By Larry Fine
NEW YORK (Reuters) - The Baltimore Orioles bowed out of the World Series race on Friday, beaten 3-1 by the New York Yankees in the deciding fifth and final game of their American League Divisional Series.
The disappointment was obvious but soon replaced by a resolve to prove their startling turnaround season was no fluke.
A year ago, the Orioles ended the regular season with a dismal record of 69-93, finishing at the bottom of the American League East standings for the fourth season in a row.
But, they reversed those numbers this year, finishing 93-69, then gave the Yankees all they could handle in the playoffs.
"The next few days when you sit down and reflect over what's happened the last six, seven months, there's a lot of things to be proud of," slugger Chris Davis told reporters.
"We came from being a bottom of the division team to a competitive baseball team that was playing in the postseason. We're not where we want to be, but we definitely made a lot of strides in the right direction this year."
Baltimore battled New York through the stretch run, claiming a share of the AL East lead late in the season and not relinguishing their division title hopes until the last game.
They traveled to Texas and beat the two-time league champion Rangers in a one-game wildcard playoff to earn the right to play the Yankees in a series that went down to the wire.
"This was a huge step this year," said left-fielder Nate McLouth.
"The farther and farther along we got, the deeper into the season, other people were surprised but I don't think we were surprised. Once you start expecting to win I think that's a good frame of mind to be in."
Some of that positive frame of mind could be attributed to manager Buck Showalter, who previously managed the Yankees, Arizona Diamondbacks and Rangers before taking the Baltimore job during the 2010 season.
"It's been about as much fun as I have had in the big leagues, watching how they play the game every day, the standard they held themselves to and the way they raised the bar in Baltimore," he said.
Center-fielder Adam Jones said getting into the postseason would make the young team even better next time around.
"The postseason experience is unbelievable," he said. "We put ourselves in the gauntlet to roll the dice and we just came up a little short.
"Now it's like anything else is a failure. We've got here once, we need to repeat this. We proved we can play. I'm proud of every last man in this clubhouse."
Catcher Matt Wieters said the loss to New York would motivate the Orioles to work even harder.
"It was a good year. Only a few teams get the shot to get to the playoffs and have a chance," said Wieters. "Everyone in that dugout felt we had a chance to win it all.
"We can draw off this feeling of disappointment and ramp up the off-season workouts even more, knowing we had a good team this year but if everyone improves and gets better we like our chances."
(Editing by Julian Linden)