a scalding .318/.463/.748 hitting line with 12 homers and 25 RBIs in September and October, setting himself up for a big payday in free agency.

10. Sept. 30-Oct. 4: Finishing strong
The Orioles won their last five games of the season to end the 2015 campaign with an 81-81 record. It wasn’t easy. Rain delays forced a pair of doubleheaders in the regular season’s final week. But after losing Game 1 of a doubleheader against the Toronto Blue Jays on Sept. 30 – a victory that clinched the AL East title for Toronto – the Orioles won their five remaining games, ending with a three-game sweep of the playoff-bound New York Yankees.

eencina@baltsun.com
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