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Page 2 of 2 -- John Halama then made an error in the eighth, botching a Jeter comebacker to the mound with the bases loaded for the Yankees' last run.

Right about now you might be thinking: Halama on the mound on Opening Night, not what the Sox had in mind. Terry Francona said before the game that he actually hoped to go to the bullpen, given that no one had pitched since Friday and there's an offday today. He wound up using Mike Myers, Blaine Neal, Alan Embree, Mike Timlin, Mantei, and Halama. Only Keith Foulke was spared.

Neal ( 1/3 IP, 1 hit, 1 walk, 2 runs, 1 earned) had a difficult time in his American League debut, while Mantei had no command ( 2/3 IP, 1 hit, 3 walks, 3 runs, 2 earned runs, 1 home run).

Myers, obtained last week in a deal with St. Louis, was the bullpen star. He entered for Wells with the bases loaded and one out in the fifth and got Tony Womack to bounce into an inning-ending double play.

Never had two guys with perfect games on their resumes opposed each other on Opening Day, and only once before had two pitchers 40 or older faced off in a season opener. Last night, Johnson began the season as the more commanding presence.

Johnson went just six innings and struck out only six, solid if unspectacular given that he led all of baseball with 290 strikeouts last season. Still, he whiffed Renteria, the second hitter of the game, with a fastball on the inner corner, then froze Ramirez with a 95-mile-per-hour carbon copy. Five of his six strikeouts were looking. Damon was the expectation, offering at and missing a slider in the fifth.

Though Wells has pitched well in his career against the Yankees (16-8 coming in vs. New York at the Stadium) he has been hit hard by this collection of Yankees. They began the night having hit at a .306 clip vs. Boomer.

Wells actually had a lead, 1-0, in the second, when new Sox outfielder Jay Payton, used in place of the lefthanded-hitting Trot Nixon, singled in Ortiz, who'd led off the inning with a double. The Sox managed three hits in the inning, matching the total number the club managed off the Big Unit that last time it faced him, in the 1998 home opener.

The Yanks tagged Wells for three of those runs in the third. Jeter doubled, Gary Sheffield doubled, scoring Jeter. Sierra grounded out, then Matsui singled, scoring Sheffield. Jorge Posada singled, putting two on, then Wells went 0-2 on Jason Giambi.

Giambi made no attempt to move out of the way of the inside pitch.

"It was probably over the plate," Wells said. "He didn't move."

The ball hit Giambi's right triceps, presumably slightly smaller this season, but still big enough to get a piece of the ball.

Wells, facing Bernie Williams, began and stopped his motion. Second base umpire Mike DiMuro immediately signaled the balk, making it 4-1 Yankees.

"Wow," Wells could be seen saying on the mound.

"I was stepping back and I thought I saw a different finger down," Wells said. "I was starting my windup when I shouldn't have. You have to give up the free run."

The Sox must now sit on this loss for a full day, until tomorrow at 1:05.

"Don't jump off yet, boys and girls," Millar said. "The Sox will be back on Tuesday." 

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