Jeter scores winning run ... against Yankees?

July 10th, 2022

BOSTON -- For Jeter Downs, the day he will never forget -- the one that ended with him scoring a walk-off run on a headfirst dive to propel the Red Sox past the Yankees, 6-5, in 10 innings -- started with the rush of getting called up to the Sox for the second time in less than a month.

Not just a rush of adrenaline, but a literal rush.

Boston’s No. 5 prospect was scratched from Triple-A Worcester’s lineup shortly before its 4:05 p.m. ET game was scheduled to start. But he hung around in the dugout and supported his WooSox teammates because the Red Sox weren’t sure they were going to call him up due to their roster flux.

It was around the fifth inning in Worcester when Downs was told to drive on up to Fenway Park. The drive is about an hour and the Red Sox were playing at 7:15, so he didn’t have time to spare.

He somehow navigated his way through game traffic and reported for duty on time.

By the time manager Alex Cora called on Downs in the bottom of the eighth inning to pinch-run at second base for J.D. Martinez, Downs once again needed to be in a rush.

As Alex Verdugo’s single against dominant Yankees closer Clay Holmes squirted into left, Downs roared around third and scored the tying run as a crowd of 36,945 erupted with joy. It would be the second-biggest run Downs scored on Saturday.

“It felt like the ground was trembling,” said Downs. “Last time I was here for my debut, I said this place is magical. You can’t replicate it in any way, shape or form.”

It seemed as if the first run in the Major League career of Downs was going to go for naught when the relentless Yankees moved back on top by two runs in the top of the 10th inning with RBI doubles by Aaron Judge and Anthony Rizzo.

But the Red Sox, who have seen the injuries and the losses pile up of late, stayed at it and created another opportunity for Downs, the kid who was named after Derek Jeter when he was born in 1998 and grew up a Yankees fan.

With runners at the corners and one out in the home half of the 10th, Downs got enough of the first pitch from lefty reliever Wandy Peralta to punch it through the hole between first and second base, just out of the reach of Gleyber Torres and into right field for an RBI single.

It was the first hit and RBI in the career of Downs, and it was now 5-4, Yankees.

“He has a really good changeup and he likes to throw it, so I was just trying to get something up and put a good swing on it, and I got it off the end of the bat a little bit, but I stayed on the ball just enough to get into the four-hole,” said Downs.

The moment was huge, but the Red Sox still needed to win the game.

With the Red Sox down to their last out, up stepped Verdugo again and he hammered a 2-0 sinker to right. Rob Refsnyder scored easily from third, followed by a sprinting Downs, who came around from second again and got his hand on home plate as Fenway went into a state of bedlam.

On June 22, the day Downs made his MLB debut and went 0-for-4, Derek Jeter tweeted his well wishes to the prospect who was named after him and ended the note with this.

“Congratulations and good luck … unless you are playing the Yankees.”

But there was Downs -- on the 11-year-anniversary of Jeter belting career hit No. 3,000 -- leading his Red Sox to a big rivalry win.

“I mean, it’s pretty ironic,” said Downs. “It’s kind of funny that my first big league hit, RBI and run came against the Yankees. You can’t write a better story.”

This is especially true because Downs and Verdugo -- the two key players sent to Boston in the trade that moved the great Mookie Betts to Los Angeles -- beat the Yankees in tandem on Saturday. The Yankees had been 48-0 this season in games they led after seven innings.

“For him to come up in a big situation, not try to do too much -- because a lot of guys right there would try to launch, try to do something crazy -- he stuck with his approach, stayed on a good pitch and shot the hole,” said Verdugo. “Good things happened.”

It was a lot to process for Downs, who got the callup on a day Rafael Devers (back) couldn’t play and Christian Arroyo (left groin strain) was placed on the injured list.

“Someone asked me how I’m feeling,” said Downs. “I said I’m pretty numb right now, so that’s how it’s going so far. We all have dreams, we all have wishes, but I don’t think you can make something like this up to be honest. I dream a lot. I envision things. But this is something you can’t really put into words.”