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Breakout seasons helped define O's in 2013

Emergence of Davis, Machado kept club contending into late September

BALTIMORE -- If 2012 was the year the Orioles recaptured the magic, then 2013 was a year of disappointment. Sure, there were numerous individual performances that stood out on the O's roster, but after advancing to the American League Division Series a year ago, expectations were high and they fell short.

Baltimore stayed in playoff contention until the end of September, with standout seasons from Chris Davis, Adam Jones, Manny Machado and Chris Tillman helping to keep the club afloat. But some spotty starting pitching, a lineup that relied too often on the home run and a rough stretch for closer Jim Johnson -- who was traded to Oakland this offseason -- proved too much to overcome.

With their core intact and time left to add talent to the roster, there is hope the Orioles can make some better memories in 2014. Here is one final look back at the highs and lows of 2013, recapped by the top five storylines of the calendar year.

5. Contracts extended for Duquette and Showalter

The Orioles' top two men -- Dan Duquette, named executive vice president of baseball operations in 2011, and Buck Showalter, who was a finalist for 2012 AL Manager of the Year -- received a rousing vote of confidence from the front office in mid-January with contract extensions that run through 2018.

The news, the club's biggest winter move, gave stability to the Orioles and peace of mind for fans coming off the organization's most successful season since 1997.

4. Machado's 'wow' factor

Need proof that this was the year Machado got his due? Never mind the All-Star selection or Gold Glove Award, just watch the 21-year-old's fantastic play in early July against the Yankees. There is Machado, in his first full season, knocking down the ball, chasing it into foul territory and throwing off-balance across his body to get the out at first base.

Machado was a wonder in his two-month stint to finish 2012, but it was '13 that the Orioles -- and baseball as a whole -- was treated to a daily show of one of the game's most exciting young players. Machado, who had an AL-best 51 doubles, also made headlines for the wrong reasons when he suffered a gruesome-looking knee injury during the final week of the season. He has started light running in his rehab, and the phenom could be ready by the start of the season, giving the O's hope for a bright, bright future.

3. The emergence of Tillman

The Orioles had a lot of guys turn in good seasons, but Tillman's was perhaps the most refreshing for an organization that had failed many times to turn out viable, homegrown rotation arms.

Out of Minor League options, Tillman had a less-than-ideal Spring Training that ended with a trip to the disabled list (abdominal strain) to open the season. But he shook off the slow start to become the Orioles' ace, named as a fill-in for the All-Star team and compiling as many wins in '13 (16) as in the previous four seasons combined. Tillman finished with a 3.71 ERA in 33 games and developed into a quiet team leader, giving O's fans hope about some of their cavalry.

2. Davis' record-breaking season

Absurd. Unbelievable. By May, reporters already had run out of phrases for Davis. The first baseman eclipsed his career high in home runs and RBIs by the All-Star break and continued his torrid pace in the second half.

Davis went on to hit 53 homers -- setting a team record -- and 138 RBIs and finished third in AL MVP voting. A Silver Slugger Award winner and the top vote-getter for the All-Star Game, Davis captured national headlines, often carrying the Orioles through tough stretches.

1. Falling short of a repeat trip to the playoffs

The bottom line of 2013, for all its good moments, was that the Orioles fell short of their ultimate goal to play into October.

The O's officially were eliminated after a 3-2 loss Sept. 25 as Baltimore fans dealt with an unfamiliar feeling of disappointment after years of watching a losing team. The bar has been set high again in '14, and fans are hungry for playoff baseball to return to Camden Yards. Will the calendar flip lead to a postseason berth?

Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for

Baltimore Orioles, Chris Davis, Adam Jones, Manny Machado, Chris Tillman