Archive for June, 2007

More on the sweep

Sunday, June 24th, 2007

You can’t write enough about a happy day like this one was. Despite the fact that the Cubs family lost one of it’s favorite sons – Shooter Beck will be missed by all of us old-timers, he was certainly a character. What I will always remember most about Rod was the Winnebago he parked outside of Sec Taylor Stadium in Des Moines – I-Cubs players quickly learned where the open bar was and his contribution was not so much the stellar numbers he put up at Iowa – rather he was the team morale leader and even fans learned that they could stop by and meet one of the friendliest guys in all of baseball. Rod Beck will be sorely missed by all of baseball.

As for the Cubs game…I’m totally shocked. We’re playing good baseball, stingy defense and, outside of Angel Pagan’s miscues we’re running the bases well. I’m sure that Angel had a serious and frank discussion with Piniella after the game – had Angel been looking at the third base coach he never would have had the collision at second and the second baserunning miscue was totally unacceptable. I look for Angel to be the guy that gets sent down on Monday unless the Cubs DL Dempster/DeRosa or waive Eyre/Jones.

And what about the superlative relief work that Marmol is putting in! This is the kind of Cubs team we dreamed of – Soriano throwing out runners, hitting homeruns and the second-best ERA in the National League. The Cubs are still 7.5 back but I’m still hopeful, the team is playing good baseball and that’s all I really expect. The rest is just icing on the cake.

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Game 74 – Defense Wins Championships

Sunday, June 24th, 2007


June 24th, 2007

Teams

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9   R H E
Chicago (N) 0 0 0 0 0 1 1 1 0   3 12 0
Chicago (A) 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0   0 7 0
W -  S. Marshall (4-2)  L  - J. Contreras (5-8) S – B. Howry (2)
Homeruns: A. Soriano (15)

Box Score


(AP Photo/Jerry Lai)

Quick, when was the last time the Cubs swept a series at U.S. Cellular field? Can’t Remember? That’s because it hadn’t ever happened before today. The Cubs got the job done today sweeping a less than potent White Sox offense this weekend. The Sox scored a total of two runs in the series. I am thankful, more than ever, that I am not a Sox fan. This is just not their year, despite the fact that I picked them to win the AL Central. Boy is that pick making me look bad right now. I would imagine that Kenny Williams will soon realize it’s time to sell off the spare parts and reload. He didn’t invite me to their closed door meeting the other day that involved Paul Konerko, but if he had, I would have told him to sell. Stick a fork in em, they’re done.

Sean Marshall was back in full form today after a shaky start last time out. Marshall went just 6.1 innings and Lou pulled him. I’m not sure why Lou decided it was better to bring in Marmol, but I trust his judgement. At the time, Marshall had only thrown 81 pitches (54 for strikes). Marmol came in and proceeded to make me second guess the decision by missing with the first three pitches he delivered. I even heard someone yell for Lou to put Marshall back in. Maybe he thought it’s like basketball or little league, where you can swap guys in and out. I was a little disappointed in the fact that Sean didn’t seem to get ahead of the hitters with strike one as much as he usually does, but he made the pitches he needed to make and got the outs when he needed them. He also wasn’t particularly over powering on the mound, only striking out three hitters. I’ll take it though, considering he is our 5th starter, or at least he is on paper.

The Defense came up huge today, which is so odd due to the fact that it’s been such a weakness for us so often this year. Len Kasper, who is a devout scorekeeper like myself, mentioned that he places stars next to big fielding plays and had already noted four of them in the middle of the game. The Cubs made play after play in the field and everyone seemed to get in on the action. Poor Paul Konerko was robbed three different times by great plays. Ceasar Izturis played spectacular in the field making two great plays on Konerko, one of them a diving stab to his right in the 3rd inning. Derrek Lee made a weird fielding play to deflect a Jim Thome ground ball with runners on base to save a run. Lee deflects the ball, scrambles wildly to get it and has the presence of mind to flip to Marshall who was covering first base. The ball got to Marshall just inches before a sliding Thome comes in. Angel Pagan also had a strange catch on Konerko in which it appeared that he lost the ball, only to make a last ditch effort in the form of a dive to make the grab. All those plays helped immensely, but the play of the game had to be Soriano’s gun to the plate after catching a popup from Scott Podsednick in the 5th. That throw was right on the line and saved a run for the Cubs. Defense really doesn’t ultimately win championships in baseball, but it can certainly lose them as we all know to well. Today, the D came up HUGE!!!

Injuries have hit the Cubs in a weird way the last few days. Mark DeRosa had his migraine issue and then had a reaction to medication yesterday that kept him out of the ballgame. He was back in the game today, which is very good to see, considering the fact that Aramis Ramirez does not look good on the basepaths. I wouldn’t say he looks terrible, but he’s in obvious pain when he runs and i’ve got to imagine he’ll be getting sporadic days off until that leg fully heals. Look for DeRosa to play third on those off days. You can’t take Ramirez out of the lineup, especially with the fact that he’s swinging a hot bat right now. My guess is that Lou will play Ramirez similar to the way that the Giants play Barry Bonds. He’ll get a lot more rest than a normal starter would get so as to not aggravate that injury. I feel confident with DeRosa in the lineup at third base on those days. He has said it’s the defensive position he feels the most comfortable and he’s shown that to be the case with some of the spectacular plays he’s made in the field in Ramirez’s absence. The other crazy injury that we really haven’t heard much about. Ryan Dempster was injured with a strained oblique and was unavailable yesterday and today. I thought it was odd when Bobby Howry came in to close out the game on Saturday, but I chalked it up to Ryan needing a rest. It was mentioned in the game that Dempster was unavailable and my guess is that Bobby Howry will fill in during his brief time off. He picked up the save today and Saturday and has looked good doing it, despite a little shakiness in the 9th inning today.

Ozzie Guillen was ejected in the top of the 8th inning after arguing a play that the umpires got right. Pagan was rounding second on a base hit to right off the bat of DeRosa. As he was, he ran into the Sox fielder, which the third base umpire noted by pointing at the play. What happened after that was pure chaos as both Pagan and Pie were tagged out. The umpires got together for about 5 minutes and finally ruled that all the runners were safe and it would be bases loaded with no outs. Ozzie came out for clarification and wound up getting tossed in the process. It’s a strange play that I don’t think i’ve ever seen before and it delayed the game for 10 minutes. Delaying the game makes me mad, especially when I have dinner plans with my wife and son. Don’t ask me why, but a 17 month old doesn’t understand that a game is running long because a manager had to argue a play that the umpires got right.

I’d be sad if I didn’t mention again that Rod Beck passed away today. Tribune beat reporter, Mark Gonzalez semi-broke the story this morning when he posted on his blog that he had received sad news that would sadden the whole baseball world. I checked back later in the day to see if he had updated the blog only to see that the post had been removed. I thought that was the right thing to day, considering the fact that mentioning it in the first place only leads to speculation. If you’re not going to name a name, don’t even mention it in the first place. It almost seemed like he tried to break the news without actually breaking the news for some reason. Rod Beck was one of my favorite Cubs in 1998 and I was thrilled when he came to Chicago. He was an everyday type of hero to fans, especially when he was with the Iowa Cubs. He would routinely invite fans out to his RV to have a beer and talk about baseball. He was very fan accessible overall. He was a guy that “got it” when it comes to how players are ambassadors to the fans for the game of baseball. He will be missed.

Misc. Notes

  • Len Kasper mentioned that when Alfonso Soriano is on his game, he’s the best hitter in the game. I don’t know if I agree with that, considering he notoriously struggles to hit the breaking ball. There is a reason why he liked to hit leadoff and it’s because he sees the most fastballs from that spot. I can think of at least 5 other guys that I would rule as being better than Soriano when they’re on.
  • Mike Fontenot got a stolen base in the game and was running in the ninth with Derrek Lee at the plate. I’m not sure where the speed is coming from, but if Fontenot can become a runner on the bases, that would increase his value even more.
  • Is it just me or has Will Ohman looked really good lately? He’s been perfect in his last 3 outings after today and my confidence in him is rising.
  • The Cubs have now played the White Sox to a 30-30 series draw all time since these games have begun to count.
  • Soriano’s homerun today was yet another Solo Homerun. (That was for you Tommy)
  • Len and Bob talked to Lee after the game, which seemed odd. Derrek was 0-5 at the plate and was very close to receiving the dubious distinction of being elected the turd of the game. Wouldn’t it have been better to talk to someone else?

    STARS OF THE GAME – All based on WPA

  • First Star – Sean Marshall (41.6%)
  • Second Star – Alfonso Soriano (16.2%)
  • Third Star – Tadahito Iguchi (10.4%)
  • Turd of the Game – Angel Gonzalez (-17.2%)

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  • Rod Beck Has Passed Away

    Sunday, June 24th, 2007

    Mark Gonzalez of the Tribune noted in his blog earlier this morning that someone had passed away, but wouldn’t release a name. ESPN news has now announced that the name is former Cub, Rod Beck.


    Aug. 3rd, 1968 – June 24, 2007

    Rod Beck, who saved 286 games in a 13-year major league career, has died at the age of 38.

    The cause of death is uknown at this time.

    Beck, who played for the Giants, Cubs, Red Sox and Padres, was a three-time All-Star and saved a career-best 51 games with the Cubs in 1998.

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    Game 74 – Open Thread

    Sunday, June 24th, 2007

    Scouting Report on todays starters from MLB.com
    Sean Marshall – In his last game, Marshall did not post a quality start for the first time in his six starts this season. The lefty lasted four-plus innings against the Rangers, and gave up four runs on five hits, including three homers. He also walked three. Marshall said he couldn’t get into a groove. He will need to do better against the White Sox — this will be the series finale.

    Jose Contreras – Victory No. 5 was not exactly a thing of beauty for Contreras against Florida, but he minimized the damage over 6 2/3 innings against the Marlins. Contreras gave up five runs on eight hits and three walks, striking out two, but he was helped out by 10 runs of support. Contreras missed his first chance to start against the Cubs earlier this season, when the White Sox elected not to pitch him on short rest in the series finale at Wrigley Field, going with Nick Masset instead. Contreras has a 1-1 career record against the Cubs with a 4.79 ERA.

    View the Cubs career numbers vs. Jose Contreras – ESPN Splits

    View the game preview from Baseball Reference


    Notable Performances From Down On The Farm

  • Matt Murton (AAA) – 3 for 4 with 2 doubles and 2 RBI (.269 avg)
  • Ronny Cedeno (AAA) – 4 for 6 with a double and an RBI (.364 avg)
  • Les Walrond (AAA) – 7 IP with 3 hits and 0 runs, 2 BB and 6 K in a win (8-3 with 4.34 ERA)
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  • Game 73 – Squeezin the Sox

    Saturday, June 23rd, 2007


    June 23rd, 2007

    Teams

    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9   R H E
    Chicago (N) 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1   2 8 1
    Chicago (A) 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0   1 6 0
    W -  M. Wuertz (1-2)  L  - B. Jenks (2-3) S – B. Howry (1)
    Homeruns: A. Soriano (14)

    Box Score

    When I woke up this morning to let the dog out, I really wondered if we were going to see a double header tomorrow. Overcast, and raining. As I stood in the rain waiting for the dog to finish up his work, I thought ahead to today’s game, and who would be the goat or the hero. It’s what keeps me pinned to the TV for this team.

    Obviously, Ryan Theriot is going to get the headlines for today’s win. Mr. 0 for my last 16 came up big with a perfect squeeze bunt to score Pagan in the the 9th. Pagan was pinch running for Floyd. Kudos to Lou for the great moves in the 9th today. Once again Cliff Floyd showed up and hit a key hit to get the rally started. Which had me pondering earlier why the batting order was dominated by so many righties today. Floyd, Bowen and Cesar Izturis were the only left handed bats against Vazquez.

    To me Cesar was the real key to the game. He gets bashed here quite often, but I still stand behind the man, and today he showed the many reasons why. Fundamental baseball folks. He called out to Soriano to throw to second as a infield captain should, and he made a great baserunning decision by getting back to second. That communication in gunning down Terrero, was the key to the game early on. A 3 for 3 day at the plate isn’t too shabby either. Rich Hill was in a mess, and heads up defensive play got him out of it. Speaking of which, Mr. Hill is getting a whopping 1.8 runs in run support when he starts. 2007′s version of Matt Clement. Today wasn’t much better. He looked great throughout his 5 and 2/3 innings. So much for him “tipping” his pitches.

    Jenks got the “Turd of the Game” award today according to the WPA, but I think I’d have given it to Derrek Lee. He looked out matched today, on a steady diet of outside breaking balls, and high fast balls.

    Great, albeit slightly unexciting, win today. I’ll be happy with two of three in this series. Which, by the way, is the first time the Cubs have ever won both series from the Men in Black.

    Joe’s Notes

  • Alfonso Soriano’s homerun was yet another solo shot
  • The Cubs sent 35 men to the plate and 15 of them saw at bats of 5 pitches or more.
  • Rob Bowen appears to be the starting catcher with Koyie Hill relegated to backup duty. My guess is Hill will catch tomorrow after Bowen struck out twice today.
  • Is it just me or does Ozzie’s use of his bullpen annoy you? Just stick with someone for cryin’ out loud.
  • Mark DeRosa was a late scratch from the lineup and Ron Santo insists it was due to his vision migraines. Hopefully he gets better soon.
  • The Cubs will need to make a roster move after tomorrow’s game to get the bullpen up to the 12 pitchers that Lou likes. The big question will be who goes to make room? There is talk of a Jacque Jones trade, but I’m not sold on it. What happens on Sunday night / Monday morning will be very interesting.

    STARS OF THE GAME – All based on WPA

  • First Star – Javier Vazquez (35.4%)
  • Second Star – Bob Howry (20.9%)
  • Third Star – Rich Hill (19.9%)
  • Turd of the Game – Bobby Jenks (-21.2%)

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  • Game 73 – Open Thread

    Saturday, June 23rd, 2007

    Scouting Report on todays starters from MLB.com
    Rich Hill – Hill endured the shortest outing of the season on Saturday – and shortest since August 2005 – lasting just three innings against the Padres. He gave up five runs on five hits, including three homers. He did not face the White Sox in the earlier Interleague series at Wrigley Field, and lost his only start against them last year.

    Javier Vazquez – Vazquez struggled early with his command against the Pirates on Sunday in his last start. He gave up three runs in the first two innings to put the Sox in an early hole and needed 114 pitches to make it through six frames. Vazquez did not factor into the decision in the loss, yielding five earned runs on seven hits and one walk with eight strikeouts.

    View the Cubs career numbers vs. Javier Vazquez – ESPN Splits

    A new feature I’m going to link to in the game threads is the wonderful game previews put up by Baseball Reference. They have TONS of information in there.

    Baseball Reference Game Preview


    Notable Performances From Down On The Farm

  • Matt Murton (AAA) – Went 0-3 with a BB and a run scored. He’s hitting .182 since the demotion.
  • Donald Veal (AA) – Went 5 innings and gave up 6 runs on 9 hits and 3 walks. (4-5 with 5.91 ERA)
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  • Still some good reason for hope

    Friday, June 22nd, 2007

    I have not given up on this season. Rather, I want to hold players and management accountable for their actions. We as Cub fans have a tendency to accept mediocrity because we’re used to less. But we ain’t yer daddy’s Cubs fans – we understand today’s power polemnics and money ball. So now we have to deliver a message to the GM and players – namely it’s time to put up or shut up. Time to produce or leave.

    Here’s an example of what I’m talking about – Felix Pie had a crucial situation late in the game. He DELIVERED – kudos to Pie! Let’s give him a pat on the back. Soriano is coming around nicely and we have some bright spots in the middle infield with The Riot and Fontenot. Those guys are good building blocks and many teams would give their eye teeth to get a young tandem like that for the kind of money that they’re being paid. Ramirez will limp through this season and do surgery after the year is finished – I suspect we’ll see a lot of DeRosa at third, he’ll probably share the position with Aramis. IMO Mark is turning into a clutch role player – something the management didn’t hire him to do. Our outfield is suitably stocked, and Murton is ready at AAA if we need a call-up.

    So that leaves the starters and the relievers – we need more quality starts out of Marquis and perhaps Lilly. Going into the season these guys appeared to be our Achille’s heel and now that we’ve gotten into the meat of the season we need to watch these guys closely. And there’s no more time for idiocy in the bullpen – guys that don’t produce need to be dismissed immediately. No more excuses from the GM, it’s time to produce results or be gone. Either Hendry can make the difficult decisions or he can’t.

    The NL Central is a poor man’s division – anybody that has a GM with a modicum of intelligence can win this division. Can we?

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    Game 72 – It’s All About Insurance

    Friday, June 22nd, 2007


    June 22nd, 2007

    Teams

    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9   R H E
    Chicago (N) 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 3   5 7 0
    Chicago (A) 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0   1 3 1
    W -  C. Zambrano (8-6)  L  - M. Buehrle (4-4) S – None
    Homeruns: A. Soriano (13) A. Ramirez (14) P. Konerko (12)

    Box Score

    My Cubs emotions have been on a virtual roller coaster over the past few days. Michael Barrett was one of my favorite players and losing him frustrated me a little and took some of the wind out of my sails. Then we lose the Ranges series, one that I felt we should have swept, and I wasn’t too excited about this team coming into the series with the White (trash) Sox. Carlos Zambrano put his arm around my shoulder before the game and wispered sweet nothings in my ear about how it’s still a new season and that everything was going to be alright. Jumping out to a two run lead and watching him strike out batters at will, I started to believe him. By game’s end, I’m happy to announce that my spirits are back and my homer status has been restored. All is well in Wrigleyville, even though the Cubs are on the southside.

    Nothing gives me greater pleasure than to announce that perhaps I was a bit hasty in my abandonment of Carlos. I declared about a month or so ago that I was done with Big Z. Thankfully Jim Hendry has not declared the same and the Cubs got a huge game out of him today. I was trying to think if I can remember a time when Z had nastier stuff than he had in the game today. As far as I can tell, this is the 4th time he’s reached 12 K’s in a game, the last coming in 2006 against Florida. The other two times were against the Cardinals in 2004 and 2005. The best thing about today’s outing was the fact that he only walked one hitter and pretty much kept the White (trash) Sox off the basepaths all game. The problem I have is the fact that once again, Z threw over 110 pitches. I mentioned the Pitcher Abuse Points from Baseball Prospectus recently in one of the game recaps. At that time, Zambrano was 2nd, behind A.J. Burnett. Coming into today’s start, he ranked 1st. I’m not one to only look at pitch count as a reason for pulling a pitcher. You’ve got to look at other factors like velocity, arm history, etc., but the high pitch counts make me nervous when they come in sequence like they have over the last few starts. I’d really like to see him pitch under 100 in his next outing and then get the extra day of rest with the off day next Thursday.

    The Cubs got out on Mark Buehrle early, which is what you need to do against a guy like that. Buehrle is the type of pitcher that will settle down as the game goes on, and that was the case today. The Cubs had Buehrle’s pitch count rising fast and it looked like we would get to that putrid bullpen of the White (trash) Sox. I took a look at the numbers before the game and saw that the White (trash) Sox have actually dropped below the Devil Rays bullpen in futility. As a core, the pen has pitched to a tune of a 5.87 ERA coming into the game, which is well above the ML Average of 4.10. On the other hand, the Cubs pen, which was terrible early has not risen to 19th and actually has an ERA below the average. Things are looking up in that department for us. That being said, the Cubs have to make sure they take as many pitches as they can at the plate for the rest of this series in an effort to get into that pen. Ozzie went pitcher crazy this afternoon, so the more we can get them in there, the more runs we should be able to put on the scoreboard. I judge patience at the plate from a pitches seen perspective of above 4 pitches seen = good at bat. The Cubs sent 36 hitters to the plate. Of those 36, only 16 of them were 5 pitches or more. Derrek Lee had 3 of them as did my new man crush, Rob Bowen. You gotta love guys that take pitches and we need to see more of it tomorrow against Vazquez, who for the first time in his career is allowing an average above 4 pitches per plate appearance. Let’s get to him early tomorrow.

    I feel bad for Darren Erstad, who just came back off the DL and now could be headed back there after being pulled in the first inning due to an injury. I like Erstad a lot. He’s a great glove man and I was surprised to see the Angels let him go. Hopefully that leg will give him just enough trouble to make him sit out this weekend and come back on Monday fresh and renewed.

    Misc. Notes of Interest

  • The St. Louis Cardinals have traded for Mike Maroth to help shore up that starting rotation. While it’s not a ground breaking move, it’s one that shows the Cards are not giving up just yet, and quite frankly, I’m more afraid of them than I am of the Brewers for the simple fact that the Cards have won in the past and know what it takes.
  • Miguel Tejada got hurt the other day and has been placed on the DL, ending his consecutive games played streak at 1152. Congrats to him for accumulating the 5th highest total in ML history. I’m sad to see it end. Just think about how far he had to go to catch Cal. That’s a record that is probably never going to be broken.
  • I’d like to get your feedback on this so I know if it was just me or not. For those watching the game today on WGN, did you picture turn to black about 10 times during the game? Mine did, and it was quite annoying from a score keeping standpoint, especially when you’re charting pitches. The sound was there, but the screen was black. Then, after about a minute, all was restored.
  • Alfonso Soriano now has 6 homeruns on Friday’s this year and 12 of his 13 total homeruns have been solo shots.
  • Stop with the Griffey rumors already. He’s not coming here. He makes too much money and this team is going to be sold. Regardless of what they say, this team is not going to add that kind of money to an already inflated payroll.

    STARS OF THE GAME – All based on WPA

    I’d like to do something a little different with the stars of the game. Instead of giving you numbers like (.025), I’d like to turn those into percentages. As you know, if you take out the 4% home field advantage, both teams come into the game with a 50% chance of winning. As things happen in the game, it shifts that probability one way or another. It’s kind of like a scale. Based on the Leverage Index of the situation (i.e. – How big that particular moment is), an event shifts the Win Probability a certain percent. That shift is credited positively and negatively to the hitter and pitcher based on that particular event. From now on, I’ll put the percentage that a player shifted the game total next to each star and how the turd of the game negatively shifted the game. Hope that helps a little toward understanding what this mess is all about.

  • First Star – Carlos Zambrano (48.2%)
  • Second Star – Aramis Ramirez (17.4%)
  • Third Star(s) – Alfonso Soriano & Mark Buehrle (9.5%)
  • Turd of the Game – Jermaine Dye (-15.8%)

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  • Game 72 – Open Thread

    Friday, June 22nd, 2007

    Scouting Report on todays starters from MLB.com
    Carlos Zambrano – In his last start, Zambrano was five outs from a no-hitter but wound up taking the loss. His only mistake was a solo homer to Russell Branyan in the ninth on a low 3-2 split-finger changeup. Zambrano has won three of his last five starts and has looked more composed since getting into a fracas with his catcher, Michael Barrett, in a loss on June 1. He threw 123 pitches but with an off-day coming Monday, he should be fine.

    Mark Buehrle – Buehrle shut down the Pirates for eight innings in his last start on June 16. He frustrated Pirates hitters by mixing his pitches well, and not falling into a pattern as he scattered nine hits and allowed only one earned run in a 6-1 White Sox victory.

    View the Cubs career numbers vs. Mark Buehrle – ESPN Splits


    ***** Transaction Alert *****

    The Cubs have activated Aramis Ramirez from the disabled list and have optioned Sean Gallagher to AAA Iowa to make room.


    Notable Performances From Down On The Farm

  • Mark Holliman (AA Tennessee) pitched 7 innings of no-hit, 1 walk, 3 strikeout ball and was 1 for 2 at the plate with a HR and 2 RBI
  • Eric Patterson (AAA Iowa) was 1-for-4 with a home run
  • Joel Santo (High-A) 7IP, 3ER, 7H, 1BB, 3K, LOSS (5.31ERA)
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