Alex Rodriguez claps after the Yankees scored a run against...

Alex Rodriguez claps after the Yankees scored a run against the Blue Jays on Sunday afternoon. (June 6, 2010) Credit: Getty Images

You once could define "Misery" by envisioning 25 Yankees players on a bus from Toronto's ritzy Yorkville neighborhood to Rogers Centre (or SkyDome), knowing that Roy Halladay stood between them and victory.

Last night, however, the Yankees knocked around their least favorite and most respected opponent for six runs and eight hits over six innings, winning this World Series rematch opener, 8-3, at Yankee Stadium.

Don't consider this a rip job of Halladay. Even the legends have bad nights. But the Yankees should keep this night in mind as they move forward, trying to win their second straight Fall Classic, when it comes to their aging, banged-up All-Stars.

After all, if the Yankees could pummel Halladay without Alex Rodriguez, then what sort of damage could they do to tonight's Phillies starter Jamie Moyer and tomorrow's Kyle Kendrick?

As long as they keep winning - and they now have prevailed in 15 of their last 20 games - caution should rule their machinations.

A-Rod rested after going through a considerable pre-game ritual of fielding, throwing and hitting. He came out feeling well, but the Yankees will nevertheless move slowly. If they start A-Rod Wednesday night, it'll be at designated hitter.

"We'll wait to see how he feels tomorrow," Joe Girardi said late last night.

"We want to be smart about this, and take more of a long-term approach," Rodriguez said before the game. "I'm following the doctor's instructions, trying to listen to my body. Hopefully I'll come back tomorrow, and it's a good thing.

" . . . I never really had a groin situation. From what I hear, you have to be sensitive to it."

The Yankees have been calling Rodriguez's injury "tendinitis of the hip flexor." A-Rod calls it a groin condition. The hip flexor is a series of muscles featuring the groin, so you can see the cause of confusion. Yet as A-Rod spoke rather graphically about where his discomfort lies . . . it's what we traditionally consider to be the groin.

With the Yankees opting not to start A-Rod at DH last night, as they originally pondered, they moved Jorge Posada from DH to catcher. Posada could've started his second straight game at catcher, both he and the team said. It's just that the Yankees' best lineup, given their options, called for Posada to DH and Francisco Cervelli to catch.

Moreover, the Yankees know what they have in Posada, who turns 39 in August. And in A-Rod, who turns 35 in July. And, for that matter, in Andy Pettitte (who celebrated his 38th birthday yesterday) and 40-year-old Mariano Rivera, both of whom already have taken breaks this season upon suffering minor injuries.

And if Derek Jeter, who turns 36 on June 26, finds himself in the trainer's room, then he, too, will receive some time off.

"We did that last year," Girardi said, discussing the careful navigation of his older players through the season's grind. "You have to."

Curtis Granderson (29), Nick Swisher (29) and Mark Teixeira (30), three of the Yankees' players still in their proverbial primes, took Halladay deep. The Yankees are deep, in their lineup, their whole roster and their whole organization.

And while it seemed in recent years that parity was becoming a reality in baseball . . . nah, not so much. The Yankees, Rays and Red Sox appear to be the industry's best, and there rests a steep drop-off from there.

A-Rod, Posada and the rest of the graybeards can take their time, and preserve their energy for the games that really matter: 13 more against Tampa Bay and 10 more against Boston. The other 75 figure to bring much misery to the Yankees' opponents.

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