"I think, still, these are games that people love to watch, and come and have fun," said David Ortiz, who's season is likely over due to a right Achilles injury. "Even [though it doesn't] look like we are going to the playoffs, it's just the kind of game guys always want to try to do something."
The Red Sox will try to secure a series victory on Wednesday night and win consecutive games for the first time since Aug. 26-27 against the Royals. They will send veteran Aaron Cook to the mound against Yankees rookie David Phelps.
Cook and the Red Sox can strike a blow to their rivals postseason hopes, with the Yankees falling back into a tie with the Orioles in the AL East after Tuesday's loss.
"We owe them," Boston manager Bobby Valentine said of New York, which still leads the season series, 8-5. "We haven't beaten them enough this year. I'd like to play some good games."
The Yankees are on a slide of their own, although not so dramatic as the one the Red Sox are facing. New York is 9-15 since Aug. 16, watching its division lead wither along the way.
Valentine is doing his best to make that trend continue, asserting that Boston will play hard against every remaining opponent, contender or otherwise.
"We're going to do our best every second that we're out there no matter who we're playing and try to give our fans, the organization, everything that we think they deserve," Valentine said. "That's a lot more than we've given them so far."
Yankees manager Joe Girardi agreed that opposing managers feel a need to focus on trying to win that day's game.
"When you get teams fighting for something and teams that aren't, managers feel responsible," Girardi said. "They have to do everything they would normally do to win that game."
Yankees: Phelps going through rough patch
The 25-year-old Phelps is 3-4 with a 3.55 ERA this season, but he owns a 4.54 ERA in his eight starts. That number has jumped over his last three outings, in which five home runs have contributed to a 7.20 ERA.
A three-run shot by Matt Wieters led to a four-run first inning for Phelps on Thursday at Baltimore. The right-hander called the game-opening effort "unacceptable" after lasting only four frames and surrendering five runs.
Phelps did author a quality start against the Red Sox on Aug. 18, holding them to three runs in 6 2/3 innings, with seven strikeouts.
Girardi said he'll "take it day-by-day" in deciding who will play first base with Mark Teixeira likely out for most of the rest of the regular season with a left calf injury. Steve Pearce probably will see most of the action against left-handers, with Nick Swisher going against righties.
Pearce played first on Tuesday against Jon Lester, while Swisher, playing right field, snapped an 0-for-28 skid with a first-inning double.
Red Sox: Cook gunning for rare victory
Cook is 3-9 this season, 1-8 in his last 11 starts and 0-4 in his last five. The latest blemish came Wednesday at Seattle, although he held the Mariners to two runs over six innings and struck out a season-high five.
For the season, Cook has collected only 16 punchouts while walking 15 in 76 2/3 innings. He also has surrendered 91 hits, 10 home runs and a .294 opponents' batting average.
In his one start against the Yankees, on July 27, Cook gave up six runs on seven hits in four innings.
Second baseman Dustin Pedroia has hit safely in 31 of 34 games since Aug. 5, batting an AL-best .375 over that stretch to raise his overall mark to .293. He also has 14 doubles among 21 extra-base hits during that period.
Raul Ibanez is 7-for-14 with a double, a home run and six RBIs in his career against Cook.
Cook has struck out more than two batters in two of his 14 starts.