If fans want to look for a turning point in the Baltimore Orioles' season, they can go back to a three-game road series in the desert where their team lost all three in walk-off fashion.
It was only mid-August, and the Orioles were five games back in the AL East. But they went to Arizona, failed to hold leads in all three games, and lost them all. Two of those games went extra innings, the series finale going 14.
Games like that can drain a club, and it happened again one month later. Baltimore's wild-card hopes took a serious hit Sept. 20 at Tampa Bay, where the Rays tied the game late and eventually won in 18 innings.
The Orioles were eliminated from postseason play four days later.
"I think we have to be proud of the fact that we gave ourselves a shot to be in the pennant race, and even in the playoff race," said first baseman Chris Davis. "Obviously we're disappointed with the way things have ended. You hate to say things don't go your way, but I feel like really the last couple of weeks, any and everything that could have gone wrong really did."
Davis didn't point to the series against the Diamondbacks, but rather the Rays.
"I really think it was the straw that broke our back," he said. "You could just tell. Guys were emotionally, mentally, physically exhausted. We were reaching for something that wasn't there."
Baltimore won four of its final five games to finish at 85-77 and post a second consecutive winning season.
But go back a little further on the calendar, and the Orioles dropped six in a row that all but ended any playoff talk.
Still, there were positives.
Like Davis making national headlines throughout the season, with his league-leading 53 home runs and 138 RBIs. The slugger was one of five Orioles chosen for the All-Star Game in New York, and one of three starters.
Center fielder Adam Jones and shortstop J.J. Hardy joined him, with third baseman Manny Machado and starting pitcher Chris Tillman along for the trip.
Davis earned Most Valuable Oriole honors this season, but he had some competition.
Jones put together a standout season with 33 homers, 108 RBIs, and a .285 average. Machado, in his first full season, led the league with 51 doubles. Tillman became the club's ace and posted a 16-7 record with a 3.71 ERA.
Machado seems to have survived the biggest scare of the season for Orioles fans - he suffered a scary knee injury Sept. 23 in Tampa and had to carted off the field, but Machado's diagnosis was a torn ligament that might not require surgery.
Two days later, Machado said the results were better than everyone initially expected. He also said he was disappointed he wouldn't be able to help his teammates make their postseason push, one that fell a little short.
"It kind of sucks that it had to end like this, and then on top of that us not being able to make the playoffs makes it that [much] worse," Machado said. "It's unfortunate. Luck hasn't been on our side this year."
Throughout the final week of the regular season, players, coaches, and front office personnel shared similar thoughts about the Orioles' performance: Plenty of good, a little too much bad at times, and the feeling of a missed opportunity to get back into the playoffs.
Take closer Jim Johnson, who collected 50 saves but might not be able to shake nine blown saves from Baltimore fans' minds.
"It was a frustrating season, a difficult, maybe disappointing season, for a lot of us and that's because we have expectations of where we should be," Johnson said. "And that's unfortunately where we ended up."
Baltimore's bullpen, perhaps the biggest factor in last season's postseason berth, didn't put together a repeat performance. The Orioles' 3.52 relief ERA was sixth in the AL, compared to last year's 3.00 ERA that was third best, with an AL-most 32 wins.
Tillman's success was offset a bit by other starters' struggles, from Jason Hammel and Wei-Yin Chen to trade acquisitions Scott Feldman and Bud Norris. Failing to go deep into games put some strain on the bullpen - four pitchers made 65 or more relief appearances.
"We know where we want to be, playing games in October," Tillman said. "I'm disappointed that we are not there. We took some steps in the right direction, some not. I think we've got some work to do going forward."
The offseason began Monday, and several questions will be posed.
Will the Orioles bring back veterans such as second baseman Brian Roberts or left fielder Nate McLouth?
Is there a frontline starting pitcher available in free agency?
Did Danny Valencia hit his way onto next year's team? Can Dylan Bundy return from Tommy John surgery? Where will rookies Kevin Gausman and Jonathan Schoop be on Opening Day?
The answers will come over the next five months.
"I think there's a lot of good things in this season," said Dan Duquette, the Orioles' executive vice president of baseball operations. "The feedback that I'm getting from the fans is that they're happy that we had another winning season, of course, and they got a chance to see a couple of players emerge as stars, Davis and Machado. I think they can see that there's plenty of hope for the future.
"We have some other good players on the horizon, so we've built up our talent base where we should be competitive again."