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Are you “amped” for the Red Sox-Yankees series?

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Red Sox President Larry Lucchino was asked about the Sox-Yankees series that kicks off tonight. Specifically, whether or not there’s anything special about it given that both teams are more or less assured of a playoff spot at this point:

“Absolutely,” Lucchino said when asked if he’s still amped. “We want to win, we want home-field advantage. And by the way, if we were playing them in a Tiddlywinks match, or a checkers game, we’d get amped up. At least I would.”

Two questions:

1. When was the last time anyone actually played a game of Tiddlywinks? The 50s? Maybe the 60s?  Definitely a long time ago. I used to think the reference was dated even when I was a kid. Which is fine — I’ll make 1970s and 80s references for the rest of my days because that’s just how people tend to be — but I do notice that kind of thing.

2. You feelin’ the same way, Sox and Yankees fans?  I was on a radio show last week and the topic of Red Sox and Yankees came up. The consensus was that it’s been a long time since it seemed like something more than any other normal series. There’s hype, sure, but it’s just not a hot rivalry right now.  And no, I can’t measure it. Just a feeling.

A feeling based on a lot of things, really.  The fact that each team will, as noted above, make the playoffs.  The fact that it may, tactically speaking, be better to win the wild card this year because I think Detroit will be dangerous in a short series (assuming Detroit finishes behind Texas overall).  The fact that there hasn’t been much in the way of personal animosity between the players in several years (I mean, look how old that pic I used is).  The fact that, since the Sox have won two World Series and the Yankees returned to championship status in 2009, there is less urgency for each team to demonstrate its bonafides.

And of course the unbalanced schedule and the reality of the TV rankings which give us so, so many Yankees-Red Sox games contributes. It’s hard to keep up the intensity for so long. There are too many baseball games for most rivalries to remain hot both on the field and in the public consciousness, and it really does require both.  I like temporary rivalries the sprout up due to a couple of years of close races or a particularly memorable series and then fade away.

Mets-Braves were like that a few years ago. They’re by no means natural rivals — they didn’t share a division until the mid-90s — but both teams being good and playing some really memorable games ten years or so ago was cool.  Same with Reds-Cardinals last year. Giants-Phillies.  Those have come and they will go fairly quickly, and they’re pretty hot when they happen.  And I think they’re more enjoyable because of it.

But the Red Sox-Yankees?  It takes more than history, I think, to really sustain this sort of thing.

Video: Nelson Cruz hits second-longest home run of 2016

ANAHEIM, CA - SEPTEMBER 14:  Nelson Cruz #23 of the Seattle Mariners celebrates his solo homerun with Daniel Vogelbach #20 of the Seattle Mariners to take a 2-1 lead over the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim during the seventh inning at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on September 14, 2016 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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There’s certainly never a bad time to hit a home run, but when you get the opportunity to crush a triple-deck, 493-foot shot off of Tyler Duffey, you should take it. With the Mariners down 2-0 to the Twins in the fourth inning, Cruz hammered a fastball to deep left field for his 39th long ball of the season — and the second-longest home run hit in 2016, to boot.

It doesn’t hurt that the Mariners are 1.5 games back of a playoff spot, although they’ll have to oust the Blue Jays, Orioles, or Tigers to get a wild card. They’ve gone 3-3 in the last week, dropping two consecutive series to the Astros and Blue Jays and taking their series opener against Minnesota 10-1 on Friday night.

Cruz, for his part, entered Saturday’s game with a .299/.337/.610 batting line and six home runs in September. According to ESPN.com’s Home Run Tracker, Cruz sits behind Edwin Encarnacion and Mike Napoli with 13 “no-doubt” home runs in 2016, third-most among major league sluggers. It’s safe to say he can add Saturday’s moonshot to that list.

Marlins’ outfielder and undisputed home run king Giancarlo Stanton remains untouched at the top of the Statcast leaderboard with a 504-ft. home run, and it’s difficult to envision any slugger reaching beyond that before the end of the season. Even so, Cruz won’t need to clear 500 feet to extend an impressive hitting record. One more home run will put the 36-year-old at 40 on the year, making 2016 his third consecutive season with at least 40 homers, and his second such season doing so in Seattle.

Report: John Farrell won’t rule out a postseason return for Pablo Sandoval

BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS - APRIL 11:  Pablo Sandoval #48 of the Boston Red Sox looks on from the dugout before the Red Sox home opener against the Baltimore Orioles at Fenway Park on April 11, 2016 in Boston, Massachusetts. The Orioles defeat the Red Sox 9-7.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
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It’s been a strange season for Red Sox’ third baseman Pablo Sandoval, who lost his starting role in spring training, went 0-for-6 in three regular season appearances, and underwent season-ending surgery to repair a torn labrum in his left shoulder in May. That was the last the Red Sox were supposed to hear about Sandoval until spring 2017, when he was expected to rejoin the team after a lengthy rehab stint in Florida.

On Saturday, manager John Farrell was telling a different story. Per MLB.com’s Sam Blum, Farrell hinted that Sandoval could return to the team as soon as October, albeit in a very limited capacity.

At the time of the surgery, it was all looking at the start of next Spring Training,” Farrell said. “We’re not getting too far ahead of ourselves here, but at the same time, we compliment him for the work he’s put in, the way he’s responded to the rehab, the way he’s worked himself into better condition. We’re staying open-minded.

If the 30-year-old does return in 2016, don’t expect him to look like the three-home run hitter of the 2012 World Series. Should the Red Sox lose another player to injury, Sandoval might be called on as a backup option, but he’s unlikely to see substantial playing time under any other circumstances. Despite making two appearances at DH in the instructional league, Sandoval has not started at third base since undergoing surgery, though Farrell noted that a return to third base would be the next logical step in his recovery process.

Sandoval has yet to hit his stride within the Red Sox’ organization after hitting career-worst numbers in 2015. According to FanGraphs, his Offensive Runs Above Average (Off) plummeted to -20.2, contributing approximately two wins fewer than the average offensive player in 2015. (The Diamondbacks’ Chris Owings held the lowest Off mark in 2015, with -26.3 runs below average.) Sandoval has not appeared in a postseason race since the Giants’ championship run in 2014.

Heading into Saturday evening, the Red Sox could clinch their spot in the postseason with a win over the Rays and an Orioles’ loss.