BOSTON -- Red Sox president Larry Lucchino feels the three-game series his club and the Yankees start on Tuesday still carries its regular cachet, despite the likelihood both teams make the playoffs.
What Lucchino isn't feeding into are rumors that his general manager, Theo Epstein, could depart for a job with the Cubs after the season.
"I have no comment," Lucchino said Monday. "There's rumors about every, about lots of executives in baseball. It's par for the course."
The powerhouse team Epstein's built will enter Tuesday's opener with the Bombers at Fenway Park holding a narrow edge for the top spot in the division.
With the race as tight as it has been, and likely will continue to be, in the American League East, the second-place team won't exactly be out in the cold. Both the Sox and Yankees are on pace to see October baseball, barring an incredible run from another AL team.
Knowing as much, the Sox said Monday they still very much want to beat the Yankees, that their excitement level is still there.
"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."
"Every time we play them it's important," said Boston's scheduled starter for the series finale, Jon Lester. "Every game, from here on out, is important. We're not going to think it any differently between the Yankees or Baltimore or anywhere else. We've just got to keep playing good baseball."
At the same time, Sox players also acknowledged Monday that the series isn't as dire as it perhaps could be.
"Both [teams] are in the playoffs, that's the main thing," Lester said when asked if he preferred a division title to the Wild Card. "It's just getting in the playoffs, and making sure you get hot at the right time, and ride it out as long as you can."
"Both teams are in a pretty good position to make the playoffs," said Adrian Gonzalez. "I guess the importance is who wins the division and who wins the Wild Card. It doesn't [matter how we get into the playoffs], but it's always great for the fans to beat up on the Yanks. Just trying to win a series for the fans."
Evan Drellich is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @EvanDrellich. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.