For starters, the Yankees do not really have to. They have one game left in St. Petersburg, where the Rays pulled within 1 1/2 games of first place in the AL East with a pair of wins to open the series. After the Yankees wrap up the set with Wednesday's game, it's straight to Baltimore, where the Orioles will host a critical four-game set.
But mostly, Girardi continues to insist his club is unconcerned, even though New York's AL East lead once reached 10 games during its 84-day stretch as the only team atop the division. And losing is nothing new for the Yankees at Tropicana Field, where they are 1-7 this season and have lost 11 of their last 12 dating to last year.
"We were three games out after the first three games, and people were worried about us," said Girardi, who was ejected from Tuesday's game by home-plate umpire Tony Randazzo for arguing a called third strike in the fourth inning. "I didn't really prepare our guys for that. The guys know we have to go out and win; that's the bottom line."
The Yankees started their season on the wrong end of a sweep in St. Petersburg, then lost two of three games in a July series at Tropicana Field. On Wednesday night, they'll send Hiroki Kuroda to the mound opposite Matt Moore.
Kuroda is no stranger to pennant races, having helped the Dodgers advance to the National League Championship Series in 2008 and '09. Although Moore was with Tampa Bay as the Rays made a late-season surge to return to the playoffs last year, his role this year is a new one.
The rookie left-hander made three appearances in 2011, but his only start came against these Yankees, whom he shut out over five innings, striking out 11 with less than a week remaining in the regular season -- a pleasant surprise for a spot start. Now, Moore is a key part of a Rays rotation that's attempting to secure a sweep and make another push into the postseason.
"I think the past two Septembers have been a little different," said Moore, who pitched seven innings of three-run ball in a win over the Yankees in July. "There have been a few more chartered plane rides and better food. My body feels better than it did, or at least right around the same as it did last year."
New York: Healthy Cano homers after hip scare
Robinson Cano needed batting practice to prove he could play on Tuesday, a day after he felt his left hip tighten while playing the field, and he bolstered his argument during his first at-bat in New York's 5-2 loss. After convincing Girardi he could crack the starting lineup as the designated hitter, Cano hit a first-inning two-run homer to get the Yankees started.
Cano said he hoped to be back at second base for the series finale, but Girardi could exercise caution and avoid playing the slugger on the artificial surface at Tropicana Field.
"He's an important bat for us," Girardi said. "Hopefully, this is not something that will linger and he's OK and we can move on. That would be a definite loss for us."
Tampa Bay: Pena searches for old form
Carlos Pena is on pace for his fewest home runs since he emerged as a serious power threat with 46 homers and 121 RBIs in 2007, but that will not stop the Rays from handing out a figurine of Pena to the first 10,000 fans at Wednesday's finale.
The 34-year-old Pena went 0-for-1 with two walks and a strikeout in Tuesday's game, and he's hitting just .191 with 17 home runs and 51 RBIs on the season. Pena's 163 strikeouts are fewer than only Adam Dunn among all Major League hitters. Pena was always a victim of strikeouts, but his previous career high was 166 in 2008.
Pena is working with hitting coach Derek Shelton and watching old film of himself in an attempt to return to his old form.
"As we go along in this career, we make so many adjustments; we try so many different things," Pena said. "After a couple years have gone by, you might be doing something totally different than you were a few years ago, just because you adjust on a daily basis. We're trying to get back to what's natural for me, what's easiest for me."
Before Wednesday's game, Yankees left-hander Andy Pettitte will face hitters for the first time since he went on the disabled list in June with a fractured left fibula. The Yankees expect that the 40-year-old Pettitte will have to do all of his rehabilitation work in simulated settings due to the nature of the Minor League schedule in September.
The Yankees held a lead in seven of their past 10 losses, including both at St. Petersburg.