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Rivalry still in warm-up mode

FT. MYERS, Fla. -- So this was Game 8? Not exactly.

Not when there are more fans screaming about getting Kevin Youkilis' John Hancock than cheering when Trot Nixon steps to the plate. Not when the autograph hounds bark louder for Hanley Ramirez to sign their baseball than they do when Jason Giambi strikes out against Tim Bausher. Not when fans jump to their feet faster upon learning there's a short beer line than they do when Jay Payton lines another base hit.

No, this wasn't an extension of the historic Game 7 of the ALCS played in Yankee Stadium last October. Not by a long shot. It didn't even resemble Game 1 of the rivals' 2004 Grapefruit League showdown, when Alex Rodriguez first introduced himself to Sox fans as a Yankee. And it certainly wasn't the high-drama, tension-filled nailbiter that was ... the Red Sox-Phillies game Sunday. This was just another warm-up for the PawSox and Clippers, with a few major leaguers thrown in to get in some work.

Last spring's Sox-Yankees tilt featured the infamous $500 tickets for sale on eBay and frenzied fans busting around the ballpark five hours before the game. Last night, tickets could be had for 10 cents on the dollar outside the park, as has been the usual this spring.

It's hard not to feel sorry for the happy campers, some of whom spent two nights sleeping outside the park for the chance to buy tickets for this over-hyped matchup. When I ran into two-night camper Deborah Kellogg-Van Orden during the game, she was still bright-eyed and bushy-tailed and was rewarded for her efforts by getting her prized photo of Theo Epstein, Yankees GM Brian Cashman, and Sox assistant to the GM Jed Hoyer signed by the three of them, who were sitting together behind home plate.

The sellout crowd did get fired up about one guy on Monday night: the Juice Guy. A sea of cameras went off whenever he poked his head out of the dugout to sign autographs, or waltzed up to the plate. When one photographer snuck up behind the Yankees dugout to get a closer shot of Jason Giambi, a fan seated nearby asked him, "What do you work for one of those papers that sells marijuana?" The picture taker answered, "No, why?" The upset fan replied, "Well why would you want a picture of him? He's a [expletive] druggie."

As far as the happenings on the field, the Sox were never really in this game. While lefty Abe Alverez got out of a jam with a double play in the first, he was hit hard in the second as doubles by Hideki Matsui and Russ Johnson, who each scored three runs on the night, had the Bombers off and running with a 2-0 lead.   Continued...

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