TORONTO — Orioles center fielder Adam Jones served as the voice of optimism — with a dose of reality — after the Orioles' 4-3 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays on Monday night at Rogers Centre.
Losers of their fifth straight game, the Orioles are heading in the wrong direction fast. But they can look at their seven-game winning streak two weeks ago — which put them on the cusp of the second American League wild-card spot — to see how quickly momentum can shift either way.
This Orioles might not have to be that good down the stretch this time, but they'll have to do better than that 10-8 record, and probably need to be closer to 12-6 to give themselves a chance.
"Everything is magnified in September just for the simple fact that it's win or go home," Jones said. "And when you added that second wild card a couple years ago, you see a lot of fight. You see that there's eight teams in the race for that second wild card or for both wild cards. That's exciting, you know? Us, Mariners, Royals, Anaheim, Yankees, Texas, Minnesota.
"Are we out of it? No. Do we need a boost? Yeah. Do we need to win? Yeah. So just handle our business. Is it easy? Do we think it's going to be easy? Do we think Toronto's just going to lay down and let us beat them? No, of course not. You come out here and you're got to play the game and win."
The Orioles are two games under .500 at 71-73, but are still 3½ games out of the second AL wild-card spot currently held by the Minnesota Twins.
"We've all been in this situation, which I think is really good for this experience," Jones said. "I think we know what needs to be done. It's not like it's 2012, when we didn't really have any idea at this point in the season what to expect. We're five years removed from that. I think we just understand that we just have to win."
The Orioles have been here before … kind of.
For each of the past five seasons, the Orioles have gone into mid-September in the race, and they've emerged with three postseason berths over that span.
But this season is unlike the previous ones in that the second wild-card qualifier might not need to get to the 89-win mark. In four of the previous five years that's at least what the second wild-card team needed, including last season, when the Orioles and Blue Jays earned the wild-card spots with 89-73 records.
However, two years ago, the Houston Astros needed just 86 wins to clinch the second wild card, and the 2015 Orioles are probably the team most like this year's, and the one that faced the toughest path to the postseason with 18 games remaining.
Through 144 games, the 2015 Orioles had a 71-73 record, as does this year's club at the same point after Monday's loss.
As that point in the season, the 2015 Orioles were already 5½ games back of the second wild card, making them perhaps a bigger long shot than this year.
Those Orioles finished the season 10-8, and that was good enough only for a .500 season five games back of the Astros. They would have had to finish the season 15-3 to match the Astros' 86 wins.
Do they have it in them? They haven't sustained that kind of mark, but they did open the season 12-4 and they went 10-3 in a stretch that included their seven-game winning streak last month.
"Win tomorrow," Jones said after Monday night's game. "That seven-game winning streak a couple weeks ago really put us in a good situation and then [the] five-game losing streak put us in another situation, so I think we really need to focus on winning the inning. Obviously, we want to win. We still know we have very good chances to advance our season. If we don't take care of business and take care of the ball, we won't.
"There's nothing else I can really say, except if we win, I think winning solves everything, heals everything, right? Time heals all wounds? Winning heals all wounds, too. Well, most of the them at least."