Rice makes Yanks history with 3-HR game vs. Red Sox

Against hometown club, Rice becomes first rookie in franchise history to accomplish feat

July 6th, 2024

NEW YORK -- As a young fan growing up in enemy territory, once traveled from the rocky shores of tiny Cohasset, Mass., to proudly announce his allegiance, surreptitiously scrawling “Yankees Rule!” on the right-field Pesky Pole at Boston’s Fenway Park.

Rice again left his mark on the historic rivalry on Saturday afternoon, enjoying a three-homer performance and his first Yankee Stadium curtain call as the Yankees snapped their four-game skid with a 14-4 victory over the Red Sox.

“It’s definitely a day I’ll never forget,” Rice said. “I’m just pumped that it was a big-time win for us, a good bounceback win, and over my hometown team. So it’s pretty cool.”

The rookie catcher/first baseman led off the first inning by taking Josh Winckowski deep for his second career homer, then launched a three-run homer in the fifth off Chase Anderson, part of a seven-run frame for the Bombers.

Rated as the Yanks’ No. 12 prospect by MLB Pipeline, Rice completed his seven-RBI showing with a three-run shot off Anderson in the seventh inning. The 25-year-old Rice is the first rookie in Yankees history to hit at least three home runs in a game.

“What a game,” manager Aaron Boone said. “In the midst of what we’re going through, to set the tone right away in the first inning with a homer and then put together a legendary day, it’s just really big time. But it’s in line with the at-bats he’s been giving.”

With directions from his teammates, Rice was summoned to the top steps of the dugout, where he wholesomely acknowledged the cheering crowd with a broad grin and a wave of his batting helmet.

“Honestly, it was all happening so fast,” Rice said. “I think I was still just coming off the high of hitting the home run. I was just walking through the dugout and then I heard everyone yelling at me to do something. I didn’t even know what they were talking about, but as they slowly guided me toward the steps, I was like, ‘Oh, dude. A curtain call. That’s pretty cool.’”

The Yankees have had 26 three-homer performances in the regular season. Aaron Judge had the club’s most recent, last Sept. 22 vs. Arizona.

Rice’s seven RBIs match Lou Gehrig (July 23, 1925, vs. Washington) for the most by a Yankees rookie. He is also the third rookie in Major League history with a three-homer performance from the leadoff spot, joining Andrew McCutchen (Aug. 1, 2009) and Mike Yastrzemski (Aug. 16, 2019).

“We heard a lot of good things about that guy, and he showed it today,” said infielder/outfielder Oswaldo Cabrera. “He’s always smiling. He’s enjoying the game all the time.”

It has been less than three weeks since the Yankees promoted Rice from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, seeking a short-term solution after losing first baseman Anthony Rizzo to a fractured right arm.

Though the club’s initial plan was to have Rice as the left-handed portion of a platoon with veteran J.D. Davis at first base, Rice has earned more playing time by batting .294 (15-for-51) with a .383 on-base percentage and a .588 slugging percentage in 17 games.

“You try to stay in the moment with him, because I think the catching part of it is real, too,” Boone said. “That’s not the need right now, but he’s getting a ton of opportunities. It’s a great opportunity in front of him. We’re excited about what he’s doing, but I also don’t want to rush him too much.”

Rice (who said the story about scribbling at Fenway is “100 percent true”) said he has been working to adjust to big league pitching.

“I have a lot of confidence in my approach,” he said. “Up here is no different. The game hasn’t changed. The bases are all in the same spots.”

Alex Verdugo hit a two-run homer for the Yankees, flipping his bat and savoring a 32-second trot around the bases against his former club. Anthony Volpe had a game-tying double, and Austin Wells worked a pinch-hit, bases-loaded walk that gave New York the lead.

The offensive barrage supported Gerrit Cole, who struck out eight over 4 1/3 innings in his fourth start of the season. The right-hander again found trouble with Rafael Devers, who collected a homer and a run-scoring single. Devers has eight career homers against Cole; no other player has more than four.

Yet while Cole scowled at Devers’ slow trot around the basepaths -- payback, it seemed, after Verdugo’s similar actions -- the right-hander grinned broadly when discussing Rice’s performance.

“We’re going through it, so we’ll take any kind of success,” Cole said. “Really, I think it’s a little bit greater than that. It’s a historical day, a magical day. And to be honest, I’m pretty thankful that I get to be on the lineup card because I know he’ll remember it forever.”