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Dan Shaughnessy

Meatballs are served in the Bronx, indigestion felt in Boston

Red Sox starting pitcher Nick Pivetta (left) hands the ball to manager Alex Cora, who had to come and get him in the fifth inning Saturday night.FRANK FRANKLIN II/Associated Press

NEW YORK — While New England slept, the roller coaster Red Sox fell into fourth place Saturday in a brutal, 14-1 Bronx beatdown. The Sox come into Sunday’s final game before the All-Star break a mere 1½ games ahead of the surging last-place Orioles.

So while they may still be playoff bound — the illusion of contention is always there when six of 15 teams make it to the postseason — the 2022 Red Sox are also a candidate to finish in last place for the fifth time in 11 seasons. The Red Sox are 15½ games behind the first-place Yankees.

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Saturday’s drubbing was over in the first inning when Matt Carpenter (seven RBIs) crushed a three-run homer off Sox righty Nick Pivetta. Boston’s workhorse in the first half, Pivetta is worn down, and like the rest of his teammates, fares poorly against the American League East. Pivetta is 1-5 with a 7.57 ERA against division opponents.

The division has been a problem for the Sox since Opening Day. Boston is 12-25 against the AL East and 0-9-1 in series against the Yankees, Blue Jays, Rays, and Orioles.

Chris Sale, who has won 11 games in four seasons since signing his five-year, $145 million contract extension, gets the ball Sunday against Yankee ace Gerrit Cole. Sale was impressive (five scoreless innings) in his comeback start in Tampa on Tuesday, but has not pitched in Yankee Stadium since August 2019 when he was ejected after giving up eight runs in 3 2/3 innings of a 9-2 Sox loss.

The Sox felt pretty good about themselves Saturday after a thrilling, 5-4, 11th-inning win Friday night. That victory gave Boston three straight wins over the Yankees.

The feel-good vibe was squashed quickly when Pivetta came to the mound with a tray full of meatballs from the Old Luna Restaurant on White Plains Road in the Bronx. Eager to get out of their slump (New York came into the night having lost five of six), the Bronx Bombers barreled up four straight balls on Pivetta and took a 4-1 lead on Carpenter’s moonball into the cozy seats in right. It was not Carpenter’s only three-run shot of the evening.

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Pivetta had eight wins in the first half and was Boston’s only consistent starter, but he’s out of gas. He was mercifully lifted in the fifth after surrendering a homer to Aaron Judge and two more hard shots. Pivetta was replaced by Darwinzon Hernandez, who immediately yielded another three-run shot to Carpenter.

It was Tank City from that point forward. Kaleb Ort (another Chaim Bloom Dumpster Dive) came on in the sixth and served a two-run homer to Judge (No. 33 — same as Roger Maris before the Break in 1961) between a pair of walks. The Sox put up little resistance the rest of the night.

All in all, this was not a great Saturday for Red Sox ownership. It was reported that Nationals superstar outfielder Juan Soto turned down a 15-year, $440 contract extension. A Scott Boras client (like Xander Bogaerts), Soto is a fearsome young hitter, not unlike Boston’s Rafael Devers, who hit his 22nd home Saturday. The Sox and Devers have thus far made no progress on a contract extension and if 23-year-old Soto is setting the market, it’s not good news for Chaim Bloom and the Tampa Bay Way.

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If that wasn’t enough negativity for one day, the Red Sox have to be uncomfortable with their FSG partner LeBron James saying on his YouTube show, “The Shop,’’ that Celtic fans are “racist as [expletive].’’

This is not a good headline for the brand of the ever-expanding Fenway Sports Group. Celtic fans are Red Sox fans. They are of Boston. Perhaps Tom Werner should speak with LeBron.

The good news is that the Red Sox are still in the wild-card hunt and next weekend they can celebrate David Ortiz’s induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame. At this hour, living in the past certainly seems safer and more fun that contemplating the Red Sox’ immediate future.


Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at daniel.shaughnessy@globe.com. Follow him @dan_shaughnessy.