Hello again faithful Braves Blast readers.
As we begin this week I think it’s important for us to take a look back at the past 4 games our Atlanta Braves have played. The four game series, which I’ve never been a fan of a four game series – just seems one too long, against the Arizona Diamondbacks was one that Braves Country can be happy about. Our boys went 3 – 1 against a pretty good team out west. Yes, they were a little banged up – but a win is a win and it doesn’t matter who you face.
There was so much to cover that just blew my mind. For starters, no pun intended, our starting rotation was amazing. A big knock against the Braves at the start of the year was the lack of innings the starters were accruing. The bullpen’s taxation from 2011 can be attributed to the lack of managerial savvy of Fredi and also the large number of games where starters didn’t go past 5 innings. That simply causes a great bullpen to get tired and sputter come the end of August and all of September. That concern was something Mike Minor, Brandon Beachy and Tommy Hanson decided alleviate. Going 8, 7.3, and 7, respectively, the ‘pen wasn’t relied on too much. This was exactly what our staff needed. Young guys to step up and push each other. Brandon Beachy said in the post game interview after his start in game two, that he wanted to go out and try to match what Mike Minor did. I’m sure Tommy Hanson didn’t want to feel left out, so he went out, and after giving up a run in the first and second, managed to sit down 13 Diamondbacks in a row before Venters and Kimbrel struck out each of their sides.
It also helped that the bats continued the streak they’ve been on. There isn’t much need to bring in your 7th, 8th and 9th inning men when you score an average of 9 runs a game during the 5-game winning streak the Braves were on. Our second 5-game winning streak in 15 games for those of you keeping score.
Michael Bourn and Freddie Freeman have been on fire this past week. They were, to simply put it, great. Bourn was on base all the time it seemed. His batting average for the last week was .464/.531/.536, 7 runs scored and 5 stolen bases. That’s just creating havoc for opposing pitchers. His OPS was 1.067. For a guy with barely any power, that’s outrageous.
The more impressive part of our offense was our young first baseman, Freddie Freeman. His slash line against the D-backs was .467/.500/.1.067. The boy went on a tear out west. He spoke about it in an interview after game two, that he really loves playing in front of his family and friends. Freeman is a So Cal native and he had a strong contingent of Freeman faithful make the approx. 3-4 hour drive to see their native son put a wallop on the D-backs pitching staff. He put a home run in the pool out in right center and went opposite field to push one into the left field seats. An interesting note was that the damage done was all while Freddie occupied the 3-hole in the line up. He did this even when Chipper was in the game for the 2nd and 3rd of the series.
As long as Freeman is contributing with his bat and continues to play great defense, I have no problem with him hitting in the usual spot reserved for the almost 40 year old Chipper Jones.
Starting tonight, our Braves take on the Los Angeles Dodgers. Hopefully the Braves can continue their dominance at the plate and take advantage of the fact that the Dodgers two best starters, Clayton Kershaw and Chad Billingsley, will not be pitching against us.
As always dear reader, pray for pitching, be proud of the tomahawk chop and if you need a smile, just remember when Sid slid.
Tags: Arizona Diamondbacks, Atlanta Braves, Brandon Beachy, Freddie Freeman, Michael Bourn, Mike Minor, Tommy Hanson
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Braves 5, Marlins 0.
You can thank us for that one. Flint and I (Colin) grabbed last minute seats four rows behind the visitor’s on-deck circle. Amazing seats. Great view, beautiful weather, and amazing access to the Marlins’ minds. Oh, we infected their minds.
Volstad hates us. From the beginning of the game, Flint was in his head. Before the wild pitch. After the wild pitch. The foul bunt out. His slow walks to the dugout with his head down while we yelled “LEFT! RIGHT! LEFT! RIGHT!”
Flint here. Wow. If you want to talk about interesting nights to be at The Ted, then tonight was a night for you. With Tommy Hanson looking for his first win of the year, Colin and I were there to be the 10th and 11th men on the team.
The evening started off right, Hanson set down the Marlin hitters, then Colin and I took over. I knew I was firmly entrenched in, Marlins starting pitcher, Chris Volstad’s head when I yelled, “Volstad’s Girlfriend… WOOF!” right as a hush fell over the committed few patrons in attendance. (Dave O’Brien said it was the smallest crowd in Turner Field history, 13,865 in attendance) After that, his wheels just seemed to fall off.
By the end of the night, I was in Bonifacio, Rameriez, Buck, Volstad, Morrison and Brian Sanches”tertanville’s” head.
You could hear every word that Colin, two new friends we met at the park and I threw at the Marlins. Usually “professional” athletes don’t respond or acknowledge your existence when you yell at them, tonight proved the Marlins are not professional. Drawing attention from Rameriez by yelling, “Minimal Effort Exerted!” and all of us pointing at him in the 9th seemed to really irk him enough to look over and make comments under his breath about us. At one point, I asked Marlins PH Emilio Bonifacio to encourage Hanley to hustle more. Emilio, who was reminded several times while waiting to bat that our favorite Emilio was Estevez, looked up with a lost puppy face and seemed to understand that I just dominated his brain.
My newest arch-enemy, Logan Morison, had a rough night and we realized it was our civic duty to suggest anger management classes with chants of “Anger Management!” and “Logan, Smash!” as he stomped all around the diamond. He even pump-faked tossing a ball to a group of kids perched at the rail as he was walking into the dugout, a glimpse of his true colors.
Brian Sanches came in for Volstad in the 5th inning. This first relief pitcher for the Fish was greeted with questions and asked if his full name was “Brian Sanchesterstanville.” Why? We’re not sure, but that’s when the security guards started rolling. It’s always a compliment when some guy who hears drunk slurs and personal attacks levied at the opposition turns to you and says that he’s so incredibly impressed with you especially that you haven’t even had a drop to drink all game, at no point was a line crossed and kept it fun for everyone while mentally smiting the floundering fish.
There were several other moments of sheer absurdity that you’ll have to join us for next time but needless to say having booming, echoing voices in an empty stadium mixed with Marlins who fall for the trap all hecklers love to spring equals a great time and a Braves Win!
As for our Braves:
Tommy Hanson pitched 7 shutout innings 5 K’s, 4 hits and 2 walks. Chipper Jones collected 2 more RBIs to bring his career total to 1499. Jason Heyward hit a towering drive 420 feet to dead center for his 3rd home run of the year while McCann drilled his first into the Braves bullpen. Uggla broke an 0-15 streak with a hustle double to RF and McLouth and Prado also had a double tonight. Chipper began a clutch double-play with the Marlins threatening and Sea Bass flashed the leather saving a run and continuing his impressive defensive performance.
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In his latest “Fried Baseball” audio blog, Kent Covington reviews game 1 of the NLDS and makes an airtight case for expanded instant replay in Major League Baseball. Throw in your 2 cents in the comments section below.
Tags: Audio, Fried Baseball, Instant Replay, NLDS, Paul Emmel Sucks, playoffs, Podcast, San Francisco Giants
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When the Braves failed to get Omar Infante home after a leadoff double in the first, they lost the best scoring chance they would have all night. Tim Lincecum was nothing short of spectacular and was aided by the Braves’ lineup swinging at terrible pitches all game. “The Freak” used his fastball to get ahead in counts then went to his slider/changeup for the kill and recorded fourteen strikeouts en route to a complete game shutout.
Unfortunately, Lincecum’s masterpiece will overshadow the gutsy performance turned in by Derek Lowe. In 5.1 innings pitched Lowe recorded nine groundball outs to just one fly ball while striking out six. The only run he surrendered was aided by what turned out to be a devastating blown call. Replays showed that Buster Posey was clearly tagged out while attempting to steal second base in the fourth inning, but the second base umpire called him safe (TBS announcer Bob Brenly suggested he was out of position). Later that inning former Marlin Cody Ross hit a grounder that went right under Omar Infante’s glove scoring Posey from second. It would be the only run either team scored all night.
From a managerial standpoint, Bobby utilized the bullpen brilliantly. He relieved Derek Lowe in the sixth with Johnny Venters who came in and immediately got the double play ball that was needed. Bobby also went righty (Moylan), lefty (Dunn), righty (Kimbrel) in the eight inning in order to try and keep the deficit at one run.
To be fair this game happened like it was supposed to on paper. Our injury plagued lineup simply isn’t very good, and it was going up against one of the game’s best tonight. However, that is no excuse for our hitters’ collective lack of patience at the plate. Derrek Lee and Brian McCann, two of our offensive veterans, both struck out swinging on pitches that would have been ball four in the first inning. Likewise, Heyward did the same thing in the ninth inning on a pitch that wasn’t even close. Unfortunately, pretty much everyone, with the exception of Infante, did a lot of swinging and missing tonight.
Tonight’s game is about as must win as it gets. Hanson will need to follow in Lowe’s footsteps if we have any chance to steal a win, because I am not expecting much out of our lineup, especially against Cain.
Tags: Derek Lowe, NLDS, Paul Emmel Sucks, playoffs, San Francisco Giants, Tim Lincecum
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Conrad is, as my grandfather used to say, “so clutch that the engine fell out.” I still don’t quite get it either, but you kind of understand what he’s trying to say. When a guy comes up in these huge clutch hits and can deliver like that… wow. It is, in many ways, the signature of this Braves team, as I have said before. Tonight we had some overall great performers, but Brooks Conrad, who only had one at bat, mind you, took the cake. His second grand slam of the year (leading the majors in that category… and he’s only had a fraction of all the other players in the league), putting the Braves up 9-5. What can you say about a guy with that kind of production from the bench? What can you say about a team with that much production from its bench? To me, it says that when/if the Braves finally start clicking on all cylinders (as we haven’t this entire year… someone is always doing something sub-par… this last week’s culprits have been Troy Glaus and Billy Wagner), the team is easily the most dominant in terms of overall depth and skill. Let’s take a look at some of the other great players for tonight…
Jason Heyward: The guy is simply the rookie of the year. There’s just no doubt about it. When he is playing the way that he can, there is absolutely no stopping this kid. Some people like to point to wunderkinds like Strasburg and say that he should get the RotY, but, let’s face it, no other rookie can do what Heyward can do, and as reliably, when he is healthy. He can field (summon up his first game after the all-star break), he can run bases (any night when you see him go from first to third on a lazy single, or when he jacks second right from under catcher’s noses), and he‘s dynamite in the batter’s box (this series in particular — he’s reached base 9 out of 10 times). In Heyward’s last five games, his OBP is a whopping .640, and all of which were multi-hit games. He’s on fire, and I don’t see him slowing down any time soon. Frank Wren needs to throw up a huge contract to Heyward ASAP. Nail him down for ten-plus years. I don’t ever want to see 22 on another team.
Martin Prado: His leadoff home run was just great. He easily could have had another 3-hit game if it weren’t for the nice play by the pitcher in the third. He went through a little slump at the beginning of the second half, but it looks like Prado is back where he should be. Three hits tonight gets his average back up to .320 (instead of the lowly ghettos of the .310′s, of course), and still 15 hits above anyone else in the NL. He could conceivably take half a month off and still be in the lead. Think Prado is going to ease off the gas though? Oh no. You know why? Because he’s so clutch that the engine fell out.
Eric Hinske: We can’t talk about clutch without talking about Hinske. He was the hero of the game for the Braves for all of a third of an inning before Conrad’s bomb. He only had one hit, but he made it count, driving in runs 4 & 5, and playing a huge role in the Braves victory.
Jesse Chavez & Johnny Venters: The bullpen shut down the Fins when we needed it badly. Had it not been for these two guys (Chavez in particular! I never thought I’d say that.) it had the potential for another heartbreaking loss. It just goes to show you the vast chasm that seperates these two teams. Although the Braves had a bad night last night, our bullpen got it done, setting people down with relative ease.
And now for those guys that were struggling tonight…
Troy Glaus: The guy can’t buy a hit right now. One month he puts up prodigious, player-of-the-month type numbers, the next, nothing. I’m losing faith in our number five man; that’s a position we can’t be in if we’re going to contend for the pennant. I’m not asking for June numbers, I’m just asking for something to feel good about, because right now, we’re not getting any kind of production from him.
Nate McLouth: I think one more bad game pretty much shuts the gate on Nate. He’s 1-13 since returning to the line-up, and his batting average is lower than some of our pitchers, and he doesn’t even hit the ball hard. I don’t know if it’s all in his head or what, but right now, McLouth is looking very much like a bust, but what do you do? There aren’t a lot of options out there. DeJesus is hurt. Ross is batting a puny .146 this month. Someone like Josh Willingham might be attainable, but at what price? We don’t want to give the Nationals too much. There’s questions aplenty that are all swirling around the drainpipe that is Nate McLouth. In the end, I think you sit McLouth and let Hinske, Diaz, and Cabrera platoon left and center. It’s not a perfect solution, but it’s the best we have right now.
I don’t want to end this in all this prognostication, so let me say that I think that we’re coming up against two more teams to round off this road trip that I think we have the ability to play very good and take some more series. The first games against the Nats and the Reds should be the most interesting games of the series with the old vet, Hanson, taking on Strasburg, a boy that he has already beaten once this year — but this time, it’s on his own turf. Then we will see two young bucs — Medlen and Cueto — start the Reds series off with a bang. The next week should be a fun one for Braves fans.
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The Braves’ Billy Wagner had been almost automatic recently. In his last 25 innings pitched before last night, he posted a 0.36 ERA, and a .108 opponents average. But those last 25 innings didn’t help him last night.
The Braves took the lead in the bottom of the third last night, with four straight hits – including a two-run single by Chipper Jones and a two-run homer by Brian McCann. Tommy Hanson had surrendered two runs before that, and pitched into the seventh. The Braves took a 4-2 lead into the top of the ninth.
And then Wagner let one get away from him. He’s not a machine – but we’ll forgive a blown save here and there because of just how damn good he’s been. Kris Medlen took the loss in extras – the seventh pitcher the Braves sent to the mound last night. He’ll make his next start, I hear, and just skip a throwing session today.
We’ll drop a game here and there, and it’s not the end of the world. The goal here has always been to win series. We can do that tonight – we’re sending Huddy to the mound and he always puts us in position to win. Brush it off and go back out tonight and do what you do, boys – win.
Tags: Billy Wagner, Blown Save, Florida Marlins
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The Braves once again pulled out an exciting (if not sloppy) win in eleven innings. There were so many story-lines coming from this game, but none greater than the clutch play of Prado, Blanco, Infante, and Glaus.
Prado had three singles last night, bumping up his average to .337 and furthering his already distended hit count to 114 — SEVEN more than the next closest bat in the entire league (Robinson Cano of NYY). Clutch aspect: Prado had the first two RBIs of the game.
Blanco continued right where he left off in June, going two for three tonight with a walk. He was the only Brave to cross the plate through the first 10 innings of play tonight for the Braves. This play is not out of place for Blanco who has been playing great as of late. He’s making a strong statement to be part of the lineup, but with Hinske also playing some great baseball, I think we will see these two sharing time out in left.
Glaus came up big in the bottom of the 11th, redeeming the error from the top of the inning in a big way with a huge double. After being on an 0-20 drought, this hit couldn’t have been any more timely. Despite going one-for-five in last night’s game, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him have some great games to close out the first half of the season. That smack can inspire confidence in even the lowliest of slumping sluggers (to which fraternity Glaus does not yet belong).
And finally, the hero of the night: Omar Infante. You can’t say enough about this guy. Very much in the same vein of Gregor Blanco, Infante has been a quintessential utility player — showing up to play and getting huge clutch hits like we saw last night. Incredible situational hitting has been the calling card of the 2010 Atlanta Braves.
With all of this in mind, I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see an Infante, Blanco, or Hinske move up to the 2-slot behind Prado until Heyward gets back in shape. I think it would create some fantastic scoring opportunities that we’re going to need to get win these final three series before the break.
Tags: Clutch Hitting, Gregor Blanco, Martin Prado, Omar Infante
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Jair Jurrjens returned to the Atlanta Braves’ rotation yesterday rested and ready to do battle against the Washington Nationals. In five-plus innings, Jurrjens struck out six and allowed one run (thanks to the relief work of Peter Moylan) and knocked in the go-ahead run as the Braves took the rubber game of the series and won 4-1.
Jurrjens’ admitted to being nervous before the start after two months on the Disabled List because of a hamstring injury, but showed none of it on the mound. His fake bunt and slash RBI single to left field almost took out Ryan Zimmerman on its way to left field.
As our own Kent Covington has pointed out, Jurrjens’ hamstring injury was a blessing in disguise. In Spring Training, Jurrjens battled an inflamed shoulder and elbow. The two months on the bench gave his shoulder and elbow time to recover that simply wasn’t happening before the injury, when his fastballs were routinely in the high 80s. Last night, Jurrjens’ fastball was what Kent calls “resting” in the low 90s – indicating Jurrjens is likely not experiencing the arm issues he was before his DL stint. The other hidden blessing of Jurrjens’ injury was of course the rise of Kris Medlen as the best 5th starter candidate on the team.
If Jurrjens can stay healthy the rest of the season and be as effective as he was last night, his return from the DL will become the equivalent of pulling off a blockbuster trade for another ace. Jurrjens is probably our number two or three pitcher in this rotation, and with his return, our rotation is stronger than it was with Kawakami in Jurrjens’ spot.
Tags: Atlanta Braves, Jair Jurrjens, Washington Nationals
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The hype surrounding the Washington Nationals phenom pitcher Stephen Strasburg is absolutely insane – and most of it is earned. But he’s hittable, and beatable.
The bottom line yesterday was Tim Hudson. Through seven innings of ball, Hudson struck out six, picked off one, walked three, and gave up a total of five hits. His extremely effective sinking two-seamer led to twelve groundouts – and only one fly out. Hudson showed that he’s back in ace form last night – as the nation watched expecting such a performance from the opposing pitcher.
Strasburg was almost as good. Through six innings he held the Braves’ offense scoreless. Nats manager Jim Riggleman almost pinch-hit for Strasburg when his spot in the order came up in the bottom of the sixth (someone came out on deck for Strasburg but was pulled back) and Strasburg came back out to pitch the seventh inning. Right now I’ll bet he wishes he hadn’t. Following a leadoff walk to Chipper (his 46th of the season), the Braves loaded the bases with no outs (thanks to an error) and tattooed WonderBoy for four runs (three earned). They then tacked on another unearned run.
Hustler of the night: Gregor Blanco, who surprised everybody with a bunt down the first base line that the pitcher couldn’t field cleanly for an RBI comes in second to Tim Hudson, who was absolutely ace-like last night.
Slacker of the evening: In the first inning, Melky Cabrera roped a double to left. Chipper then knocked a fly ball to deep left and Melky got caught somewhere between second and third. Had he tagged up, he could have scored when McCann singled to left. Instead, Melky’s slow self got caught trying to score from second to end the inning.
Strasburg Effect: 9601 walkup tickets were sold yesterday and a total of 21,608 tickets were sold since Strasburg’s previous start. The Braves’ franchise thanks Strasburg for coming to Atlanta, selling tickets, and then giving up the loss to improve the Bravos’ home record to 27-8.
The Washington Nationals come into Atlanta tonight leading the season series over the Braves 2-1 and the most anticipated game of the upcoming series is the kickoff match this evening when rookie pitching phenom Stephen Strasburg takes the mound against Tim Hudson. Strasburg is 4 starts into his major league career and comes to Atlanta with a 2-1 record (his loss was a 1-0 matchup his last time out). In those 4 starts he has struck out 41 batters and allowed more than 1 earned run in a game only one time (his first outing he gave up 2 earned) and has an ERA of 1.78.
Tim Hudson’s coming off of one of his worst outings of the season where he gave up 4 earned runs in 7 innings of work to the White Sox. Hudson is 7-3 on the season and averaging 6 2/3 innings of work per outing and has a 2.54 ERA. He has struck out 45 and walked 37.
Strasburg isn’t unhittable; the Braves offense will just have to get going. He’s issued 19 hits in his 4 starts this season (9 of which were in his last outing against the Royals) and has walked 5 (all in the same start). The key to winning tonight for the Braves is to not get behind the 8-ball by not allowing the Nationals to create an insurmountable early run lead.
Just as a sidebar, and I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty sick of all the “future Hall of Famer”, blah, blah, blah, etc, etc talk going on every time anyone mentions Strasburg’s name in the news. He’s pitched 4 games, people! Yes, he’s good, I’m not denying that at all. He was 13-1 his last season of college, he was 7-2 in the minors and he’s 2-1 so far this season. Those numbers speak for themselves, but for someone that has been in the majors for all of 20 days, I think it’s a little early to say he has a Hall of Fame career in progress.
This isn’t just how I feel because we’re going against the Nationals and they are in the Braves division. I’ve said the same thing about Jason Heyward this season. Let the kids go out there, play baseball and worry about if they had Hall of Fame careers in another 20 years or so. That’s what this game’s all about……..well that, and beating the Nationals. Go Braves!
Tags: Stephen Strasburg, Tim Hudson, Washington Nationals
Posted in Game Analysis, Pitching | 3 Comments »
In the past week, the Braves are 3-3 with a sweep of the Houston Astros in between a nine game losing streak and a series opening loss to the Washington Nationals last night.
Here are some stats from the past week of play.
The only player with an OPS above .800 is Jason Heyward, at 1.994.
Nate McLouth, Troy Glaus, and Melky Cabrera have all been better than they have been the whole season, sporting .762, .760, and .753 OPS’s respectively.
Chipper Jones is 2-18 with one double, no RBI, and a significantly lower SLG(.167) than OBP(.273). To say the least, Chipper has had a rough past six games.
Martin Prado has also started to slump, going just 6-25 this past week with a line of .240/.269/.280 and just one double.
There are only two players with more than one extra base hit through these past six games, Jason Heyward and Nate McLouth. Nate McLouth has a double and a home run, while Jason Heyward has hit four home runs and one double. They are also the only two Braves to put the ball over the fence since the Braves thrilling walk-off victory against the Phillies, which coincidentally was hit by McLouth, and the game-tying homer hit by Heyward. Combined, they have hit the Braves past seven home runs.
On the pitching front, Kenshin Kawakami has gotten hit rather hard in his past two starts, amassing 9.1 innings and a 6.76 ERA with just 5 strikeouts to four walks.
Tommy Hanson went eight strong in his last start while allowing just two earned runs, and he will go again tonight.
Kris Medlen has been solid in relief, totally five innings pitched with just five baserunners and one earned run allowed.
Jesse Chavez’s stats entering Friday’s relief appearance were 9.1 innings, 0.96 ERA, 0.64 WHIP, 9 k’s, 1 BB, 5 hits allowed.
His numbers now stand at 12.1 innings, 5.11 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, 13 K, 3 BB, 12 hits allowed. Over the past three innings pitched, Chavez has allowed seven hits and two walks, good for a 3.00 WHIP.
But enough with the negative stuff, lets get back on Heyward and his unbelievable past six games. Of players with at least 19 plate appearances, Heyward leads the league in OPS over the past week of play. His 1.375 slugging percentage also ranks first, as does his .619 on base percentage.
My last musing on Heyward’s past week is his RC/27, or his runs created per 27 outs. Basically it says how many runs a team full of a certain player would score. So if there were nine Jason Heyward’s playing over the past week, they would score 34.19 runs per game, again the highest total in the league.
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If you have to sit through a loss for your team, there might as well be something worth cheering for. Last night, Ubaldo Jimenez threw the first no-hitter in Rockies franchise history. It wasn’t the prettiest no-no ever with Jimenez only recording seven strikeouts and walking six, but there were few plays that came close to breaking up the hitless streak. A seventh inning diving catch by Dexter Fowler to rob Troy Glaus of a hit to left center was the only questionable ball in play.
That leaves three franchises in Major League Baseball without a no-hitter on record. The Rays, the Padres and (insert joke of choice here)…..the Mets. Here’s hoping that Jurrjens can spring back to for today after his rough outing last week.
Tags: Colorado Rockies, No-Hitter, Ubaldo Jimenez
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