Results tagged ‘ Jason Kubel ’

Today’s Lesson: Don’t Pitch To Kubel With The Bases Loaded On Sunday

Mariners_Twins_Baseball_sff_185682_game.jpgLast year, Jason Kubel finally become the big lefty bat the organization saw all along by putting up these stats: .300 AVG, 28 HR, 103 RBI, .907 OPS.  This year (at least so far), the numbers have dwindled: .256, 12 HR, 58 RBI, .756 OPS.  Unfortunately, Kubes has been just as likely to ground into a killer double play or whiff on 3-4 pitches this season than provide the big hit.

However, there is one obvious exception: When the bases are juiced (particularly on Sunday!) and the Twins need runs:

In early May against the Yankees, Big K did this off Mariano Rivera to prevent a sweep:

 

Less than two weeks ago, Jason did likewise to the Orioles.

Today, the damage was done in the form of a three-run double, once again with the bases loaded on a sticky Sunday afternoon, that put the Twins up for good.

Of course, it also helps when Francisco Liriano (7 IP, 11 K) is pitching lights-out, at home, against one of the worst offensive teams (Seattle) in the majors.

8 in a row for the hometown crew!  The road gets a lot tougher from here, though, as a big four-gamer is nigh against the Rays.  Whaddya say we show a potential (hopefully…anybody but the Yanks) playoff opponent what Twins baseball is all about!

Preview (59-46, 2nd, 0.5 GB CWS): Carl Pavano (13-6, 3.21) vs. Jeremy Hellickson (0-0, 0.00).

Whew…That Was Close

Twins_Tigers_Baseball_sff_181553_game.jpgWhew…the Twins managed to avoid a sweep today at the hands of the Tigers thanks to another solid outing from Carl Pavano and some much-needed clutch hitting (that didn’t produce too many double plays).

With pretty much the entire rotation struggling at this point, Pavano took the rotation on his back and turned in 7.2 IP while allowing just three earned runs.  Heck, he even managed to keep Miguel Cabrera from completely destroying us!

Multi-hit games from Young, Cuddyer (who is finally starting to hit the ball again), and Kubel allowed the M&M-less offense to come out on top.

This was a big win for the Twins, as heading into the break three games back is much better (if only psychologically) than five.

Notes:

-Justin Morneau, due to his lingering concussion symptoms, will not start in the All-Star game (or play whatsoever) on Tuesday night.  Cabrera will start the game, while Paul Konerko of the White Sox has been added to the roster.

-Sad news today in hearing that longtime Yankees PA announcer Bob Sheppard passed away today.  I know that he hadn’t been doing the PA for a few years now, but his recorded broadcast still introduces Derek Jeter to this day.  Younger fans may not remember the name, but the voice will likely be familiar.

Preview: Home-Run Derby!  Here are this year’s participants:

 

National League: Chris Young (Diamondbacks), Corey Hart (Brewers), Matt Holliday (Cardinals), Hanley Ramirez (Marlins)

American League: David Ortiz (Red Sox), Nick Swisher (Yankees), Miguel Cabrera (Tigers), Vernon Wells (Blue Jays)

Making ‘Em Sweat

Twins_Blue_Jays_Baseball__sff_180650_game.jpgLast night, the Minnesota Twins look for all the world to be headed to another disappointing loss on the road.  Down 5-2 after five innings, Carl Pavano was getting beat by the long ball and the bats weren’t doing much of anything (besides grounding to Lyle Overbay, that is).

However, that is when the bats started to heat up:

Twins_Blue_Jays_Baseball__sff_180610_game.jpg Not only did it take back-to-back jacks from Morneau and Kubel to jump back into the game, but big hits were also needed from Mauer (dinger), and doubles by Thome and Delmon Young (who finished the game 3-3) since the pen kept serving up the meatballs.

As much as everyone is worried about the Twins right now, I think that our hitting is what it is and we aren’t going to change anything.  If we continue to trot out a Span-O-Dawg-Mauer-Morneau-Cuddy-Kubes-Big D-Big Jim-JJ lineup, we’ll score runs:

 If it doesn’t, then we probably just don’t deserve to make the playoffs anyway, so why worry?  Thus, are biggest area of improvement will be pitching.  Cliff Lee would be huge, but enough so to mortage away guys like Wilson Ramos and Aaron Hicks?  At this point, I would have to say yes.  With that kind of potent lineup day in and day out, we may actually have a chance to take on the mighty Yanks in the playoffs this year (one always has to assume that the AL road to the World Series runs through the Big Apple), but not without a few pitchers to hold back their firepower.  Sending Lee, Liriano, and Pavano/Slowey/Baker/Blackie to the mound would give as at least a fair shake against their big bats, I think, though of course nothing is guaranteed.

Another key…more pictures like this:

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Notes:

-Too bad Delmon Young won’t win the Final Vote balloting, but Kevin Youkilis probably deserves it.  Just as long as Swish doesn’t make it…man I hate that guy!

Preview (45-38, 2nd, 0.5 GB DET): Kevin Slowey (8-5, 4.57) vs. Marc Rzepczynski (0-0, 0.00).  The Tigers needed some late-inning heroics to preserve their division lead last night, so let’s keep the pressure on.  I don’t want to be two games back heading into Comerica this weekend.

A Solid Nine

1662593145_d329719b43.jpgThis afternoon, the Twins rapped out 9 hits (two apiece from Morneau, Kubel, & Cuddyer) against the Tigers, while Kevin Slowey followed Blackie’s example and turned in his first quality start in ages, beating the Tigres 5-1 and pushing them just a bit further back in the AL Central standings.

The thing I wanted to comment on today, though, is the kind of lineup the Twins will be able to put on the field everyday once JJ Hardy gets back from his injury (likely this weekend):

1. Denard Span, CF

2. Orlando Hudson, 2B

3. Joe Mauer, C

4. Justin Morneau, 1B

5. Michael Cuddyer, 3B

6. Jason Kubel, RF

7. Delmon Young, LF

8. Jim Thome, DH

9. JJ Hardy, SS

Wow…Thome batting eigth?!  Of course, the two concerns are Cuddy’s defense at third and Thome’s status as everyday player (even at DH), but if those things pan out, that lineup could be as deadly as any order this side of the Yankees in the American League.  Plus, Gardy could (and would) bring Nick Punto off the bench as a defensive sub at practically any infield position late in the game.

I know that the Twins have always been a streaky bunch of hitters the last few years, with Young, Cuddyer, and Morneau (although perhaps not his ’10 form) prone to terrible dry spells, but that is where the depth comes in.  When guys 1-9 can provide big hits, it would take every single one of them in a slump to slow production.

Notes:

-It was nice to see Slowey strike a few guys out today.  Whereas Blackburn needs the ball to dive to get outs, Slowey needs to have his perfect control, which will lead to some K’s in big spots.

Preview (43-35, 1st, 1.5 GA DET): Jeff Niemann (6-2, 2.72) vs. Carl Pavano (9-6, 3.33). Man, if Pavano was any shorter, he’d be the spitting image of this guy:

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A Little Slap-Happy

For far too many years, Yankee closer Mariano “Mo” Rivera has done the baseball equivalent of this video to American League batters…

 

That video could also be a metaphor of the Yankees’ dominance over the Twins in the Bronx since the Ron Gardenhire Era.  The Twins may put up a fight, but it was always the Yankees who got the final “slap”.

Not today:

http://minnesota.twins.mlb.com/video/play.jsp?content_id=8059633&c_id=min

Does this game signify a major shift in the rivalry?  Who can know.  Will the Yankees start another streak just as long the next time we come to the Big Apple?  Hopefully not, but perhaps.  For today, though, we finally got to celebrate in the nextdoor neighbor to the House That Ruth Built.  It feels good.

In not too long, the Yanks will have to come into our house:

Target%20Field-From%20RF.jpg

…where hopefully we can start our own little Yankee-killing streak in the heart of Twins Territory.

 

Preview (23-14, 1st, 1.5 GA DET): Kevin Slowey (4-3, 4.62) vs. Dana Eveland (3-2, 4.81).  Off to Toronto now, who have really had our number the past two seasons.

Minnesota Twins Spring Training Preview 2010

sect-101-450.jpgNow that the Twins are cranking things up down in Fort Myers, here is a little preview of what to expect in terms of the build-up to Opening Day 2010:

Last Year: 87-76, 1st in American League Central Division (1 GA of Detroit Tigers), lost to New York Yankees in ALDS (3-0).

 

Manager: Once again, the Twins will have Ron Gardenhire at the helm.  Since taking the reins from Tom Kelly back in 2002, Gardy has posted a 709-588 (.547) record with the Twins.  Besides the lone 1969 Billy Martin tenure, that winning percentage constitutes the highest mark in franchise history, and trails only TK (1140-1244) in overall wins.

 

Venue: After nearly three decades of playing in the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome, the Twins will now christen open-air Target Field as their new home.  Dimensions: LF-339, LCF-377, CF-404, RCF-367, RF-328.

 

Projected Starting Lineup & Positions:

 

  1. Denard Span (R), CF (2009 stats: .311 BA, 97 R, 180 H, 23 SB, .807 OPS): Though primarily just a singles hitter who runs the bases well, Span is very adept at working counts, getting on base, and coming up big in the clutch.  The best lead-off hitter wearing “TC” since Chuck Knoblauch jumped ship.  Plays Torii Hunter-like defense in the outfield.
  2. Orlando Hudson (S), 2B (for LA Dodgers: .283 BA, 74 R, 35 2B, .774 OPS, All-Star, Gold Glove): One of the newcomers this year.  Can’t say I’ve watched him play much, but the stats don’t seem to lie.  He’s very comparable to the departed Orlando Cabrera, who did wonders for the top of the order down the stretch in ’09.
  3. Joe Mauer (L), C (.365 BA, 94 R, 96 RBI, 28 HR, 1.031 OPS, All-Star, Gold Glove, MVP, Silver Slugger): Perhaps the most talented player in baseball this side of Albert Pujols.  The kind of guy who could hit .320 and call it a “down year”.
  4. Justin Morneau (L), 1B (.274 BA, 100 RBI, 30 HR, .878 OPS, All-Star): Take a look at those stats, and then consider he missed the final month of ’09 due to injury.  His ability to hit for average and maintain a selective eye separates him from the hackers.
  5. Michael Cuddyer (R), RF (.276 BA, 93 R, 94 RBI, 32 HR, .862 OPS): The biggest hurdle for Cuddy is making it through an entire season.  When hurt, he struggles with things like consistency and strike outs.  When healthy, he puts up numbers like last season.  Possesses a rifle arm.
  6. Jason Kubel (L), DH (.300 BA, 28 HR, 103 RBI, .907 OPS): Could be the cleanup hitter in many other teams’ lineups.  Is just coming into his own (a bit late) after struggling through a serious knee injury as a rookie.  Can also more than hold his own in the outfield, where he may find himself on more than a few occasions if Jim Thome heats up.
  7. Delmon Young (R), LF (.284 BA, 60 RBI, 12 HR, .733 OPS): Will be the first to sit if Kubel and Thome play their way into the lineup, but also has tremendous upside.  Is clumsy in the field (but just good enough to make up for it) and prone to hitting nothing but singles for long stretches, but when locked in can be a deadly force.
  8. J.J. Hardy (R), SS (for Milwaukee Brewers: .229 BA, 53 R, 47 RBI, 11 HR, .659 OPS): The Twins are hoping for the ’07-’08 Hardy to re-emerge…the one who hit 25+ homers and posted a respectable average.  The verdict is still out on his D, which is decent but not Punto-like.
  9. Nick Punto (S) (.228 BA, 56 R, 82 H, 16 SB, .621 OPS) or Brendan Harris (R), 3B (.261 BA, 44 R, 108 H, .672 OPS): A classic “offense vs. defense” choice here.  Gardy loves Punto for the defense he brings to the infield, but Little Nicky is often an albatross at the bottom of the order.  Harris is an average fielder, but can rattle one off the wall every so often.

 

Bench:

 

  1. Jim Thome (DH/1B, L) (for White Sox & Dodgers: .249 BA, 23 HR, 77 RBI, .847 OPS): Hopefully the big bat the Twins have desperately needed off the pine.  Could easily play his way into everyday lineup if balls start clearing the walls.
  2. Jose Morales (C, S) (.311 BA, 119 AB, .742 OPS): Showed enough poise as a youngster for the Twins to let veteran Mike Redmond leave.
  3. Alexi Casilla (2B, S) (.202, 228 AB, .538 OPS): At times provides a spark to the top of the order and plays flashy D, but is still far too prone to mental errors/goofs that Gardy can’t stand.
  4. Matt Tolbert (IF, S) (.232, 198 AB, .611 OPS): Plays the kind of scrappy ball and defense that the manager loves and his adept at handling the bat (if not racking up hits).

-Others battling for roster spots include Drew Butera (C), Wilson Ramos (C), Jacque Jones (OF), Luke Hughes (IF), Trevor Plouffe (IF), and Danny Valencia (IF).

 

Starting Rotation:

 

  1. Scott Baker (RHP, 15-9, 4.36 ERA, 200 IP): Baker has shown spurts of ace-like outings, but needs to consistently pitch further into games to really match up against the league’s best.
  2. Nick Blackburn (RHP, 11-11, 4.03 ERA, 205.2 IP): Has a knack for coming up big in the clutch starts, but also needs to work on consistency.  A typical sinkerball pitcher in that if the ball isn’t diving, it’s jumping (off bats, that is).
  3. Kevin Slowey (RHP, 10-3, 4.86 ERA, 90.2 IP): At times looks like the second coming of Brad Radke, but needs to stay healthy for an entire season to prove it.  Has absolutely pin-point accuracy with an assortment of pitches to keep the hitters guessing.
  4. Carl Pavano (RHP, 5-4, 4.64 ERA, 73.2 IP): The only veteran in the starting rotation, but his overall effectiveness is questionable.  Showed he could compete against the AL Central after being acquired during the latter months of the season, but needs to prove his worth against the “big boys” of the league.
  5. Francisco Liriano (LHP, 5-13, 5.80 ERA, 136.2 IP), Glen Perkins (LHP, 6-7, 5.89 ERA, 96.1 IP), Brian Duensing (LHP, 5-2, 3.64 ERA, 84 IP), Anthony Swarzak (RHP, 3-7, 6.25 ERA, 59 IP), or Jeff Manship (RHP, 1-1, 5.68 ERA, 31.2 IP): Liriano is obviously the wild card of this group, as he could become unquestioned ace of the staff or play himself right out of the majors.  Perkins is not on the organization’s good side after squabbles over service time and just plain poor performance, while Duensing is the conservative pick after impressing in the heat of the pennant race last year.  Swarzak and/or Manship would have to pitch their tails off to even warrant consideration.

 

Bullpen:

 

  1. Joe Nathan (RHP, 2.10 ERA, 68.2 IP, 47 SV): Still a top-tier closer in all of baseball, but somehow needs to shake late- (and post-) season demons.  Too many batters (7) tagged him with the long ball last year, so that is a good place to start.
  2. Matt Guerrier (RHP, 2.36 ERA, 76.1 IP): The primary setup man to Nathan.  Is very solid, but fatigue always an issue due to over-use.
  3. Jose Mijares (LHP, 2.34 ERA, 61.2 IP): The lefty-lefty matchup guy who his almost unhittable when in decent shape and possessing a clear head.  Has tendency to put balls in the dirt and sometimes inexplicably loses his control for short periods of time.
  4. Pat Neshek (RHP, DNP-Injured): After missing almost two whole seasons due to Tommy John surgery, the side-winding Minnesota native is back to confuse opponents once again.  Could be a god-send to take some of the strain off Matty G.
  5. Jon Rauch (RHP, 1.72 ERA, 15.2 IP): One of the big (literally!) reasons the Twins made the playoffs last season.  Is very flexible in terms of duration (1-3 innings).
  6. Jesse Crain (RHP, 4.70 ERA, 51.2 IP): An enigma: some fans love his electric stuff, while others cringe at his predictability, wobbly control, and inability to pitch out of jams after creating them.
  7. Clay Condrey (RHP, for Philadelphia: 3.00 ERA, 42 IP): A newcomer who is coming off two solid seasons in the National League.  Adds valuable depth to a unit that would often carry a green rookie or past-his-prime vet in this spot.

 

Prediction: If the starting pitching holds up for the entire season and the bats produce even a trifling of what they should, this could be a very scary team.  Must prove first and foremost that, as well as beating up on the Kansas City’s and Cleveland’s of the world, they now have the firepower to take on the likes of New York and Anaheim (teams that destroyed them in ’09).  A division championship is a very achievable goal, with the sights set on further venturing into the playoff tournament.

 

From One Orlando To Another

At the end of last season, the Twins picked up Orlando Cabrera…

sp-al_topgame22__0500625458.jpg

…to anchor the SS position and provide some pop at the top of the order.

Unfortunately, Cabrera is somewhat of a bid-hunter in the baseball business, and thus was all but assured a ticket elsewhere.  So, just a few days ago, the Twins picked up another Orlando (this one carrying the moniker of Hudson)…

Orlando_Hudson_out_with_broken_wrist.jpg

…to, once again, anchor an infield position (this time 2B) and hit in between Denard “Singles Machine” Span and Joe “Drive ‘Em In” Mauer.

I really like this move, as it continues to reduce the number of weak outs the Twins have in their lineup.  A possible Opening-Day squad now looks like this:

1. Denard Span

2. Orlando Hudson

3. Joe Mauer

4. Justin Morneau

5. Michael Cuddyer

6. Jason Kubel

7. Delmon Young

8. J.J. Hardy

9. Nick Punto/Brendan Harris

Compared to past years, that lineup has the real potential to put some feet on home plate.

I have to give it to the Twins organization this season for opening up the wallet a bit.  The combination of “new stadium funds” and “trying to woo Mauer into staying” seems to be working quite well together!  Instead of just treading water and competing in our weak division, if our pitching gets back on track we could have a real contending squad. 

What In The World Is Happening To MN…!

Okay, so first this guy comes to the Vikes…

brett-favre-vikings.jpg

And now this guy is a Minnesota Twin…

Jim%20Thome.jpg

Is nothing sacred anymore?!

Actually, in all honesty, I think this could turn into a great move for the Twins.  If Thome doesn’t see consistent playing time, he will be a HUGE addition to our bench.  How many times have we lamented seeing guys like Brian Buscher or Matt Tolbert pinch-hit in a key spot late in the game?  Big Thome solves that problem.

Also, this puts a bit more pressure on Delmon Young to perform, as Jason Kubel could easily become the everyday leftfielder and Thome could DH full-time.

Worst case scenario: Thome doesn’t have any pop left and we end up paying him less than we paid Mike Lamb. 

Why We Lost, Theory #2: We Were Overmatched From The Start

yankeesboard06.jpgIn the previous post, I made the point that the Twins have nobody to blame but themselves for the ALDS sweep at the hands of the Yankees. But is this really true?

This is kind of a touchy issue, at least for me, as it implies that the Twins (or any small-market “David” vs. a big-market “Goliath”) really never have much of a chance to compete against the “big boys” of the league.

Any competant baseball fan knows that the economic system of the game is messed up due to the fact that no salary cap is in place.  Teams like the Yankees, Red Sox, and Angels (in the American League) have such a huge advantage over the Twins and Royals of the world that its a wonder any other team ever represents the league in the World Series (I guess that is the crapshoot of a playoff structure that features a 3-of-5 first round).  Sure, Bud Selig’s supposedly brilliant luxury tax system (where, much like Robin Hood, the league robs from the rich to give to the poor) helps a little bit, but in reality all it ends up doing is narrowing the free agent pool each year (as the middle-market teams are able to lock up a few key players to long-term deals).  It most definetly, however, does not prevent teams like the Yankees from nabbing the best free agents year after year (case in point: C.C. Sabathia and A.J. Burnett brought in before the start of this season).  The Twins could never have dreamed of signing guys like that.

Of course, baseball will likely never changed (at least not with Selig at the helm), as the success of the Yanks, Sawx, and Halos fuels the revenue machine, especially in the World Series.  Though it might provide some sanctity back into the game, nobody wants to see the Twins and Athletics, to use two examples, duking it out in the ALCS.  If the MLB execs had it their way, it would be New York and Boston every single year.

The whole situation kind of reminds me of the infamous “You can’t handle the truth” speech from the movie A Few Good Men:

“My existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, saves lives…You don’t want the truth. Because deep down, in places you don’t talk about at parties, you want me on that wall. You need me on that wall.”

While more parity would be great for baseball, it will never happen because admittedly it would weaken the short-term (until new rivalries are formed, at least) revenue stream of the league.

Thus, can the Twins even be expected to compete with the Yankees in any series?  They have Sabathia and Burnett, we have Baker and Blackburn.  They have the best middle of an order (Teixera, A-Rod, Matsui) since Ruth, Gehrig, and Lazzeri batted consecutively, while we have one stud (Mauer) and two others (Kubel, Cuddyer) that are by and large overmatched by quality pitching.  They have guys like Melky Cabrera and Robinson Cano at the BOTTOM of the order, while we have Carlos Gomez, Nick Punto, and Jose Morales because they are all we can afford.  They can throw arms like Joba Chamberlain and Phil Hughes at us, while he have Matt Guerrier and Jose Mijares.  No comparison.

So, those are the two theories as to why our beloved Twins were brutalized by the hated Yanks.  Which one is more valid?  I think it is a mixture of both.  The Twins would need to play a perfect series to even give themselves a chance to beat the Yankees, and instead we choked in every big opportunity.

Why We Lost, Theory #1: We Beat Ourselves

4767380f-27d8-4a7b-9fd8-d4d6a3153f25.jpgNow that a bit of time has passed and my initial reaction to the ALDS sweep has lessened a bit, I wanted to take a look back and see why the Twins got the broom. Here is one theory, with another to follow in a later post:

We beat ourselves. Plain and simple.  No B.S., no excuses.  Each and every game the Twins gave their all against a very tough Yankee ballclub, yet there was one key collapse and enough mistakes to go around that the only entity to blame for the sweep is staring us in the mirror.

Game 1: As expected, young starter Brian Duensing had trouble containing the big bats of the Yankees, and C.C. Sabathia was mowing us down like a shiny new Briggs & Stratton.  However, in the middle innings, the Twins were just down by a pair of runs and manager Ron Gardenhire decided to go to the bullpen in a key situation to retire Hideki Matsui.  Twins fans expected Ron Mahay, but instead Francisco Liriano trotted into the game.  My reaction: OMFG.  Matsui poked one into the seats and the Yanks never looked back.  Poor managing, plain and simple.

Game 2: Too many mistakes to count, really.  First was the now-infamous rounding of the base from Carlos Gomez (him being in the lineup in the first place could also be viewed as another Gardy Gaffe), where he allowed himself to be tagged out before Delmon Young could cross home plate and thus erasing a potential early lead and key run for the Twins.

Next, was the complete and utter implosion of closer Joe Nathan.  Way too many times down the stretch of the regular season (and in this game, obviously), Joe would come into games with no life on his fastball, the pitch that sets up his nasty breaking stuff.  Thus, he would be forced to throw the breaking stuff (which rarely gets over the plate) early and, when the patient Yankee hitters would lay off, he would then have to groove a fastball, exactly what happened to A-Rod.

The thing that sticks in my (and Gardy’s, I bet) craw the most, though, was the debacle when the Twins loaded the bases with no outs in the top of the eleventh inning.  Both Gomez and Delmon Young proceeded to swing at the first pitch of each at-bat (proving that they still just don’t “get it”, yet) and record outs en route to no runs coming in at all.  I bet that Gardy could have wrung their necks at that point.  Thus, the walk-off from Mark Teixera was all but imminent (if we can’t score with the bases loaded and no outs, when would we ever?).

Game Three: The Nick Punto baserunning blunder was the deflation-point of this game, as Punto got a little too excited when he heard the roar of the crowd and decided to round third with his head down at full speed, completely ignoring (well, not even seeing, actually) the “stop” sign that was clearly given from Scotty Ullger.  Jeter snagged Span’s bouncing up the middle and easily doubled Little Nicky off.  The Yankees then went on to dominate us (especially our bullpen once again) in the later innings.

Not only were those blunders quite apparent, but also present was the fact that the Twins left about a week’s worth of runners on base throughout the entire series.  Basically, we rarely got the big hit, and when we finally did we found some way to screw it up.  Kubel, Cuddyer, and Young (the hot hitters who propelled us to the AL Central crown) were downright atrocious in nearly every at-bat.

So, grouse all you want about a botched fair-foul call that went the Yanks’ way or the fact that their payroll triples ours, but the sad truth may be that we lost this one all by ourselves.

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