6) Orioles fall out of contention

The Orioles entered 2015 hoping to defend their first American League East title in 17 years. But they'd have to do it without departed free agents Nick Markakis and Nelson Cruz.

Though Buck Showalter's club never got on the kind of roll that carried it through 2014, the Orioles remained solidly in wild-card contention as the July 31 trade deadline approached.

Their starting pitching did not perform up to expectations, but Chris Davis was back to his slugging ways after a dreadful 2014, and Manny Machado was emerging as one of the best players in the league.

But from Aug. 20 to Sept. 1, the Orioles lost 12 of 13 games, a stretch from which they never recovered, even if they remained on the fringes of contention.

With five straight wins to end the year, they managed to secure a fourth consecutive nonlosing season. But any joy from their mini-streak was largely eclipsed by the impending free agency of Davis, catcher Matt Wieters (who accepted a qualifying offer to return in 2016), reliever Darren O'Day (who re-signed) and starter Wei-Yin Chen. Weary of the club's modest spending habits, many fans already seemed resigned to watching the Orioles' roster grow weaker.


Nick Wass / Associated Press
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