BOSTON — The Orioles could be eliminated from postseason consideration as early as Monday.
It wasn't that long ago when the Orioles had won 11 of 15, just swept three games against the Washington Nationals and were 3½ games back of the second American League wild-card spot.
Since then — following three losses to the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park — the Orioles have gone backward. And if you combine an Orioles loss with an Astros win in Seattle on Monday, the Orioles will be officially eliminated.
They no longer have an uphill climb. They're climbing Mount Everest without any ladders. See the movie if you don't get the reference.
Right now, they have little more to play for than pride. Well, there's also nostalgia, considering this might be the final week that pending free agents Chris Davis, Matt Wieters, Wei-Yin Chen, Darren O'Day and Steve Pearce put on Orioles uniforms.
Their final homestand of the season includes four games against the AL East-leading Toronto Blue Jays and then three games against the New York Yankees. Both teams have plenty to play for.
The Blue Jays, who open a four-game series at Camden Yards tonight, have already clinched a playoff spot, but they could clinch their first division title since 1993 this week in Baltimore. Toronto's magic number — any combination of Jays wins and Yankees losses — is four, so they could clinch the division as soon as Tuesday.
Chris Tillman, who will start Monday's series opener against Toronto, has struggled against the Blue Jays this season. He is 0-4 with a 15.50 ERA in five starts against Toronto in 2015. The Blue Jays are hitting a robust .407 against him and nine of the 19 homers he's allowed this season have come against Toronto.
Toronto starter Marco Estrada is 2-1 with a 3.32 ERA in three starts this season against the Orioles. Over his last two starts, which includes seven innings of one-hit ball on June 19, Estrada has held the Orioles to three runs on three hits over 12 innings.
— Orioles manager Buck Showalter bemoaned having to play two late-season day games at Fenway Park on this trip because of how much the shadows on the field impact the game and, he said, give pitchers an inherent advantage.
"I've been coming here for years, pitchers throwing out of the sun and the shadows," Showalter said. "That's why you knew there weren't going to be many runs scored today."
The Orioles dropped two fly balls — they also made three errors on Saturday, all on grounders — but Showalter said the ball that Adam Jones dropped in center field in the fifth inning shouldn't have been an error.
"It's a little easier to pitch in some conditions we've had here," Showalter said. "We pitched well enough to win some of these games here. I wish the official scorer would stand out there. … I never understood why a guy gets an error on a ball he can't see."
— It might be the only positive to take out of Sunday's game, but right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez is finishing this season strong. He allowed just two runs on six hits over seven innings for his third quality start over his last four outings.
"Ubaldo's been solid," Showalter said. "Like I say all the time, through ups and downs, he takes the ball every fifth day, and he's ready to pitch. … He deserved a better fate as did [Kevin] Gausman [on Friday] I thought."
Over his past five starts, Jimenez owns a 2.93 ERA. Take away his Sept. 15 start against the Red Sox — when he allowed four runs over five innings and walked five — and he's allowed just six earned runs over his past four starts spanning 25 2/3 innings.
"That's what you want to do is you want to finish strong," Jimenez said. "No matter what happens before you have to find a way to survive through the season. I think that's what I've been able to do. I've been more consistent lately, I'm going out there and throwing more strikes — besides the last game when I walked five guys, it's been pretty good."
Jimenez has one start left this season and with a strong performance in his last outing, he has the opportunity to win his 13th game and get his ERA near the 4.00 mark on the season.