Friday, April 26, 2013

Everything comes up Nats in win vs. Reds

Photo by USA Today

Losers of four straight with a searching offense and erratic pitching, the Nationals’ 8-1 win over the Cincinnati Reds on Thursday night was perhaps the perfect medicine for a team in an unexpected position as they near the end of the season’s first month. Their bats woke up, they got the breaks their opponents had been getting, and their starting pitcher was buzzing right from the first pitch. Finally, things were going the Nationals way.

Whether it was offense, pitching, or defense in the field: everything seemed to work out for the home team.

“That was a big day,” manager Davey Johnson said. “A lot of guys were saying to me, ‘It’s been a long time since we were shaking hands.’ I said no doubt about that.”

“It was just a good all-around game. That’s more like who we are: Good pitching, timely hitting.”

The Nationals broke out of their worst offensive slump of the season – four runs total in their previous four games – early with two scores in the second inning. Danny Espinosa, whose 26th birthday it happened to be, started things off with an RBI double to score Ian Desmond. He hit a long fly ball to right-center field that fell just beyond the reach of a sprinting Shin-Soo Choo. 

Espinosa hit a ball to nearly the exact same spot in the team’s loss on Wednesday that was reeled in, but this one dropped and bounced off the wall.

I said it was cause it was my birthday that it fell today,” Espinosa said. “It was nice to see it fall in. I know Choo can get after it out there. He can run balls down pretty well. So when I saw it fall in it was a big sigh of relief.”

Espinosa was then batted in by Denard Span with two outs who hit a slow chopper to shortstop Zack Cozart. Span beat the throw to first by a half-a-step, another close break for the Nats.

In the third inning the Nats would make their own luck. Bryce Harper led off with a towering home run to the lawn in dead center field, his eighth of the season. Jayson Werth then got on with a single and was moved to third because of a throwing error by Joey Votto that let Adam LaRoche reach second. A fielder’s choice on a groundout by Ian Desmond sent home Werth to bring Espinosa back to the plate. The Nats’ second baseman then blasted a 2-2 sinker from Bronson Arroyo into the team’s bullpen in right field to put Washington up 6-0.

Three RBI on two extra base hits later and Espinosa was having a pretty good birthday. He was finally having fun and so were his teammates.

“It takes something like this to get a team going sometimes,” he said. “Hitting's contagious, everybody knows that. You get a couple guys hot and everybody starts getting on base and it's kind of easier. You've got more holes to hit with and things start going the team's way and things start rolling.”

The six-run lead was plenty enough for starter Gio Gonzalez who, if it weren’t for the team’s recent offensive woes, would have been the story of the game. He put in his best start of the season allowing only one hit and two walks with seven strikeouts, redeeming himself after giving up 12 earned runs in his previous nine innings across two starts.

“I felt like I was more on top of the ball, again my team gave me confidence to go out there and pound the strike zone,” he said. 

I was trying to make the adjustment to stop being so perfect, to just going out there and throw strikes.”

Gonzalez threw 112 pitches in eight innings with 78 of them strikes. He was particularly effective early in counts with 20 first strikes on the 27 hitters he faced. 

Gonzalez’ one miscue was against Votto in the fourth inning. Having retired the Reds’ first 11 batters, Gonzalez threw a 2-1 fastball that the former MVP took opposite field for a solo home run. It cleared the fence by just a few inches, but served as the only Reds’ hit of the evening.

It was one hit and may have prevented the shutout, but overall Gonzalez was on his game and back to the form that helped him lead the majors in wins in 2012.

“Today was just get the ball and go,” catcher Kurt Suzuki said. “He was rocking fire. That’s what Gio needs to do. That’s what Gio does. And when he does that, he’s successful most times out of not because his stuff is that good.”

Gonzalez’ 112 pitches were a season-high and just at Johnson’s threshold for the lefty. The manager said he would have let him go one more inning and finish the game if it weren’t for his previous two bad starts. 

The Nats got two more runs across in the bottom of the eighth on a triple by Span. He scored Suzuki who had walked and Roger Bernadina who dropped his first hit of the season as Gonzalez’ pinch-hitter.

Eight runs total and a game that was essentially over in the third inning gave the Nats a feeling they hadn’t felt in days and hope that maybe their recent struggles, particularly at the plate, have been solved. There were high fives and smiles, and music in the locker room, the type of dugout and clubhouse the Nats have become used to over the past year. 

“It's a different atmosphere when you win,” Espinosa said. “It's a totally different atmosphere.”

It was huge,” Suzuki said. “No mystery last couple series, last couple games, especially the last six home games before this was tough. I think everybody was getting frustrated a little bit. You try to stay positive. We needed a game like this, to come out and click on all cylinders. Everybody was having fun, laughing in the dugout again. It was like back to normal.

61 comments:

Joe Seamhead said...

Chase, thanks for the feel good report from the boys. They really needed something to give them a break from the frustration level that they had reached. So did we for that matter!

Rabbit34 said...

It will take a lot more than this to convince me. Don't get me wrong. I loved this win. But any team is capable of beating another. The Nats have not proven that they can do it consistently...THIS YEAR. Last year means nothing.

baseballswami said...

But this was a good reminder that the talent is there and that they can play like this. It was such a relief to see Gio being Gio again.

Joe Seamhead said...

So, who's on third tonight against RHP Bailey? Does Lombo get another start, giving him a chance to get his bat going,leaving Rendon on the bench?

Dave said...

Take a look at the photo of the Gatorade shower in today's WaPo (in the online app, at least.). Note the position of the bucket. Note that Gio's cap is unmoistened.

This was not for Gio's benefit at all, methinks.

Manassas Nats' Fan said...

With a good 8 game winning streak like the Brewers had we would be back where we want to be.

baseballswami said...

I think it's unfair to stick someone in his least experienced position , in a different spot in the line up, for one game. The guy gives you a good at bat. Should have had a double to left field- Cozart came out of nowhere to catch a ball that should have dropped in. Lombo will make contact and some of those will get through or fall in. I think he is the best sub option at third. Guy can truly play anywhere out there and will rarely have an o- fer.

Joe Seamhead said...

Well, Lombo sure held his own defensively last night. I still am not sold on him at third for any length of time, but I'd give that whole lineup another look see tonight, but who knows what Mr. Johnson will do?

MicheleS said...

Swami, Lombo was fine last night playing 3b. That is where he made his contribution last night. The rest of the team picked up the hitting - as it should.

Also, on the Gatorade shower, you can hear Drew/Ryan say "Welcome Julie" after they doused her. And yes, it was a total setup. And Actually, I am okay with Julie - agree,I would rather have her do the post game than Carp. Gatorade showers are just good clean fun.

Joe Seamhead said...

From there previous post
baseballswami said...
The pretty , young sideline girls just seem all the same. Fluffy , inane stuff. And the shaving cream and Gatorade - so junior high. Guy has a great game and you destroy his interview? Ha, ha, very funny. So professional and mature.
April 25, 2013 10:26 PM
–--------------------------------------------------------------
And ballplayers started maturing and quit pulling junior high school antics when?

natsfan1a said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
sjm308 said...

Good question about 3rd base tonight. I realize Rendon is struggling but they have said repeatedly that he needs to play. I think he is back in tonight. Lombo is probably not happy with his role but for right now he is a utility player and they don't play every day. He did a nice job tonight at 3rd and you could make the case to keep him in. I just don't think Rendon needs to sit.

natsfan1a said...

Corrected version, before I have my second cup of coffee.

My husband would like more data points but gave Julie a conditional acceptance. Haven't watched the postgame but from photos it looks like she took the Gatorade shower well.

On the antics, either someone's complaining that the guys aren't focused and are horsing around too much or another one's complaining that they're acting too goofy. It's nice to have something to complain about, right? Win games and I don't care what you do afterwards, boys. ;-)

Gonat said...

“Today was just get the ball and go,” catcher Kurt Suzuki said. “He was rocking fire. That’s what Gio needs to do. That’s what Gio does. And when he does that, he’s successful most times out of not because his stuff is that good.”
__________________________________

That's interesting as I thought the pace was quicker as I watched. I can use the new buzz word here "rhythm" was going well even with those longer at-bats where Cozart and Frazier fouled off 5 or 6 pitches.

baseballswami said...

About Lombo -- Yes, I like the guy - hardworking, blue collar underdog. He is truly an asset as a utility guy. Rendon looks a little overmatched but they should play him while he is up - the experience will be great for him. The rest of the season I think Lombo should be the go - to sub, not Tracy, as we all know this is not the last time Zim will be out of the line up :( The new girl will probably be fine - seems to be the mlb type way that things are done. As for the antics - I am happy that they had reason to celebrate, but I always take issue with the shaving cream and gatorade stuff. Just seems like someone is going to tweak something. The shaving cream can damage eyes. Just wish they could find a safe way to honor the player of the night. I actually can't believe we are talking about such mundane things when Gio came very close to pitching a no hitter last night! It has been kind of lost among the resurgence of hitting. One hit and then three more outs - that is very, very close!!! When Gio is on it's a thing of beauty.

Gonat said...

sjm308 said...
I realize Rendon is struggling but they have said repeatedly that he needs to play
_______________________________________

Stuggling? The kid has played 4 games, give him a break. If he goes 2 for 4 tonight he will raise his BA to .211 and another 2 for 4 the next day and he is up to .261

Tiny sample size.

Gonat said...

I read a stat that Adam LaRoche has never hit Bronson Arroyo well. His career BA was like .065

On the other hand, Danny Espinosa entered the game with a 4-6 vs Arroyo which was further reason to have him in there. Yah, I know small sample size.

Everything worked out last night but LaRoche still looks horrible. I saw Youkilis just missed his 5th game with back pain. I just don't believe LaRoche is healthy but who knows. His swings are lousy but also his eye is bad. He actually stepped back from a fastball that zipped right over the plate for a strike 3 looking last night.

Laddie Blah Blah said...

"Gio was superb. Gio, JZ and Detwiler are all pitching lights out. The pen is now rock solid. When Strasburg gets it going, they will dominate.

Desi is the key guy on defense. He has played better the last 2 games, as well. Things are going in the right direction, finally.

It was good to see Espinoza have a good night, offensively, but that's not why he is in the lineup. He is 7 for 12 against Bronson Arroyo after last night, and was 5 for 9 against him going into the game. Too bad he can't face Arroyo every night.

Give Davey credit for knowing his team and how to motivate them. Most of us were confident they would be back, but it's good to see them have one like last night. If they get pitching and defense like they had last night, they are going to win a lot of games.

Bryce Harper is even beter than I thought. Last year he let his emotions get the best of him, at times. This year, he has the look of a Mafia hit man at the plate, or Arnie's Terminator. Stone cold killer eyes. Last year he went into a 2-month slump. This year he had a little 13 AB hitless streak before he made the necessary adjustment. Like the Terminator, he observes, learns, reprograms, readjusts and rearms. I am certain he wants to break Mel Ott's standard of 42 HRs by a 20-year-old. I wouldn't bet against that kid.

Biggest offensive story was Span's 3 hit game. If he gets on, the Nats will score. Wait until Zim comes back healthy and Starsburg gets into a groove.

Anyone who thinks Rendon is overmatched after 4 games needs to take a deep breath. That kid is going to be a great player. Only Harper has more potential than Rendon. If Davey has faith in Espinoza because he had a "great spring training," then what must he think of Rendon, who had a much, much better one?

A DC Wonk said...

He actually stepped back from a fastball that zipped right over the plate for a strike 3 looking last night.

In LaRoche's defense, if you're thinking about the same pitch that I'm thinking of, it was a pitch that was, indeed, inside, then tailed in over the inside corner. That was a mighty fine pitch, IIRC.

Doc said...

Great game--at last, I can take the brown bag off. It was getting in the way anyhow. I almost banged my head on the way to grab another beer!

Lombo fans must have been pleased with his offense last night--almost overshadowed my guy Danny's modest display.

Now about ALR.....

Dave said...

I'm sure Julie will be fine. I just want to hear her ask some real baseball questions, not just "How does it feel to get a win?"

Like, for example, "You went 112 pitches through the 8th. Do you feel like you had another inning in you?" For example.

NCNatsie said...

Joe Seamhead said: "So, who's on third tonight against RHP Bailey?"

I Don't Know.

mick said...

I never doubted Gio and have said all along the Nats have 4 good starters, although Stras is only above average, he is not dominate right now. The pitching staff is what makes the Nats competitive. As long as you have pitching your team will be a contender.

Good to see Desi and Espi hit. I have no idea what is up with ALR. I fear the worst that he is on a permanent decline, he reminds me of Richie Zisk after the up and coming Texas Rangers spent a boat load on him Zisk was gone before the end of the 1975 season. I mean how many more third strikes is ALT going to watch??

mick said...

peric said...
Dave Jageler had me in tears laughing, after Bernadina's hit, he says to Charlie Slowes, "thats a huge weight lifted off of Shark's dorsal fin"

I wouldn't say that in mixed company ... ~smiles~


hee hee, I suspect you and I have the same sense of humor...."this one time at band camp" lol

Dave said...

Good one, NCNatsie.

Joe Seamhead said...

mick, at this point I'm hesitant to say ALR is is serious decline, especially with his history of lousy Aprils for most of his career. I think the word "slump" is more appropriate at this point. It is supposed to start getting warmer soon. Let's hope Adam heats up, too.

Joe Seamhead said...

Is He Any Good, NCNatsie?

EmDash said...

Strasburg was dominant after the first inning in his last game - most really good pitchers will still have the occasional hiccup.

I predict LaRoche will start heating up in the Pittsburgh series in early May - I remember that he generally does very well against them.

Rich P. said...

It's not about Rendon. It's not about Lombo. It's about the team. Davey shook things up by re-arranging the batting order to put Lombo in the 2 hole. It worked great,so now you want him to change it after one game?

If Lombo settles in at third base and #2 hitter until Zim gets back, that doesn't mean Rendon will ride the pine the whole time. He could be sent back down when Ramos comes back. They could go with three catchers for a week or so, allowing Ramos to get pinch hit ABs on the days Suzuki is catching to help ease him back from his DL stint. Sort of like an extended rehab assignment.

Rendon is not up here for good yet, no matter how well he does. That was known the day he was called up, and nothing has happened to change that.

NCNatsie said...

Joe Seamhead said: "Is He Any Good, NC Natsie?"

Well, sorta like Kobernus and Karns, I think.

EmDash said...

I think we have to be careful about assuming the offensive breakthrough happened because of the line-up shake-up. It's maybe more likely that Arroyo was just a good match-up for our line-up, or that they were due some luck in the other team committing errors and/or bloops falling for hits.

I like Lombo, and he played a good third base - I was wrong about that. But he also didn't do anything, offensively speaking; that could be some bad luck, of course, but it's still true.

mick said...

Joe.... I hope you are right, but this is the worst start I can remember for ALR. In 2011, he was injured and saw the ball better than he does now before he went on the IR. With his age, I just wonder if this is teh classic over night turn for the worst

natsfan1a said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
natsfan1a said...

(I'm just starting on my second cup.)

Let it be officially recognized that Drake said it first, in yesterday's pregame. ;-)

Joe Seamhead said...

mick, at this point I'm hesitant to say ALR is is serious decline, especially with his history of lousy Aprils for most of his career. I think the word "slump" is more appropriate at this point. It is supposed to start getting warmer soon. Let's hope Adam heats up, too.
April 26, 2013 8:51 AM

NatsNut said...

=)

I thought it; was waiting to see who'd post it.

NCNatsie said...
Joe Seamhead said: "So, who's on third tonight against RHP Bailey?"

I Don't Know.

3on2out said...

After listening to Peric for the entire spring, I think I have it figured out how to fix the Nationals:

New GM: Peric
New Manager: Peric

New 1B: Zimmerman
New 2B: Koberus
New 3B: Rendon
New LF: Moore
New CF: Harper

The only thing I am not clear on: do we trade LaRoche, Span and Espinosa for prospects or have them join the goon squad and trade Lombo, Tracy and Bernadina? The devil is the details but I think I have outlined his basic solution. You get rid of the tried and true Major Leaguers who have had success at their respective positions and replace them with unproven, untested unknowns. It is really simple. Don't know why we all couldn't see it.

natsfan1a said...

He's on third; we're not talking about him.

NatsNut said...

=)

I thought it; was waiting to see who'd post it.

NCNatsie said...
Joe Seamhead said: "So, who's on third tonight against RHP Bailey?"

I Don't Know.

April 26, 2013 9:30 AM
3on2out said...

Doc said...

In his own mind 3on2out, I'm sure he already is the GM.

A DC Wonk said...

mick said...

Joe.... I hope you are right, but this is the worst start I can remember for ALR. In 2011,


He's actually had worse (once)

March/April batting average for LaRoche

2012 .329
2011 .193
2010 .296
2009 .269
2008 .174
2007 .133
2006 .200
2005 .206
2004 .214

career: .217

But -- still -- strikeouts in six at bats in a row?! Yowza!

natsfan1a said...

Evidently Julie knows her baseball and grew up a Mets fan. Here you go, boys.

Ghost Of Steve M. said...

Peric is right on Rendon for now. You have to get him back in there or send him back to AA. Those that are talking about Rendon's BA being bad have to consider its only 4 games.

Also, those 2 errors were just both brain freeze types of plays. He's also made some really nice looking plays like charging for a short hop play and a backhanded play by the line that were really nice.

The kid has a glove and an arm and definitely has a bat. Unfortunately he got called up and had to face 3 tough Cardinal pitchers and hasn't had the luxury of facing some Miami Marlin hacks to get going.

I think the expectation levels sometimes are too high because we've been spoiled by Bryce Harper who is on pace for a very special season. Remember those goals he wouldn't disclose [TOP SECRET]

John C. said...

In Peric's defense (phrases I never thought I'd type for $100, Alex), he is certainly not unique in managing/GMing from the stands or the internet. He does have more faith in his own acumen than virtually anyone else, sometimes perhaps to a fault, but the basic behavior of second guessing and pontificating to the point of tedium is a time honored baseball tradition :)

NatsNut said...

Hey Chase, I think WaPo has the right version of Suzuki's quote" "rock-and-fire" vs. "rockin' fire." Either way, it's still how we want Gio to pitch though.

Ghost Of Steve M. said...

Wonk, in 2011 LaRoche was injured so you can throw that stat out.

In 2007 LaRoche was traded to Pittsburgh and wasn't too happy with the trade. Yes, he started off slowly. Did circumstances affect things more? Who knows. In 2008, he went into the season not looking right. Injured? Who knows. In fact in 2008, he really didn't get over the Mendoza line until May 18th. On June 6, 2008 he was batting .210

Both of those Pittsburgh teams he played on were 90+ loss teams.

LaRoche's career April numbers are still .217/.311/.397/.708

JaneB said...

This makes my whole day better.

Scott Margenau said...

3on2--- that cracked me up!

Swami-- r u for real? U sound like a barell of fun.

Ghost Of Steve M. said...

natsfan1a said...
Evidently Julie knows her baseball and grew up a Mets fan. Here you go, boys.

April 26, 2013 9:55 AM


So you have Ladson who's a die-hard Yankees fan and Julie Alexandria who is a die-hard Mets fan.

At least the Yankees don't play in the NL East but then again Ladson doesn't have a smile like Julie Alexandria.

A DC Wonk said...

A few random comments from baseball prospectus this morning:

- Mike Trout, Albert Pujols, and Josh Hamilton: 3-for-12 with three singles. And in completely unrelated news, the Angels lost.

- The Pirates dropped 14 hits on the Phillies, begging the question, which Pennsylvania team would you rather be over the next five seasons? (Neither is not an acceptable answer.)

(note: that's three straight wins for the Pirates over the Phillies -- who started Hamels, Halladay, and Lee in those games)

Candide said...

Keep hearing Rendon is finding the game is moving too fast for him, which happens all the time with young prospects (Harper being the outrageous exception).

So I have no problem with sitting him for a day or so and absorbing things, getting a feel for the flow of the game at the ML level. I'd like to think he's sitting next to Zimm and getting the benefit of FoF's insight, but I don't think I saw him once in the dugout last night. There was one shot of Zimm talking with someone else (forget who), but it would really be good for everyone if Zimmerman took it upon himself to be Rendon's Werth-Harper mentor.

BTW, Cunegonde called a while ago:

"Did you have anything in mind what to do tonight?"

"Well, I checked the Airmen of Note's site" (Air Force band) "and they don't seem to be playing tonight. Why - you have some ideas?"

"Did you want to go to the game tonight?"

Dang. I'm starting to wonder if next year she'll want to get season tickets...

sjm308 said...

3on2 - very funny!!

gonat - agreed it is only 4 games but what do you call a .100 batting ave.? if not struggling. Not sure the game is moving too fast for him, its probably an adjustment for every young player whether they are moving from A to AA but you have to think that his first time in the majors was just a bit exciting for him. Glad he did get that one nice double in his 2nd game and hopefully he can settle in, but he won't settle in by sitting on the bench.

sjm308 said...

Candide - if you guys do get a package of games next year I think it would be great to have Candide and Cunegonde printed on the Red Rewards Cards (or whatever they are calling them next year).

Go Nats!

Ghost Of Steve M. said...

A DC Wonk said...
A few random comments from baseball prospectus this morning:

- The Pirates dropped 14 hits on the Phillies, begging the question, which Pennsylvania team would you rather be over the next five seasons? (Neither is not an acceptable answer.)


Neither is still my answer.

In other news, Jason Grilli is 36 years old and up until this year had 5 career saves and already has 9 saves with a 0.00 ERA.

I only recall him as a horrible starter who then bounced around as a reliever. This is one of those moments where you go, how does that happen and can it last?


Ghost Of Steve M. said...

sjm308 said...
3on2 - very funny!!

gonat - agreed it is only 4 games but what do you call a .100 batting ave.?


Hey hay, he's well over .100 It was Adam Dunn who started yesterday's game at .099 and that wasn't a misprint although he hit a HR yesterday and is on pace for 32 dingers!

Agreed 3on2 - very funny!! I will say that with all of Peric's chirping that if Ryan Zimmerman doesn't improve with his fielding that Peric was right about moving him to 1st sooner than later.

Thinking back, I always thought it was too premature and even Ryan scoffed last year at the thought of moving across the diamond.

If his yips can't be controlled then it has to happen and the Nats will have to figure something out.

I still believe the 2 week funk the Nats were in were started by that meltdown after the error against the Braves.

JD said...


JMO but I think that Rendon will be better served returning to Harrisburg, playing every day, working on stuff without the pressure cooker that is major league baseball.

I think Lombo can man 3rd base for another week and we can use another power bat off the bench (Owings?). I think that when Ramos returns Solano goes back to Syracuse. I think he needs to show that he can produce enough offense to merit a full time job next year which should open up as Suzuki gets his next gig elsewhere,

Ghost Of Steve M. said...

JD, I mentioned Owings yesterday and the only issue as you are probably aware is that once he comes up and RZim comes off the DL someone is going to have to be sent down or to the DL or DFA'd.

Owings has no options left.

Marrero may be the better choice. He is tearing the cover off of the ball and has 6 HRs with the highest OPS on the Chiefs (1.047).

JD said...

Ghost,

I didn't consider the options issue (I didn't know Owings status).

I have to take Marrero's numbers with a grain of salt. I would like to give the player the benefit of the doubt but I've never really been impressed with his game.

When I told Sam that Marrero is having a great April his reaction was: 'good, now may be a good time to trade him'.

JD said...


Ghost,

I am not down on Rendon one bit. I think he'll be great. I am a great believer in making sure a player is put in a great position to succeed and I don't think Rendon is in that position now.

It's not a tragedy; Trout was a disaster when 1st called up but the Angels nipped it at the bud quickly, send him down and when he came back up it was for good. I think Rendon can really put up nice numbers in AA and AAA and when he comes up he will know that he belongs.

NatsLady said...

Isn't Owings on a minor-league free-agent deal? I don't think options are an issue. He may have an opt-out, though.

Sec. 3, My Untucked Sofa said...

Hey Chase, I think WaPo has the right version of Suzuki's quote" "rock-and-fire" vs. "rockin' fire." Either way, it's still how we want Gio to pitch though.

Although, I have to say, "rocking fire" has a lot going for it. I think I like "Rocking the Fire!" better than "Natitude," but only if they give up on the "pitch to contact with 100MPH fastballs" thing.

Ghost Of Steve M. said...

NatsLady said...
Isn't Owings on a minor-league free-agent deal? I don't think options are an issue. He may have an opt-out, though.

April 26, 2013 12:15 PM


Once he is called up, he would have to pass through waivers if the Nats wanted to send him back down.

NatsJack in Florida said...

3on2out.......Great post.....made me laugh even harder then when I read his actual posts.

Finally got a vacation win last nite and looking to make it 2 - 3 for our visit. And I'll continue to holler "throw friggin' strike 1" before ever first pitch by a Nat.

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