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dan shaughnessy

With atmosphere at Fenway electric, it’s hard for Red Sox to admit this is a lost season

Rafael Devers celebrates his two-run in the sixth inning, which provided breathing room in the Red Sox' 3-0 victory over the Yankees.Carlin Stiehl for The Boston Globe

Red Sox-Yankees. Good close games, full houses, and the Red Sox competed.

Sweet. Just like the old days . . .

Except for those nasty American League East standings that show the first-place Yankees 15½ games ahead of the last-place Red Sox.

There are 46 games left in the Red Sox’ Lost Season. Thirty-two of them will be against the Yankees, Blue Jays, Rays, and Orioles and we all know the Red Sox fare poorly when playing teams in their own division. The last-place Sox are 15-30 against the AL East.

Boosted by Michael Wacha’s stellar pitching (seven innings, two hits) and a monstrous two-run homer by Rafael Devers, the Sox beat the Yankees, 3-0, on ESPN Sunday night. Boston is 6-7 against New York this year and 11-7 against the Yankees at Fenway over the last two seasons.

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(Aside: Sunday’s game took 2 hours 15 minutes. It was like Whitey Ford against Earl Wilson from 1962. The Sox and Yankees played three games in three days in less than nine total hours).

Sox manager Alex Cora is still talking about playoff possibilities. The illusion of contention lives thanks to an expanded “everybody gets a trophy” wild-card playoff format.

“Math-wise, it looks challenging,’’ Cora said before the game. “But I still believe we’re going to have one of those big runs . . . I think there’s time. I do believe that.’’

This is what he has to say, right? I mean, we don’t expect the manager of the local nine to tell us, “Douse the fire and call in the dogs, the hunt’s all over!’’

Swell. But we are way past the Jim Mora “Playoffs?” moment of this Lost Season. The “challenging math” that Cora mentioned was Baseball Reference’s data showing Boston with a 4.4 percent chance of making the playoffs.

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Cynics and realists know it’s been over for a while.

Alex Cora, signing autographs for fans before Sunday's game, still believes his team can make the playoffs.Carlin Stiehl for The Boston Globe

Some would say it was over when Chaim Bloom elected to start the season with a subpar bullpen and no big league right fielder or first baseman. Others might point to the night before the trade deadline when Bloom cut out the heart of his team, dealing a starting catcher who’d been a member of the organization since 2008.

It would be interesting to know when Red Sox ownership came to know this was a Lost Season, but its clear it has pretty much ghosted the ‘22 Townies — an indication that the baseball club is a lesser holding in the ever-expanding Fenway Sports Group empire.

I mean, you can’t honor David Ortiz every night for the rest of the season, right?

What troubles me most about the 2022 Red Sox is the thought of what the 2023 edition might look like. (I wonder if legendary Dennis Eckersley feels the same way and doesn’t want to stick around to see where this is going.)

We know you can pretty much say goodbye to Xander Bogaerts, Nate Eovaldi, and slumping (46 RBIs on Aug. 14!) J. D. Martinez. Will the Sox waive J. D. before the end of the season to sneak under the luxury-tax threshold? Will they try Bobby Dalbec at second base once Trevor Story takes over short for Bogaerts? Where will Jarren Duran fit now that he’s been exposed as a marginal big leaguer who just lost most of his trade value? Who is the starting catcher? And who are the starting pitchers? (There’s a chance the Sox can finish this season without a single pitcher winning 10 games.)

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The good news is that the Sox just engaged in a fun weekend festival with the hated Yankees, taking two of three. They had a nice comeback win Friday, a walkoff special that kept the first-place Bombers in freefall. None of the three games took more than 3:24. Shocking.

“Nothing like it,’’ said Boston’s new first baseman, veteran Eric Hosmer, who won a World Series against the New York Mets with the Kansas City Royals. “The atmosphere was incredible.’’

It’s true. Friday, Saturday, and Sunday were three of the best nights at the ballpark this season.

Let the record show that Cora is very happy with Hosmer, Tommy Pham (three more hits), and Reese McGuire — the three players Bloom acquired after giving up on the season by trading Christian Vázquez. One gets the sense Cora would have been a lot happier with his team if he had Hosmer, Pham, and McGuire all season long.

Pham had three hits in Sunday's win over the Yankees.Carlin Stiehl for The Boston Globe

The Sox seem to find their way against these Yankees. At times, they look like they could have been a dangerous October entry.

Too bad it’s a Lost Season.

This could have been fun.


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