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Chris Davis homers twice, Orioles win to finish 81-81 in what might be end of era

For the past month, Chris Davis has had constant reminders that his Orioles career might be coming to an end, from hearing fans plead with the pending free agent to remain in Baltimore while he's been in the on-deck circle to Sunday morning, when he drove to Camden Yards for the Orioles' final game of the regular season.

"Today when I was driving in, I said, 'Man, this might be the last time I'm making this drive,'" Davis said. "Just times throughout the day, I wasn't trying to dwell on it. When I was walking down the tunnel, it hit me hard. I actually asked Matt [Wieters] before the game started, I said, 'Is it starting to get to you a little bit?' When I was walking down the tunnel, I thought it might be the last time I do this. Hopefully, it's not."

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As the Orioles' disappointing 2015 season came to a merciful end Sunday with a 9-4 victory over the New York Yankees, it felt like the end of an era.

Before Sunday's game, Davis signed leftover bats in silver Sharpie and left them in some of his teammates' lockers. There were far too many handshakes, goodbyes and hugs to simply mean, "See you next spring training."

If it was goodbye, Davis — one of the Orioles' six pending free-agents — gave the home crowd a fitting farewell, hitting a pair of two-run home runs in the season finale, including one in the eighth inning that might have been his final at-bat as an Oriole.

As that familiar crack off Davis' bat was followed by another ball flying onto the right-field flag court of Camden Yards, he ended the season with the second major league home run crown of his career (he also led the majors with 53 in 2013). Davis' 47 homers were the fourth-highest single-season total in Orioles history.

"That's a little too apropos, the last one," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "As it left the ballpark, I just went, 'Really?' To put an exclamation point on the quality of contributions he's had, it's been fun to have a great seat to watch him. He's been very good for our city. He's really established himself here in Baltimore. I felt very honored to be part of that. It's never goodbye, it's see you later. That's the way I always approach the end of the year."

Despite falling far short of their World Series aspirations following last year's trip to the American League Championship Series, the Orioles (81-81) won their fifth straight game and finished the season at .500.

"They just don't give in," Showalter said. "I was kidding them that they're my cup of coffee every day because regardless of how you come in or out, they come in the next day ready to play. Everybody feeds off that — coaches, teammates. … Their competitive fire never wavered. We looked at everything that happened, the self-inflicted challenges, and that's why, because they're such an accountable bunch."

Now, the Orioles enter their most uncertain offseason in years. Six key players — headlined by Davis, catcher Matt Wieters, left-hander Wei-Yin Chen and reliever Darren O'Day — will become free agents, and the club isn't likely to bring many back.

"You're trying not to dwell on it [during the game] because you have a job to do," Showalter said. "But anybody who says, 'No, I just pass it off,' nobody's that cold. You spend as much time together as we do and go through, I don't want to say battles and fights. … But it's more than just somebody picking your friends for you. It's become quite a family, something that I really wanted to do when I came here — make everybody feel like they had a stake in this."

Together, much of this group resurrected the Orioles from 14 years of losing. And while each passing year in this game means change, this Orioles club will potentially be more affected than most.

"We had a great group of guys and it was fun to be a part of," Wieters said. "And it was fun and unique seeing us all kind of come up together and seeing us playing together. Where we went from where we were is special and I think any time you can build on something, what we had here before, and to make us competitive in the division is special."

Davis, who will be one of the most coveted hitters on the market, said he'd like to stay, but given the Orioles' frugal approach to free agency, even the fans at Camden Yards seemed to think this was goodbye.

After Davis rounded the bases for his second homer, he was welcomed to the dugout by a standing ovation from the announced crowd of 33,224, which also gave Davis a rousing ovation when he took his defensive position as first base in the top of the ninth.

As Davis did a postgame TV interview, fans chanted loudly, "We want Chris," and Davis tipped his cap to the crowd before disappearing down the dugout steps.

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"I understand that the season is over and things are going to change," Davis said. "Some things are going to change. But at the same time, I don't want to turn the page just yet. I'm going to go home, reflect, think about everything's that's happened. I'm hopeful that I'll know something pretty soon."

In what might have been his final game in orange and black, Wieters — a home-grown Oriole who had been with the big league club the past seven seasons —drove in two runs with a two-out single in the first off Yankees starter Michael Pineda.

"It's a good way to finish," Wieters said. "It was emotional before the game, and then the game came and I was able to focus on the task at hand and then when it's over, it's over and you soak it in for a little bit ... and be ready for an offseason. … There will be a lot of things that come this offseason that I have no idea what to expect."

O'Day, who has been a late-inning rock in the club's bullpen the past four years, pitched a perfect eighth.

Right-hander Chris Tillman (11-11) held the Yankees (87-75) to two runs on seven hits over 51/3 innings, striking out five and walking four.

The Orioles' first five runs were scored with two outs, including J.J. Hardy's RBI single in the fourth, which was followed by Gerardo Parra's two-run single.

After Zach Britton closed the game with a perfect ninth inning, Showalter stood just beyond the front of the dugout and greeted each of his players with a handshake and a hug.

"You just try to play better baseball and remind everybody how great this place is and can be," Showalter said. "Every time there's the first hint of fall in the air, I want people thinking about playoff baseball and the World Series. That's why we get up in the morning, that's why you go to spring training, that's why you do the things we're going to do between now and February.

"We're not giving in. It's not good enough, though. It's not good enough. 81-81 isn't good enough. We're trying to win. We want to be the last time standing, the last city standing, and our city deserves that."

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