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The strange importance of winning at Yankee Stadium

The Orioles are four games back of the New York Yankees in the American League East as they begin a three-game series at Yankee Stadium on Tuesday night.

You can do the math. It's a pretty big series, even for July.

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Recent history suggests it's always big for the Orioles when they go to the Bronx – it strangely determines whether they'll play in October.

File this under "surely a coincidence" but the Orioles have had a winning record against the Yankees in New York just four times in the last 28 seasons dating back to 1987.

Those years? 2014, 2012, 1997 and 1989.

So the last three times the Orioles have made the playoffs, they've also had a winning record at Yankee Stadium.

And, in three of the four seasons that the Orioles have made the playoffs in the last three decades, they have escaped Yankee Stadium in the regular season with more wins than losses.

The only time the Orioles made the playoffs and didn't win more than they lost at Yankee Stadium in that span was 1996, when they were 3-4 in the regular season in the Bronx. And they lost Game 1 of the 1996 American League Championship Series thanks, in part, to Jeffrey Maier's fan interference play. So maybe you just want to forget that year in New York altogether.

In 1989, the Orioles didn't make the playoffs, but it was one of their most memorable seasons, battling the eventual division champion Toronto Blue Jays to the final weekend.

It seems strange that not once during all of those forgettable Orioles' years that they didn't win, say, five of nine in New York. Just once.

This season, by the way, the Orioles and Yankees split their four-game series in May at Yankee Stadium. So they have six remaining. And you know what happens if they win four of them. Print the playoff tickets.

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