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.

Manoah, Merrifield lead Blue Jays to 3-1 win over Rays

Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports
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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Alek Manoah pitched seven shutout innings, Whit Merrifield hit a three-run homer and the Toronto Blue Jays regained the top AL wild-card spot with a 3-1 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays on Saturday night.

The Blue Jays lead Tampa Bay by one game. The top wild card finisher will host all games in their best-of-three opening-round series, while the other two wild cards play strictly on the road.

Manoah (15-7) scattered four hits, walked two and struck out eight while throwing a season-high 113 pitches. The righty worked out of a two-on, one-out jam in the sixth by striking out Randy Arozarena and getting a flyout from David Peralta.

Jordan Romano replaced Tim Mayza with two on and two outs in the eighth and allowed pinch-hitter Harold Ramirez‘s RBI infield single but avoided further damage by striking out Manuel Margot. Romano finished the game to get his 35th save in 41 chances.

Tampa Bay starter Drew Rasmussen (10-7) gave up one run, three hits and two walks in 6 1/3 innings. He struck out five.

The teams combined for 31 runs, with the Rays accounting for 20, in the first two games of the series that were both won by Tampa Bay.

Arozarena got the Rays’ first hit off Manoah with a two-out double in the fourth. He became the first Tampa Bay player and 20th big leaguer to have 40 doubles, 20 homers and 30 stolen bases in a season.

Teoscar Hernandez ended Rasmussen’s night with a double in the seventh. Brooks Raley entered and, after a walk to pinch-hitter Danny Jansen, Merrifield made it 3-0 on his 10th homer of the season.

Merrifield homered twice in Thursday night’s 10-5 loss to the Rays.

Alejandro Kirk opened the second with a single before Rasmussen retired 12 in a row until Merrifield’s leadoff double in the sixth.

Plate umpire Corey Blaser took a hard foul ball by Margot on the mask in the eighth but remained in the game.

HONORING KK

The Rays posted a thank you on the message board for CF Kevin Kiermaier, who is out for the season following left hip surgery. Kiermaier is in the final season of a $53.5 million, six-year contract that includes a club option for 2023 that is expected to be declined.

TEAM AWARDS

Rays ace Shane McClanahan was voted the Don Zimmer MVP award winner by members of the Tampa Bay chapter of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. CF Jose Siri was selected as the outstanding rookie. 3B Yandy Diaz received the Paul C. Smith Champions award as the player who best exemplifies the spirit of true professionalism on and off the field.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Blue Jays: RHP Nate Pearson (lat strain) allowed three runs and three hits over two-thirds of an inning for Triple-A Buffalo.

Rays: 2B Brandon Lowe (lower back) is done for the season.

UP NEXT

McClanahan (12-6), pulled from his start Tuesday in the fifth inning due to neck tightness, will face Blue Jays RHP Ross Stripling (8-4) on Sunday.