While the New York Yankees are hoping to secure a playoff berth in the season’s final three weeks, Boston is playing out the string.
That hasn’t stopped the Red Sox from taking pleasure in frustrating their bitter rivals.
After losing the series opener to the division’s last-place team, the Yankees try to avoid falling out of the top spot in the AL East for the first time in three months Wednesday night at Fenway Park.
Jacoby Ellsbury’s ninth-inning single - his fourth hit of the game - drove in the winning run in Boston’s 4-3 victory on Tuesday, dropping New York (79-62) into a first-place tie with Baltimore, which defeated Tampa Bay. The Rays are two games back and visit the Bronx on Friday.
Another loss by the Yankees coupled with an Orioles victory would drop New York into second for the first time since June 10.
“We need to string together some wins,” said Derek Jeter, whose two-run double in the sixth put the Yankees up 3-2. “You wouldn’t be tied for first unless you found ways to win games throughout the course of 140-something games that we’ve played. So we’ve got to do it again.”
Although it has been an utterly forgettable year for Boston (64-78), which is 15 1/2 games out of first and headed to its first losing season since 1997, it has managed to give New York problems. Since July 28, the Reds Sox are 4-2 against the Yankees and 11-25 against everyone else.
“With the Yankees in town, they’re battling for a (playoff) spot and at this point we can just go out and try to play spoiler,” Boston left fielder Cody Ross said.
Robinson Cano has been in the middle of the mess for New York in its last six games versus Boston, batting .043 with seven strikeouts.
Pedro Ciriaco, meanwhile, has been the catalyst for the Red Sox. He scored the winning run in the opener, and is batting .548 with seven RBIs and 11 runs in his last eight in the series.
Boston won Tuesday for just the second time in 13 games, but Dustin Pedroia can hardly be blamed for those struggles. He homered among his three hits in the opener, and is batting .421 with three home runs in his last 10 games.
Pedroia is 1 for 6 lifetime against starter David Phelps (3-4, 3.55 ERA), while Ciriaco is 3 for 4.
Phelps gave up five runs and six hits - including two homers - in four innings of Thursday’s 10-6 loss to the Orioles, but didn’t get the decision. The rookie right-hander has gone less than five innings in his last two starts, and is winless in his last four.
In his lone start against the Red Sox, Phelps allowed three runs and seven hits while striking out seven in 6 2-3 innings of a 4-1 loss Aug. 18.
After going 1 for 12 with runners in scoring position Tuesday, the Yankees now face Aaron Cook (3-9, 5.17), who has a 10.24 ERA in losing his two career starts versus New York. He gave up six runs over four innings in the Bronx on July 27.
The sinkerballer allowed two runs and seven hits in six innings against Seattle on Wednesday in a 2-1 loss. He struck out a season-high five after totaling 11 strikeouts in his first 13 starts, and fell to 1-8 since tossing a two-hit shutout over the Mariners on June 29.