Johnson, Yanks dominate Bosox

Associated Press
Published April 4, 2005

NEW YORK - 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-league opener.

"It was pretty exciting to go out there," said Johnson, recalling how fans cheered him when he walked out to the bullpen to warm up.

Early on, there were bad omens for the Red Sox: Matsui leaped in leftfield to rob Kevin Millar of a two-run homer in the third; Giambi stretched at first to snag two wide 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 champion 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 Johnson, brought to the Bronx to help the Yankees in pursuit of their first title since 2000.

Giambi, back at first base following injury, illness and a reported admission of steroid use, received two 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 since 2001.

Since New York moved within three outs of sweeping the Red Sox in the AL title series in October, the Red Sox had won eight straight games, becoming the first major-league team to overcome a three-games-to-none postseason deficit. They then blew out St. Louis in the World Series.

The Red Sox started 2005 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 Boston relievers.

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; Johnson's 13th opening-day start, tying Roger Clemens for the lead among active pitchers, and the Yankees with the first $200-million payroll in baseball history.