Ben Rice of the New York Yankees follows through on...

Ben Rice of the New York Yankees follows through on his first-inning home run against the Boston Red Sox at Yankee Stadium on Saturday. Credit: Jim McIsaac

To say the stumbling Yankees needed a savior Saturday may sound like hyperbole here in early July. But it wasn’t far off, not after a nightmarish three weeks, especially the previous night’s humiliation by the Red Sox, who no doubt have enjoyed their ancient rival’s recent demise.

The Yankees got their hero, and he came with the added bonus of being as New England as clam chowder, the perfect Boston foil to stick in the face of the gloating Sox. Rookie first baseman Ben Rice’s historic three-homer, seven-RBI performance powered the Yankees’ 14-4 rout before an ecstatic crowd of 45,504 at Yankee Stadium.

Rice not only was raised in Cohasset, Massachusetts — a tony South Shore town on the way to Cape Cod — but went to high school nine miles from Fenway Park, attended Dartmouth and even did a stint playing for the Worcester Bravehearts of the Futures League, a summer collegiate team.

We bring up that Worcester stop because it’s the only other time Rice could remember hitting three homers in the same game — a Ruthian feat no Yankees rookie had ever managed in the 122-season existence of the franchise. That obviously covers plenty of Hall of Famers, MVPs, All-Stars and World Series champs.

But when it comes to this one specific category, thanks to three mammoth swings during this breathtaking July afternoon in the Bronx, Rice stands alone.

Rescuing the Yankees against their most hated rival, which just so happens to be from Rice’s backyard. You can’t make this stuff up.

“Not really a lot of words,” said Rice, who’s been wearing pinstripes for a total of 19 days since his call-up from Triple-A Scranton. “Definitely a day I’ll never forget. And pumped that it was a big-time win for us, a good bounce-back win, and over my hometown team, so it’s pretty cool.”

It’s crucial to note, however, that Rice was a double-agent growing up. Despite the geographical Red Sox roots, he was a Yankees fan who idolized Derek Jeter from the jump and even used a Sharpie to scribble “Yankees Rule!” on Fenway Park’s Pesky Pole as a youngster. Little did Rice know that one day he’d be high-fiving Aaron Judge in the on-deck circle, smiling ear-to-ear and trotting back after a trio of homers on baseball’s “grandest stage,” as Gerrit Cole described it Saturday.

The Yankees turned to Rice last month when Anthony Rizzo went on the injured list with a fractured forearm, and based on what everyone witnessed Saturday, it’s hard not to think about the Wally Pipp comparisons.

Rice had raked at every level in the minors, but the promotion still was a bit of risk, as his defense at first base was very much a work in progress. He primarily was a catcher.

As Rice’s plate maturity has become evident, however, there’s been little talk about his glove. The Yankees, desperate for a spark, even moved him into the leadoff spot Thursday to take over for the slumping Anthony Volpe. We wouldn’t expect him to be anywhere else anytime soon, that’s for sure.

Saturday’s seven RBIs matched Lou Gehrig’s record (July 23, 1925) for the most by a Yankees rookie in a single game.

“You see the calm at-bats he takes,” manager Aaron Boone said. “He understands the strike zone. He doesn’t flinch at much. You kind of see the pull-side power that he has, too. I just think he combines controlling the strike zone with some barrel awareness and the ability to get the ball in the air.”

That’s putting it mildly. Rice hit 1,202 feet of home runs Saturday, with his leadoff shot in the first inning the shortest of the bunch (390). He followed that up with twin 406-foot blasts, a three-run shot that capped a seven-run fifth and a three-run rocket that put an exclamation point on a four-run  seventh.

Rice bats lefthanded, but he doesn’t need any help from the short porch. The kid doesn’t hit cheapies. The first one landed in the second deck, and he already has put a pair of drives into the Judge’s Chambers, including one earlier this week for his first career homer.

“Wow,” said Cole, who then put Rice’s performance in perspective. “It’s a historical day, a magical day. To be honest, I’m pretty thankful that I get to be on the lineup card because I know he’ll remember it forever.”

Recently, the Yankees had been playing too much forgettable baseball. But Rice’s muscle seems capable of lifting them out of this current hole, or at least it was for this particular (sort of) must-win. His power clearly is legit, and the only hole in his game at the moment seems to involve prepping for a curtain call.

When Rice returned to the dugout after his third homer, he looked too bewildered to hear the crowd clamoring for him. It took three tries for his teammates to direct Rice to the correct stairway, and when he finally climbed those steps, the fans roared as the grinning Rice tipped his helmet.

“Honestly, it was all happening so fast, I think I was still coming off the high of hitting the home run,” Rice said. “Everyone was yelling at me to do something and I didn’t even know what they were talking about . . .  Thankfully I got it in. That was pretty cool.”

Or wicked awesome, as they might say back in Cohasset. Although Rice isn’t making many friends in Boston these days.

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