Results tagged ‘ Michael Cuddyer ’

Cookin’ With Gas

10043291-3542-4e14-aeb2-86272e320804.jpgNow THAT’s the Scott Baker I like to see!  Against the Texas Rangers earlier tonight, Baker turned in what might have been his best start of the season thus far, allowing just one run and six hits over eight innings and striking out eight.  Like I said in the previous post, the Baker-Liriano tandem will be paramount to the Twins’ second half success, so it was good to see at least half of that combo start off on the right foot.

Offensively, Cuddyer led the way tonight with a dinger and an RBI double.  The streaking Carlos Gomez and Justin Morneau also added run-scoring hits.

Basically, it was just a solid win for the Twins, especially on the road.

Notes:

 

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That is all.

Preview (47-44, 3rd, 0.5 GB CWS): Francisco Liriano (4-9, 5.47) vs. Derek Holland (3-5, 5.97). Time for Cisco to follow in Bakers’ footsteps.

A Team Loss, If Such A Thing Exists (But Thanks, Brad)

a7fe91c9-d7a9-4bd5-99c5-b591ed92d190.jpgBefore the game earlier tonight, the Minnesota Twins inducted former starting pitcher Brad Radke into their Hall of Fame, an honor I believe he rightly deserves.  Although he was just a smidge over .500 for his career winning percentage, he also played on a bunch of terrible Twins clubs early in his career, and then for few teams that didn’t score him many runs at all.  About the only run support he got was in his final year, 2006, when he was essentially pitching with a torn-up shoulder.  Yet, even during that ’06 campaign, where he showed more heart and guts than any pitcher in a long time, he was still more reliable than any Twins starter this season, save for perhaps Nick Blackburn.  Deep down I wished he could have just stayed out there on that mound in place of Glen Perkins and set down the ChiSox order with his pinpoint control and pull-the-string changeup.  He looks like he could still do it!

After the ceremony, however, the game was nothing but a slow spiral into another notch in the right-hand column of this season’s winning percentage.  During his inning in the TV broadcast booth, Radke kept talking up the fact that baseball is a team game, giving all the credit to his success to his former teammates.  The Twins proved him right on the field, but unfortunatly it was in the opposite way he intended.  Basically, all areas of the Twins’ game stunk in some way, shape, or form:

Starting pitching: Perkins just didn’t have it tonight.  Maybe he wasn’t still fully recovered from his recent illness, but he just wasn’t hitting his spots or making good pitches.  Thus, the Sox battered him around accordingly.

Bullpen: Brian Duensing and Jose Mijares were solid, but R.A. Dickey was just a complete pain to watch.  He didn’t throw strikes, couldn’t get batters to chase the knuckler, and walked three batters in an inning and a third.  Of course, his outing wouldn’t have been nearly as bad if not for…

Defense: With the bases loaded with Sox in the sixth inning, Jim Thome busted his bat and hit a little bloop to left-center that Gomez pursued with his usual reckless abandon.  The ball bounced once on the turf, vaulted Go-Go, and Span got all turned around in trying to back up the play.  When all was said and done, the bases were cleared.

Hitting: Yes, the Twins did eventually put seven runs on the board, but WAY too many at-bats earlier in the game were just give-aways.  The reason Gavin Floyd was able to last as long as he did in the game was because we had such weak at-bats in the first innings.  Michael Cuddyer especially got on my nerves tonight, as he is such a sucker for that low, sweeping slider down and away.  Makes him look like an idiot when he flails at it.

Preview (44-44, 3rd, 1.5 GB CWS): Mark Buerhle (9-2, 3.14) vs. Scott Baker (6-7, 5.31). The wait for Baker to develop into any sort of consistent starting pitcher continues on Sunday before the break.

House of Horrors

When the White Sox come into the Metrodome, do you think that songs like that are running through their brain?!   Amazingly, after looking like a glorified Double-A squad against the Yankees, the Twins were able to put together a strong effort and inch back towards that runner-up slot in the AL Central.

Of course, in the first inning it helped when Chicago starter turned the game into the rough equivalent of one of these:

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Danks walked the first four batters of the game and a big hit from Jason Kubel gave the Twins an early lead. Of course, since nothing is easy with this year’s bunch, the White Sox kept pecking away at the defecit until finally tying it in the sixth inning (only a tremendous leaping catch from Michael Cuddyer at the base of the baggie prevented the Sox from taking a lead). I was a bit nervous at this point, but Blackie was still pitching well and the pen did their job the rest of the way. This should come as no surprise, but this guy…
18797011-0959-4c36-9373-16a644e0f41e.jpg…got the big two out hit in the seventh inning that put the Twins in front, while a perfect squeeze bunt from Carlos Gomez an inning later scored Matt Tolbert (pinch running for Kubel after his third hit of the game) with a big insurance run that allowed Joe Nathan to do his thing in the ninth:
6ef10c34-51ee-4b12-b659-4ad5586ceccf.jpgPreview (44-43, 3rd, 0.5 GB CWS): Gavin Floyd (6-6, 4.33) vs. Glen Perkins (4-4, 4.38). Ozzie Guillen juggled his rotation to have his Big Three horses face the Twins this weekend. That went well (at least so far).

Can’t Hit? No Matter

5a6848c5-90c1-47c5-a0ce-44cee65f0a09.jpgIf one thing has become crystal clear during the 2009 Interleague Play schedule, besides the fact that the Twins can win on the road when playing the NL, it is that starting pitcher Glen Perkins cannot hit.  He goes up to the plate, takes a few feeble waves, and (in nearly every occasion past, present, or future) goes back to prepare for the next inning on the mound.

That didn’t matter tonight, however, as Perkins was brilliant for seven innings, holding the Cardinals to just four hits and one earned run.  He didn’t strike many batters out (3), but nobody really hit anything hard off of him, either.  The bullpen then shut the door from that point.  Guerrier struggled a bit in the eighth, but with one out Gardy summoned Jose Mijares, who proceeded to throw one pitch, get the double play, and get back in the dugout.

The offense left a few men on base again tonight, but two-hit games from Kubel and Cuddyer proved to be enough.

Perhaps the most telling stat, though, is that Albert Pujols was just 1-4 on the night, and whiffed against Joe Nathan in the final frame.

Notes:

-At one point, a camera showed former Twin Dennys Reyes warming up in the bullpen.  My first thought was, “Geesh, that’s the ugliest guy I’ve ever seen”…

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But then, Ryan Franklin was brought in for the top of the ninth…

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I rest my case.

Preview (38-37, 2nd, 4.0 GB DET): Kevin Slowey (10-2, 4.04) vs. Todd Wellemeyer (6-7, 5.53). Though still a bit of a long-shot, Slowey might just be pitching himself into All-Star consideration.  He doesn’t have the dominating ERA, but a win tomorrow would give him the AL-lead in that category.  Of course, I remember a year or two ago that Kyle Lohse (for the Cards) was something like 12-2 at the break with a similar ERA and didn’t make the Midsummer Classic.  However, if a few guys picked by the managers fall ill or have other conflicts, you just never know.

With A Name Like Milton Bradley, Don’t You EXPECT Something Childish?!

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brand.gifEarlier today (Friday), the Twins got a great start from starting pitcher Kevin Slowey, the bullpen did its level best to blow the lead, and the bats got just enough clutch hitting to push enough runners across the plate.

However, were Milton Bradley not playing right field at Wrigley, the game may have gone completely different for a number of different reasons…all related to Bradley.  Through seven innings, Bradley had made a baserunning blunder, lost a ball in the sun, and was unable to catch a bloop double that went for an RBI for Michael Cuddyer.

In the eighth inning, though, Milton pulled a stunt that will be remembered by the 41,000 paid attendance at the game for a long time.  With Joe Mauer up and runners at the corners, Jo-Mo hit a deep fly ball to right field…right into the sun.  Bradley finally located the ball and, once it was nestled safely in his glove, proceeded to strike a dandy pose.  Never once looking in towards the infield, Bradley remained in that statue-like position for a few moments before casually flipping the ball over the fence.  Unbeknownst to him, of course, was that he had only caught the SECOND out of the inning, and thus Brendan Harris continued circling the bases to third.  He didn’t end up scoring in the inning, but the Cubs fans really got on Bradley (booing) as he trotted off the field.

So thanks Milt, for providing some entertainment in the afternoon.  Hope to see you again (roughly same time, hopefully same place!) tomorrow!

Preview (31-32, 2nd, 4.0 GB DET): Anthony Swarzak (1-2, 5.23) vs. Rich Harden (4-2, 4.74). Harden is making his first start since early May in coming off the DL, while Swarzak is basically pitching for his major league roster spot (what with Glen Perkins due back next week).

The Next Timo Perez?

1twin0629gomez.jpgOne of the surprises of the 2009 Minnesota Twins’ season so far has been the reduced playing time of Carlos Gomez.  Whereas last year Gomez seem to be the catalyst of the batting order more times than not, this year he starts about one in every four games or so.  Conspiracy theorists like to point out that perhaps Delmon Young is “stealing” Go-Go’s playing time to maximize his trade potential come mid-season, but I think the fact of the matter is that Young can keep his batting average above .250, while Gomez cannot.

Right now, Gomez (while improving defensively…he is taking much better routes to balls and I haven’t seen him overrun a grounder yet) is completely lost at the plate.  He takes swings that often embarrassing and his pretty much a goner if the pitcher ever gets two strikes on him.

I hope I am wrong in this parallel, but currently Carlos Gomez is falling into the pattern of another young, exciting player who never lived up to his potential:

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During the late 1990s, with the Twins a perenniel cellar-dweller, I jumped on the bandwagon of the New York Mets, partly because I hated their chief rival the Atlanta Braves and partly because I just wanted to cheer for someone in the playoffs!  Thus, during the 2000 playoffs, I remember watching young Timo Perez make a tremendous impact for the Mets.  Timo only played about 20 games for the Mets that entire ’00 season, but he made a big enough impact with his torrid September play that he made the playoff roster.  For that one month and during most of the postseason, Timo was the catalyst for the entire Mets’ lineup, whether it was getting on base, stealing them, or hitting line drives all over the field.  Unfortunately, Perez is probably best remembered for his baserunner blunder that may have cost the Mets a game in the 2000 “Subway” World Series with the Yankees, but he was the kind of player that seemed to have a bright future in New York.

However, a telling sign was the two hits that Perez collected the ENTIRE World Series.  Thus, it was obviously that pitchers were finally figuring out how to get him out, and it was time for him to make the most crucial adjustment that a batter ever makes (that first one after pitchers find a weakness).  He never did.  He played a few more seasons with the Mets (one decent), then became a journeyman, popping up in Chicago with the Pale Hose most recently, I believe.  However, he was never able to regain that flash of talent he showed late in the 2000 season.

Like I said, I hope this isn’t true, but right now Gomez is following that same path.  Gomez single-handedly won games for the Twins early last season, but by the end of said season he had been replaced by Denard Span as leadoff hitter and was striking out at an enormous rate.  The pitchers finally figured him out, much like they did to Timo Perez, and he has yet (as far as I can see) to make the adjustment to start getting hits again.

The ray of hope I see for Gomez, though, is that he really hasn’t gotten enough playing time yet this season to show his current talent level.  Whereas Timo Perez got many years to try and recapture that once-attained talent, Gomez has primarily been riding the pine in his second season as a Twin.  It is a sticky situation, as the Twins like Cuddyer and Span in the lineup but also have high hopes (and Garza/Bartlett) invested in him.  It will be interesting to see how the entire situation pans out.

A Few Things I Hate…

defusing-angry-cust.jpgI wasn’t able to blog at all over the weekend (probably a good thing as the Twins lost two of three to the Pale Hose over the weekend and were again beaten by the pitching of Mark Buerhle and the batting of Jim Thome), but I was pretty fired up about the final game of that series and last night’s contest…and not in a good way.  I have been VERY annoyed with some of the things I have been seeing, including:

-Gardy’s “getaway” days.  In the final game of the ChiSox series, Gardy threw a lineup on the field that included Michael Cuddyer at 1B and Brendan Harris at 2B and batting out of the #2 hole.  It absolutely drives me NUTS when Gardy does this every single Sunday and Thursday afternoon game.  I realize that guys need a break every once in a while, but why must Gardenhire do it all in one day?!  If I were a pessimist, I would say that he was just hedging his bet, so to speak, figuring that Buerhle would beat his club no matter who he threw up against him, so why not rest a few guys?  I don’t think Gardy would ever concede a game like that, though, so I just don’t understand his logic.  His Cuddy/Harris combination gave the Twins the weakest right-side infield combination possible, and that led to a big Chicago inning in that final game of the series.  I would rather see Gardy stagger, to an extent, the off-days he gives his players.

-Also, this is easily the worst bullpen the Twins have had in a long time.  I would give serious thought to letting guys like Brian Duensing and Philip Humber take over the late-inning roles, as I do not see the Crain/Ayala combination working out, and Guerrier/Breslow still need to prove themselves as being able to consistently get outs.  Oh, and R.A. Dickey is a joke who may be even worse than our most famous mop-up man…Terry Mulholland.  What really sticks in my craw, though, is that a while back the Twins lost relief prospect Bobby Korecky essentially because they needed to make room for Ayala.  Korecky was a hot prospect in the organization, and we lost him for a guy (Ayala) who can’t throw the ball over the plate and thus lays in meatball after meatball while behind in the count.  I think that Jose Mijares better get his butt in shape pretty quick before the current lot puts the Twins in too big of a hole right away.

-One quick positive note: I think that the Twins’ starting pitchers will be fine once the month of April passes.  Being young, they may just need a little more time to get comfortable out on the mound.  And really, when have the Twins EVER (in recent memory) had a bad starting rotation?!  The Mariners always beat us, Chicago only needs Thome to wreak havoc, and the Blue Jays are the best offensive team in baseball right now.  Things WILL improve on this front.

Preview (3-5, 4th, 1.5 GB CWS & KCR): Rickey Romero (1-0, 3.00) vs. Glen Perkins (0-1, 1.13). Can the Twins’ bats decipher another (any?!) left-hander pitcher?  With Roy Halladay looming on Thursday, we better take this game if we want any chance of even splitting this four-game series.

17 Drab Innings…Then A Walkabout

Though I was a bit crushed that I had to work at night on the day of the Twins’ home opener against the Seattle Mariners, I taped the game and watched it later in the evening.  Gee, that was worth it.  First, this guy…

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…”King” Felix Hernandez, completely shuts down our bats.  Even in the sparse situations we scraped together that could have produced runs, Felix would always get out of the jam either via a strike out (usually Michael Cuddyer, who whiffed three times) or a double play (Justin Morneau).  This was especially frustrating due to the fact that it wasted a pretty decent effort from our mound man..

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Sure, Francisco Liriano gave up three dingers, but one came after a glaring error from Alexi Casilla.  All told, he pitched very well and just didn’t get any offensive support.

So, I went to bed hoping that the next day’s matchup (which I would be watching on TV…or so I thought) would produce a much better result.  The next morning, however, I was informed that my grandparents (who live in the Metro area suberbs…Fridley, to be exact) had received four free tickets from a Target store promotion and were wondering if my brother and I wanted to go with them?!  Stupid question, as we headed out the door right away!

Game #2 of 162 proved to be much more exciting than the previous one…and perhaps the next 160!  Of course, it didn’t start out so great, as our guy…

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…Nick Blackburn found himself down 4-0 after just four innings.  RBI hits from Denard Span and Cuddyer (he was basically either whiffing badly or driving in runs all game) brought the Twins to within one run for the middle innings, but Luis Ayala surrendered another Mariner run in the top of the ninth.  Thus, new Seattle closer Brandon Morrow was summoned to the Dome mound with a 5-3.  That’s when things started to get interesting:

Morrow got two quick outs in Joe Crede and Delmon Young, but Carlos Gomez put together a surprisingly good at-bat (he would have K’d on four pitches last season in that spot) and drew a walk.  Jason Kubel was called on to pinch-hit for Jose Morales (who had struck out in all three previous at-bats), and Kubel used patience to his advantage to coax another base-on-balls.

Then, with the Jumbotron at the Dome flashing the “Walks Will Haunt” graphic, Morrow walked a third straight batter (Brian Buscher) and was pulled in favor of Miguel Batista.  By this time the lineup had turned over again, so Span The Man stepped in and hit a high chopper that Adrian Beltre couldn’t will down into his glove fast enough, making the score 5-4.

This brought Alexi Casilla to the plate, and my flashback started…the last time I was at the Metrodome, Lexi singled to center field with the bases loaded against the Chicago White Sox to complete the late-season sweep.  This time, Casilla again ripped the first pitch he saw into center, plating both the tying and winning runs…

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Though this wasn’t the greatest run-differential the Twins have ever come back from, it still has to go down in team history as one of the great late-inning victories due to the fact that all the action transpired with two outs.  When Buscher slide across the plate and was mobbed by his teammates, what was left of the 23,700 announced crowd was in a bedlam!

Man, I think I need to starting getting to more of these games…whenever I’m there, something crazy seems to happen.

Preview (1-1, 2nd, 0.5 GB CWS): Kevin Slowey (0-0, 0.00 ERA) vs. Carlos Silva (0-0, 0.00).  Though Silva is gone from “Fatboy” to “Slim” over the off-season, he still lives and dies by the sinker.  If “on” he can be maddening.  If not, he WILL get pounded.

A Few Of My Favorite Things…

With the Twins set to take on the Seattle Mariners later tonight, I just wanted to share a few of the things I am looking forward to this season…

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-Denard Span working the count, fouling off pitches, then doing this… http://minnesota.twins.mlb.com/media/video.jsp?mid=200809253550680&c_id=min …(yeah, I know it’s like the fifth time I’ve posted that clip on this blog…but why not?!)

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-Jason Kubel striding up to the plate with strains of this blaring… http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K47W0UTq_9o …then doing this… http://minnesota.twins.mlb.com/media/video.jsp?mid=200809233534868&c_id=min

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-Kevin Slowey tapping into the ghost of Brad Radke (http://minnesota.twins.mlb.com/media/video.jsp?mid=200808203336972&c_id=min)

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-Michael Cuddyer doing this… http://minnesota.twins.mlb.com/media/player/mp_tpl_3_1.jsp?w_id=516187&w=2006/open/tp/archive09/090706_detmin_cuddyer_throw_tp_350.wmv&pid=mlb_tp&gid=2006/09/07/detmlb-minmlb-1&mid=200609071651571&cid=mlb&fid=mlb_tp350&v=2

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-And finally, the Nathanator trotting in from the pen to this… http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jaz-KmTid3U …and ending the game like this… http://minnesota.twins.mlb.com/media/video.jsp?mid=200808123294553&c_id=min

Opening Day Preview: Felix Hernandez (0-0, 0.00 ERA) vs. Francisco Liriano (0-0, 0.00 ERA).  “King Felix” can be dominating, but so can Cisco.  However, Liriano also needs to calm himself and not walk six guys through four innings or something like that.  I can see the Twins losing this game, but anything can happen at the Dome!!

3 Up…or 3 Down?

andersoncallingbullpen-739405.jpgI will be very busy in the upcoming days leading up to the Minnesota Twins’ Opening Day on April 6th, so I just wanted to post a few season-preview thoughts before the regular season campaign kicks off.

The way I see it, there are three areas in which the Twins need to excel this season in order to win the division crown.  In all honesty, these areas are pretty much the same for all other teams as well, but the Twins have their own unique challenges:

1. First, the starting pitching quintet of Scott Baker, Francisco Liriano, Kevin Slowey, Nick Blackburn, and Glen Perkins needs to continue to keep the team in games.  This is the most important cog in the machine, as if the quality starts keep pouring in the Twins will at the very least compete no matter how bad the bullpen or offense stinks.  The old baseball adage that “good pitching beats good hitting” holds as true now as it always has.  I mean, if say Johan Santana faced no one but Ichiro Suzuki all season long, the very best that Ichiro could do is get a hit four times in every ten at-bats.  Thus, the starting rotation is the anchor of every staff, and the Twins’ staff is still a bit of a question mark:

Baker: Has ace-type repertoire but struggles to pitch into the later innings.  Is usually up around 100 pitches by the fifth inning or so, putting a strain on the bullpen.

Cisco: Could dominate, could fall apart due to control issues.

Slowey: This is the guy I think is poised for a huge season.  He is essentially the second coming of Brad Radke, only with a better assortment of pitches.  Just needs to work on limiting damaging situations, as they tend to snow-ball on him pretty quick.

Blackie: As a play-to-contact, ground ball sort of pitcher, Blackburn walks the fine line between Carlos Silva and Jack Morris.  On some days he can be the most frustrating guy in the world to drive the ball off of, while on other days he gets lit up.

Perkins: The great unknown.  Was very up-and-down last season…showed flashes of both excellence and utter failure.

So, the extent to which that rotation comes together is the biggest factor in how the Twins will finish in the standings in 2009.

2. The bullpen, however, isn’t far behind.  Whereas I am confident that the starting five can find a way to hold up their end of the bargain, I’m not nearly as sold on the bullpen, which looks to include:

Joe Nathan: The only sure-bet of the bunch.  Will blow a few (who doesn’t…well, besides Brad Lidge last year), but let’s just say that a “down” year would be an ERA over 2.00.

Jesse Crain: Pretty much the root of all frustration in the world. Was overhyped even when he was good, but does have a glimmer of hope in that now is arm is finally “back” after having surgery a while back.

Matt Guerrier: Will have to prove that last year’s collapse WAS just a fluke (or due to fatigue), not because batters just figured him out.

Craig Breslow: The lefty-lefty specialist.  Will likely do a good job, and is an upgrade over Dennis “Throw One WP And Leave The Game” Reyes.

Luis Ayala: Don’t know much about his guy, only that he came from the Nats (not a good sign) and struggled mightily last year.  Has potential…but so did Mike Fetters.

The final bullpen spot, thought to be filled by Jose Mijares until he came to camp looking like Hideki Irabu, is now up for grabs between newcomer Brian Duensing, Philip Humber (obtained in the Santana trade), and R.A. Dickey, a knuckleballer.

All in all, that is not a very impressive bunch.  Like I said, Nathan is solid, but getting to him will be the difficult part.  Someone is going to have to step up and become the eighth inning man that guys like LaTroy Hawkins and Juan Rincon were in the past.

3. Finally, I would like to quickly comment on the Twins’ offense.  Here is a sample lineup that the Twins could trot out on a semi-day basis:

Denard Span, Alexi Casilla, Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau, Joe Crede, Jason Kubel, Michael Cuddyer, Delmon Young, Nick Punto.

Essentially, it would likely be the best starting lineup the Twins have had in quite some time (plus Carlos Gomez off the bench).  However, I am very wary of predicting a high offensive turnout from this bunch, as it so rarely happens up here in MN.  It seems as if the Twins are much better at developing pitchers than hitters (perhaps due to the small-ball philosophy that reins hitters in instead of turning them loose?), so even a lineup that looks rock-solid can quickly turn gooey.  Actually, I think the biggest positive this season, as opposed to ’06 or ’08, is that no old fogeys are being counted on to produce.  The days of experimenting with guys like Tony Batista, Rondell White, Mike Lamb, and (cringe) even Bret Boone seem to be behind the Twins, with the lineup now given over completely to the young veterans and just youngsters period.

So there you have it…how the Twins perform in those three areas will go very far in determining their division standings come October.  Hopefully before the season begins I will post an article about my divisional predictions for MLB (if it ever stops snowing here to allow the mail through!).

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