NEW YORK -- The Yankees entered Thursday trailing the Rays by 2 1/2 games for the final American League Wild Card spot. But with a four-game series with the Red Sox beginning on Thursday and three more games scheduled for next weekend, New York has other thoughts.
New York trails Boston by eight games in the AL East race, but with 23 games remaining in the season -- 17 against division foes and seven vs. the Red Sox -- the Yankees still haven't given up hope of winning the division.
"Obviously, we still have a chance," reliever David Robertson said. "We have seven games left against Boston, and if we can somehow win all seven, we're right there. There's still hope."
The last time the Yankees faced the Red Sox, Boston starter Ryan Dempster hit Alex Rodriguez as tempers flared at Fenway Park. Since then, New York has won 12 of 17 games and crawled even closer to a playoff spot.
"It fired the team up a little bit, not that we weren't fired up -- I think anytime you go into Boston, you're going to be fired up," manager Joe Girardi said. "But sometimes incidents like that can change things. I'm not saying that it actually did, but sometimes it can, and we've been playing pretty well since then."
The Yankees players are hoping to carry that same momentum into this weekend's installment in the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry.
"They've been playing good baseball all year, and it doesn't matter who we're playing," center fielder Brett Gardner said. "But especially them and Baltimore -- teams we're fighting against -- we've got to win."
"Same game, like you're facing some other team," second baseman Robinson Cano said. "Just have to go out there and be positive in our mind and give everything that we've got."
"It's a big game, this series. It definitely is," closer Mariano Rivera said. "Good thing we're playing at home. Definitely, we feel ready for them."
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and read his MLBlog, Bombers Beat. Josh Vitale is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.