A-Rod's grand slam highlights seven-run second inning

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) -- All spring, Alex Rodriguez noticed a quiet confidence about this Yankees team that he hadn't seen before.

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I don't know what Johnny Damon is going to do in the last year of his four-year deal, but he looks like he's going to have a monster year in 2006, and the Yankees are going to score a ton of runs.

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It wasn't so quiet in their opener -- and manager Joe Torre might be right about this lineup being among the best he's had.

Rodriguez hit a grand slam and drove in five runs, Johnny Damon drove in a run in his Yankees debut, and Randy Johnson exhibited the dominant form he lacked for much of last year in a season-opening 15-2 rout of the Oakland Athletics on Monday night.

"We have a hungry bunch," Rodriguez said. "We've had it since spring training on. I see a different attitude."

Rodriguez's 12th career grand slam highlighted New York's seven-run second inning that staked Johnson to a big lead. Johnson allowed one run and five hits in seven strong innings, an impressive 106-pitch performance for the 42-year-old left-hander to kick off his second season with the Yankees.

"You don't want to lose your focus that you're going to cruise through it by any means," Johnson said. "I was able to get some easy outs."

The 15 runs were the most allowed by the A's on Opening Day, surpassing the 14 the Philadelphia A's gave up in a 14-8 loss to the Washington Senators on April 17, 1945.

"The thing that made tonight was how patient we were," Torre said. "There were some really good things that happened tonight. We got good quality at-bats and we never stopped coming after them."

Hideki Matsui homered on opening day for the second straight year, hitting a three-run shot in the fourth. He finished with four hits and four RBI.

Damon doubled twice and hit an RBI single in the second to end an 0-for-16 streak on Opening Day as New York knocked A's ace Barry Zito out after 1 1/3 innings, the shortest outing of his career. Zito, tagged for seven runs and four hits, was done after 59 pitches -- the first time he hasn't lasted two innings.

Yankees' Opening Day Grand Slams

April 3, 2006

Alex Rodriguez

at Athletics

March 31, 2003

Alfonso Soriano

at Rangers

April 9, 1981

Bobby Murcer*

vs. Rangers

April 17, 1945

Russ Derry

vs. Red Sox

*pinch hit

"If this is any indication, this is going to be a fun year," Damon said. "It feels awesome. Since Day One it's been great here."

So much for a close game in this matchup of two teams considered postseason contenders. Oakland general manager Billy Beane knew his team was in for a tough time starting the season against the Yankees.

"It's like having calculus first period," Beane said. "You are not real happy when the alarm goes off, but by second period it's already over and you are running off to wood shop."

Frank Thomas hit a solo home run leading off the second in his A's debut and his first game since last July -- he played in 34 games in 2005 with the White Sox because of separate left ankle fractures. Thomas, 37, has 449 homers and his goal is to get to 500 before calling it a career.

Derek Jeter and Bernie Williams each added two RBI for the Yankees, trying to win their ninth straight AL East title after losing to the Los Angeles Angels in the first round of last year's playoffs.

Jorge Posada was the lone Yankees starter without a hit.

It was a rough start to what could be Zito's final season in Oakland. The 2002 AL Cy Young Award winner's contract is up after the season and he is expected to demand big money. This time, he was no match for Johnson.

"I was trying to be too fine," Zito said. "I kept missing with my fastball. I fell behind and that was the difference. ... I've had rough ones before. I have to go out and let it fly. I have to let it go."

Johnson allowed only three runners past first, including Mark Kotsay reaching second on first baseman Jason Giambi's fielding error in the first inning. Johnson struck out three and didn't walk a batter.

A's shortstop Bobby Crosby injured his left hand making a play on Robinson Cano's slide into second in the third on a steal attempt. Cano's spikes cut and bruised Crosby's index finger. Crosby made a fielding error the next inning and was replaced by Antonio Perez to start the fifth.

Crosby was scheduled for X-rays and an examination by team doctor Jerrald Goldman on Tuesday.

"It's cut pretty good," manager Ken Macha said. "If I had to guess he probably won't play tomorrow. I hope it's only tomorrow."

Game notes
Zito is 0-6 with a 7.94 ERA in his last eight starts against the Yankees. His previous shortest outing was two innings July 24, 2001, against Minnesota. ... The grand slam was the Yankees' fourth on Opening Day, joining Russ Derry (April 17, 1945, vs. Boston), Bobby Murcer (April 9, 1981, vs. Texas) and Alfonso Soriano (March 31, 2003, at Toronto). ... A's reliever Brad Halsey plunked two of the first three batters he faced in the fifth. ... Thomas became the ninth A's player to homer in his first at-bat, and the 14th to homer in his first game. He is tied for 28th with Houston's Jeff Bagwell and Gary Sheffield of the Yankees. ...

Milton Bradley had two hits in his Oakland debut. ... New York RHP

Scott Proctor rejoined the team after a five-day absence to be with

his wife and seriously ill infant daughter. ... The game drew 35,077 fans, including 1,000 standing-room only tickets.