Facing a remaining schedule full of teams in the American League playoff race, the Orioles had the opportunity to win the series against the Colorado Rockies on Sunday afternoon before entering the final phase of the season.
And the Orioles delivered, beating the Rockies, 7-2, as center fielder Adam Jones and first baseman Chris Davis each hit a two-run home run, while right-hander Scott Feldman turned in a quality start, before an announced 22,238 on a cool, overcast day at Camden Yards.
"We came off actually not as bad a road trip as everybody might have felt toward the last part of it," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "But this time of year, the games are dwindling. You've seen our schedule the rest of the way. … I'm not going to place any more importance on this and that. It would have been a tough start to the rest of the season if we weren't able to win the series."
Making only his second start since Aug. 3 after the Orioles shuffled their rotation for last week's West Coast road trip, Feldman had his fourth quality start since coming over to the Orioles in a July 2 trade with the Chicago Cubs. He allowed two runs, five hits and two walks while striking out three in 6 2/3 innings Sunday.
Feldman allowed both runs in the seventh inning after shutting out the Rockies (58-67) for the first six innings. The Orioles (67-56) improved to 4-0 when Feldman pitches at least six innings. Entering Sunday, he was 1-3 with a 7.66 ERA in four starts at Camden Yards this season.
"I don't really look at my numbers until the end of the season," Feldman said. "You could get a couple games where you go in a slump and that can skew your numbers if you've only made a few starts. For me, I don't pay attention to that stuff. I'll look at it at the end of the year, and hopefully, they're good. But I don't lose my confidence if I have a bad game."
Jones' third-inning home run gave the Orioles a 3-0 lead. After Davis hit a two-out double down the right-field line, Jones hit an 81-mph slider from Colorado right-hander Jhoulys Chacin — who pitched after learning of his grandmother's death Saturday night — into the Orioles bullpen for his 25th home run of the year.
With the home run, Jones joined Frank Robinson as the only Orioles outfielders to hit 25 or more home runs in a season at least three times. Jones also reached the mark in 2011 and 2012, while Robinson did it five times in his career.
"Anything with Frank Robinson is awesome," said Jones, who was 3-for-5 in the game. "I've got games to win right now. All those accolades, you can tell me when I'm done playing the game of baseball."
In losing three of their past four games, the Orioles struggled to add runs after taking early leads in games. They'd scored just one run — a ninth-inning home run by catcher Matt Wieters in Friday's loss — after the fifth inning in that span.
Against a Rockies bullpen that had allowed only four runs in its past 28 2/3 innings entering Sunday, the Orioles equaled that number in the series finale. First, second baseman Brian Roberts lined a two-run single up the middle in the seventh to increase the Orioles lead to 5-2. Then, Davis hit his 45th home run of the season to center field with third baseman Manny Machado on first base.
Roberts, who was 2-for-3 in the win, raised his average to .478 in the Orioles' past seven games. He hit safely in six of those games, including five multi-hit performances. His multiple RBIs on Saturday and Sunday mark the first time since April 1-2, 2011 at Tampa Bay — the first two games of that season — that Roberts has recorded multiple RBIs in consecutive games.
"If he can help us drive in runs, start off innings, he's one of the best people at getting on base, drawing walks, still can hit doubles," Jones said. "He's going to be a big help for us if he remains the player he is right now."
The Tampa Bay Rays and left-hander David Price come to Camden Yards for a three-game series beginning Monday night. Twenty-nine of the Orioles' final 39 games this season will be against American League East opponents, and 29 of the remaining games are also against teams with a winning record.
The playoff push comes after the Orioles finished a stretch in which 14 of 17 games were against teams with losing records, which was largely viewed as a chance to make up ground on the AL East division-leading Boston Red Sox and AL wild-card leader Tampa Bay. They went 9-8 over that stretch.
"There's no thinking we've got to go out there and win two out of three against the Rays," Jones said. "No, we've got to go out there tomorrow and then take care of Tuesday and take care of Wednesday. It's that cliché, one game at a time, one pitch at a time. Whoever said that and came up with that, it's true. They're right."
The Orioles are in a similar position to last season, when they were also 67-56 after 123 games. The Orioles were five games out of first place then and could be 4 1/2 or 5 1/2 back this season, pending the outcome of Sunday night's Red Sox-New York Yankees matchup.
With eight other teams in the AL above .500, the Orioles won't completely decide their own fate. But the upcoming stretch gives them a chance to make up ground as they attempt to make the postseason for a second straight year.
"If you're behind, you don't control it," Showalter said. "That's different. We've been through this before, last year, and especially a lot of people saying it won't happen. This is a group that kind of likes being in that position. I think the last thing I would ever do is underestimate what they're capable of."