NEW YORK (AP) -- The tallest Yankee ever began the big task of
putting the Boston Red Sox back in their place.
Randy Johnson shut down Boston in his New York debut, dominating
his new team's old rival. He outpitched David Wells, got help from
Hideki Matsui and a rejuvenated Jason Giambi and led the Yankees
over the World Series champions 9-2 Sunday night in the major
"I was pretty excited to go out there," said Johnson, who
remembered how fans cheered him when he walked out to the bullpen
to warm up.
Already, there were bad omens for the Red Sox: Matsui leaped in
left to rob Kevin Millar of a two-run homer in the third, Giambi
stretched to reel in two bad throws by shortstop Derek Jeter, Alex
Rodriguez made a diving stop at third on Edgar Renteria, and Tino
Martinez made a backhand dive at first to prevent an extra-base hit
by Johnny Damon.
By the time Matsui hit a two-run homer off Matt Mantei for a 8-1
lead in the eighth, it was almost piling on.
"We're not disappointed," Damon said. "We accept the fact
that we really weren't that good tonight, We'll get better."
With Boston taking the field as champions for the first time in
86 years, the Red Sox returned to the scene of their improbable
triumph staring directly at the 6-foot-10 Big Unit, brought to the
Bronx to help the Yankees win their first title since 2000.
Giambi, back at first base following injury, illness and a
reported admission of steroid use, received a pair of standing
ovations from the sellout crowd of 54,818 and went 1-for-2 with a
single and two hit-by-pitches.
"I had a calm feeling because I knew I did everything I could
to get to this point," he said. "They respect a guy who worked
hard to get back to where he was."
Gary Sheffield, back from offseason shoulder surgery, hit a
go-ahead single in a three-run third inning against Wells, and
Martinez received two huge ovations in his first game in pinstripes
"Who wouldn't like this?" he said.
Since New York moved within three outs of sweeping the Red Sox
in the AL championship series last October, the Red Sox had won
eight straight, becoming the first major league team to overcome a
3-0 postseason deficit, then blowing out St. Louis in the World
But following an offseason of joy in New England, the Red Sox
started with a thud, pitching poorly, making a pair of errors and
losing their fifth straight season opener. New York had 15 hits off
Wells and six relievers.
"It's the first game we won since Game 3," Yankees manager Joe
Torre said. "It was a long winter waiting to get on the field
The usual swells and celebrities were on hand to watch the
Yankees extend their winning streak in home openers to eight. A
sign in left field expressed the hope of New York fans --
"1918-2004-2090" -- referring to the years of Boston's last two
Series titles and projected date of its next.
"The crowd was ready," Damon said.
Johnson was a model of quiet focus hours before the game,
putting on a black undershirt, then a gray sweat shirt before
sitting in front of his new locker near Torre's office and looking
ahead, gathering his thoughts.
Hitting Johnson is, well, a tall order -- the New Yorker's
playful front-page cartoon of him on the mound cut off at the neck.
He opened with a 93 mph pitch to Damon, and struck out Renteria
and Manny Ramirez looking in the first, the latter on a smoking 97
mph heater. He got in trouble in the second, when Matsui grabbed
Millar's fly ball and Jay Payton singled in the season's first run.
Johnson and Red Sox manager Terry Francona called Matsui's catch
the turning point.
"They don't play much basketball in Japan," Jeter said
playfully. "I didn't know he could jump that high."
Bernie Williams' sacrifice fly tied the score in the bottom
half, and New York took a 4-1 lead in the third on Sheffield's
double, Matsui's RBI single and a bases-loaded balk by Wells, who
stepped back to start his windup and then stopped.
Wells, who pitched a perfect game for New York in 1998 and
helped the Yankees win the World Series that year, was starting in
place of Curt Schilling, his bloody sock in the Hall of Fame and
the ankle it surrounded still recovering from surgery that followed
Signed to fill the gap created by the departures of Pedro
Martinez and Matt Clement, Wells made a shaky debut, allowing four
runs and 10 hits in 4 1/3 innings. With the temperature 43 degrees,
he had trouble gripping the ball.
Fans gave him the loudest boos.
"Out in the bullpen, they rode me pretty good," Wells said.
"That's all right."
It was a night of milestones -- the first night opener at Yankee
Stadium, the first time the Red Sox played as defending champions
since 1919, when they opened with a 10-0 win over New York at the
Polo Grounds behind a Babe Ruth home run.
Johnson made his 13th Opening Day start, tying Roger Clemens for
the lead among active pitchers.
New York, with the first $200 million payroll in baseball
history, had a former All-Star in every spot in its starting
lineup, the first time that happened in the major leagues since the
Yankees did it on July, 24, 2003, according to the Elias Sports
Bureau. In all, it added up to 53 All-Star appearances.
Flags were at half-staff and a moment of silence was
observed one day after the death of Pope John Paul II, who
celebrated mass at Yankee Stadium in 1979.
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