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Game 21: Nats at Pirates

Apr 25, 2011, 7:35 PM EST

Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
The Nats try to get back over .500 tonight at PNC Park.

PITTSBURGH — John Lannan will reach a milestone tonight when he delivers his first pitch to Pirates leadoff man Andrew McCutchen. The lefty will have officially made 100 starts in the major leagues. That's no small feat for an 11th-round draft pick out of Siena College, who over his first 99 starts has established himself as a pretty good, big-league pitcher.

Opposing Lannan tonight is Paul Maholm, who incredibly has made more starts (157) than any other left-hander in the National League since 2006. Yes, Paul Maholm. Go figure.

A couple of twists to the Nats' lineup tonight. Rick Ankiel gets his first day off of the season, so Jerry Hairston is starting in center field. Ian Desmond gets bumped up to the No. 2 spot behind Danny Espinosa. Brian Bixler makes his first appearance, starting at third base.

Plenty of updates live from the ballpark to come…

Where: PNC Park
Gametime: 7:05 p.m.
Radio: WJFK (106.7 FM), WFED (1500 AM), XM 188
Weather: Chance of storms, 74 degrees, Wind 9 mph RF to LF

2B Danny Espinosa
SS Ian Desmond
RF Jayson Werth
1B Adam LaRoche

Read more »

  1. JaneB - Apr 25, 2011 at 7:38 PM

    ooooh! Welcome Brian! I wish you were making your Big League debut at home, but at least you are making it! And congratulations to Lannan.

  2. JD - Apr 25, 2011 at 7:56 PM

    JaneB, I'm pretty sure that Bixler played in the Bigs before with Pittsburgh.

  3. Pete - Apr 25, 2011 at 7:58 PM

    Glad Ankiel is out. Dude isn't getting it done right now.

  4. Anonymous - Apr 25, 2011 at 8:01 PM

    rather see Morse at 3rd and Nix in LF, Bix off the bench

  5. Ernie - Apr 25, 2011 at 8:04 PM

    Before anyone celebrates too much about Ankiel sitting out, we might need to remember what happened the last time Hairston played in the outfield. I'm pretty sure it was in NY where he set up to catch a routine fly ball to left, and let it sail 6 inches wide of his glove. Talk about not getting it done…

  6. Anonymous - Apr 25, 2011 at 8:06 PM

    Desmond's mind hasn't been on the game of late … let's hope he doesn't commit another 3 or 4 errors.

  7. Peyton Dowdy - Apr 25, 2011 at 8:08 PM

    Yeah Pete, cus Jerry Hairston is…Ankiel is responsible offensively for at least 1 win this year not to mention how many runs he has prevented in CF because runners don't take extra bases on him and he takes proper routes to balls.Anon 4:01pm, why would you want to start Nix agaisnt a lefty? He is the proud owner of a .188/.231/.510 slash line against lefties…Bixler was hot all spring training and tore up AAA to start the year too. Might as well see if he can keep it going.

  8. Anonymous - Apr 25, 2011 at 8:09 PM

    Before anyone celebrates too much about Ankiel sitting out, we might need to remember what happened the last time Hairston played in the outfield.Committing 2 errors at third wasn't all that thrilling either … and the guy can't hit? Why is he still on this roster? Why not trot Laynce Nix to CF and see what he can do?

  9. Anonymous - Apr 25, 2011 at 8:13 PM

    He is the proud owner of a .188/.231/.510 slash line against lefties…Still better than Ankiel who bats that against both righties and lefties historically. Batting him 2nd every night is like putting Cristian Guzman there … okay its actually a lot worst offensively. But that's Giggleman'sIsland for you …

  10. Doc - Apr 25, 2011 at 8:15 PM

    Except for Maholm being a lefty, I'd like to see Nix in CF too. But he would probably give better D than Hairston–and he might get some smacks in with the bat.This guy Maholm can be had—let's see if the Nats can do the having!Gooooooooooooooooo Nats!

  11. masnstinks - Apr 25, 2011 at 8:23 PM

    Praying to the Baseball Gods for some offense — oh, and a nice big , fat , zero — in the errors column — and maybe no rain?

  12. Anonymous8 - Apr 25, 2011 at 8:35 PM

    I would still rather have Ankiel in CF just batting 8th instead of 2nd.

  13. JD - Apr 25, 2011 at 8:58 PM

    In 2008 Bixler had 120 at bats with Pitt. batted .157 .229 .194 – ouch. In 2009 he had 46 at bats and he batted .227 .261 .341. Doesn't look like the savior to me but what do I know?

  14. DFL - Apr 25, 2011 at 9:15 PM

    This is probably Bixler's last shot at any meaningful major league career. In two call-ups with the Pirates he hasn't hit. He hit well this year at Spring training and at Syracuse but he still strikes out too much for a spray hitter. Best of luck.

  15. Anonymous - Apr 25, 2011 at 9:34 PM

    For every one on Desmond his wife is supposed to have a baby any day please cut him a break he is probably worried about that

  16. Anonymous - Apr 25, 2011 at 9:44 PM

    I go to school north of Pittsburgh and it is POURING here. Hope they can get the game in. Should've played a day game. It was a gorgeous until about an hour ago.

  17. Anonymous - Apr 25, 2011 at 9:47 PM

    For every one on Desmond his wife is supposed to have a baby any day please cut him a break he is probably worried about that.Then take a seat on the bench Ian! Don't say you're ready when you're NOT. This is major league baseball, WE ARE NOW in the regular season where every win AND LOSS counts. That means every error counts.

  18. Anonymous - Apr 25, 2011 at 9:49 PM

    I go to school north of Pittsburgh and it is POURING here. Hope they can get the game in. Should've played a day game. It was a gorgeous until about an hour ago.Watched the Chiefs in extra innings against Scranton-Wilkes Barre in SWB. It looked like a pretty day for that afternoon game.

  19. Anonymous - Apr 25, 2011 at 10:00 PM

    Has anyone discussed moving Ian Desmond to Center Field (a la Robin Yount when he made too many errors as a Shortstop early in his career)? I don't think Ian is cut out for shortstop. The errors are now deep in his psychy. But with his speed and arm he could be a great Center Fielder.

  20. Padre-NATS - Apr 25, 2011 at 10:03 PM

    I know it has been discussed (in Sporting News as well as other places) but considering Desmond's poor play lately might it be worth a shot and switching him and Espinosa? Just because Desmond made it to the Bigs earlier does not seem like reason enough to have him playing short if Danny could do better.Thoughts?

  21. JayB - Apr 25, 2011 at 10:20 PM

    Ian D in CF……amazing, what a good idea…just like Yount who turned out to be Hall of Famer….Amazing why didn't I think of that.

  22. JayB - Apr 25, 2011 at 10:22 PM

    Oh and as a former SS I can tell you when you start changing gloves in the middle of a game….you are toast…it is all in his head and it is too late now…..he is 26 with 8 years of pro ball…..he is head for 50 errors thanks to Riggs stupid loyalty issues….

  23. Bill B - Apr 25, 2011 at 10:24 PM

    I agree with some of the comments above about Hairston. Riggleman appears to be obsessed with keeping utility men around. Why would you have both Hairston and Cora on your roster, given that neither of them can hit? And Hairston's errors are driving me nuts. Didn't the Nats say that one of the major reasons not to cough up the $$ for Dunn was his clunky play in the field? Don't get me wrong: I love our D with LaRoche at 1B and Werth in RF. But we need some offense!

  24. Andrew - Apr 25, 2011 at 10:46 PM

    Pre-game interview with Burnett on MASN. He had nice things to say about Broderick. Encouraging to hear.

  25. carolync - Apr 25, 2011 at 10:51 PM

    Robin Yount was moved to the outfield because of a shoulder problem and not because of lots of errors. The only time he made as many errors at shortstop as Desmond did last year was when he was 19 years old. When he was Desmond's current age, he won a Gold Glove at short. No comparison between Yount and Desmond.Desmond played right field briefly in 2009 and it didn't work. He was yanked after one game.The bottom line on Desmond is that he is the Golden Boy of Rizzo and Riggleman and he will be the Nats shortstop as long as they are around. I was determined not to waste everyone's time posting about him, but I wanted to correct the statement about Yount.How many years has Desmond been worrying about this baby?Go Nats!

  26. Manassas Nats Fan - Apr 25, 2011 at 10:56 PM

    Yount's first 3 years in the majors were full of errors, much better starting the 4th year. Broderick had a bad outing to start with since, then he has been alright.

  27. Jim Webster - Apr 25, 2011 at 11:16 PM

    Mark, it will be interesting to see the attendance tonight. Sunday's 9,520 made me think they were in Miami. Have we ever seen fewer than 10,000 in Nats Park?

  28. JaneB - Apr 25, 2011 at 11:19 PM

    Thanks for the facts about Bixler…I didn't realize he'd been Big before. I hope he can pull it out. Nice start to our game tonight! Where is everyone? It looks like no one is there!

  29. zib23 - Apr 25, 2011 at 11:28 PM

    Mark- What do you make of batting Desmond second? It lets Desi get more ABs for evaluation and lets him (a superior hitter to Ankiel?) see better pitches. Will Riggleman consider installing him at 2, Zim when he gets back at 3, Werth 4?

  30. Mark Zuckerman - Apr 25, 2011 at 11:33 PM

    zib23: I asked Riggleman about that today. He said for now he prefers to keep Ankiel second, but that could change depending on how different guys perform in different spots.

  31. Mark'd - Apr 25, 2011 at 11:34 PM

    LaRoche flashing the leather!

  32. JaneB - Apr 25, 2011 at 11:35 PM

    I know! Nit even the Fish have stadiums as empty az the one tonight.I'd like to put in a plea for stopping Desmond bashing. At least half the errors he makes are because he is being more aggressive than other people would be. That's supposed to be a value the team is cultivating: agressive play. More than that though, if you saw the data on how fans' behavior and intention actually changes player results (and you can see it in the work of Dr. Rick Leskowitz, you would stop sending such ugly energy his way.

  33. ballstonNat - Apr 25, 2011 at 11:35 PM

    just realized, on top of this being a make-up game, with rain around the area, the Pens are playing. May both Pittsburgh teams lose.

  34. Slidell - Apr 25, 2011 at 11:40 PM

    Perhaps this has already been explained. But, what was the rationale for scheduling this make-up game for 7 instead of 1:30? If the Pirates were hoping for better attendance, according to JaneB, that obviously didn't work out. Almost as bad as delaying the game on Saturday, waiting for the rain to start.

  35. Joe Seamhead - Apr 25, 2011 at 11:55 PM

    That would be Michael " I Can to Play the Outfield" Morris that just made a pretty darned good catch!

  36. JayB - Apr 26, 2011 at 12:03 AM

    Jane….that aggressive myth just does not hold water….not this year and NOT LAST YEAR….most of his errors have always been just like two nights ago…..rock hands and not charging simple 4 hope balls….What you are buying is what Riggs would like you to sell you in his fantasy world of always supporting his guys…..Not true at all.

  37. Candide - Apr 26, 2011 at 12:08 AM

    Just waiting for a wet bat to go flying…

  38. Sam - Apr 26, 2011 at 12:23 AM

    @Joe Seamhead: It's Morse. And it would be "I Can TOO Play the Outfield." To doesn't make sense in that case.

  39. Manassas Nats Fan - Apr 26, 2011 at 12:29 AM

    The ball was matchable by Ramos, I would have given an E-2, he just needs to catch it or knock it down. Both very doable. One hop in the rain not easy to catch, but easy to keep at your feet.

  40. Natman - Apr 26, 2011 at 12:30 AM

    @Bill B – Riggs needs the utility guys because Stairs is purely a pinch hitter. It takes a fielder away from him. So he needs more options for the guys off the bench. The strategy would make more sense if Stairs got some clutch hits and the Nats had more solid regulars.

  41. Manassas Nats Fan - Apr 26, 2011 at 12:34 AM

    I thought on make ups MLB had to approve the plan, so obviously the Pirates sold the bill of good to the MLB. Earlier this year the Nets got basically screwed when they didn't want to do a doubleheader, and the MLB said you will do it. Since when did the Pirates have more pull than the Mets (I guess since Bernie Maydoff took all their money).

  42. Joe Seamhead - Apr 26, 2011 at 12:40 AM

    You're right Sam. My bad. Probably the last Pilsner! But you got my drift. It was a pretty nice catch.As for the Werth " error," it's a tough play in the rain.

  43. Candide - Apr 26, 2011 at 1:10 AM

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  44. Candide - Apr 26, 2011 at 1:12 AM

    I'm holding my breath every time a ball gets hit to Desmond.

  45. LoveDaNats - Apr 26, 2011 at 1:15 AM

    Desmond needs a different glove! The ball doesn't seem to be secure in the pocket and bounces out too easily.

  46. TimDz - Apr 26, 2011 at 1:16 AM

    Wow…..nice call by the first base ump…..Somewhere, Stevie Wonder is saying, "Seriously?"

  47. bgib - Apr 26, 2011 at 1:17 AM

    What's it going to take? How many inning-extending errors on routine plays does he have to make to get sent down? I've said it before, I'll say it again, you cannot have your worst fielding infielder playing shortstop.

  48. Natsochist - Apr 26, 2011 at 1:19 AM

    Mark, how does Bixler look tonight?

  49. CBinDC - Apr 26, 2011 at 1:32 AM

    The central question in my mind is do we have a team of Willie Mo Penas. All of the veteran players brought in are just playing shadow ball right now. And yes we again have players who did something elsewhere just not for us. So is this a miscalculation of talent potential or just a function of personal bought on the cheap.

  50. Grandstander - Apr 26, 2011 at 1:37 AM

    There are a lot of difficult questions with this team. Has the starting stabilized or will it revert? Can Desmond play SS effectively? Can Espinosa thrive in the leadoff spot?The easiest question to answer is, can Chad Gaudin throw a strike? And the answer is, not unless he hits the bat behind the batters head.Can we DFA this clown already?

  51. Anonymous - Apr 26, 2011 at 1:37 AM

    Can we DFA Gaudin right now?

  52. Anonymous - Apr 26, 2011 at 1:48 AM

    "Expect it!" You bet! I "Expect" da Nats to be back in last place by this time next week after they are swept by the Mets and lost three of four to da Giants! "Expect it!"

  53. CBinDC - Apr 26, 2011 at 1:48 AM

    They want us "the fan"s to understand it is a process but has the FO of this team earned that understanding after the parade of losing talent they pawn off over the last 4 years. This is Washington and we do not cheer process we cheer results. And really I am getting tired of the "let me tell you son" tone of the broadcasts. We the citizens of the DMV are smarter then that, well maybe not all but a good number are

  54. Andrew - Apr 26, 2011 at 1:55 AM

    Hagerstown wins 3-0. Selik goes 8 with 3 K's no walks and 6 hits.

  55. Anonymous - Apr 26, 2011 at 1:56 AM

    You're absolutely right again, FP! We're going to look back at these games and realize that the season was actually lost way before June 1, once again.

  56. Anonymous - Apr 26, 2011 at 1:58 AM

    E-6. 7 in 21 games. How many will that be for a season? It's crazy. He has had way more than enough chances to prove he is capable.

  57. Grandstander - Apr 26, 2011 at 2:05 AM

    Can we start a fund? Maybe pool our money together so we can buy a call? This is getting ridiculous. How many terrible 3rd strikes can we get to end rallies?

  58. CBinDC - Apr 26, 2011 at 2:05 AM

    Another worthless pinch hit wow wow wow so much worthless pinch hitting and timely hitting and well just hitting I am so glad we have such a great hitting coach

  59. Manassas Nats Fan - Apr 26, 2011 at 2:06 AM

    Bob Carpenter must think we are idiots. "this is Rick Ankeil's first pinch hitting appearance of the year." Of course it is, he started every game until tonight.

  60. Anonymous - Apr 26, 2011 at 2:09 AM

    This is like opening day all over again. Here we have: top of the 9th on the road, 1st and 3rd, 2 outs, RHP on the mound. Last at-bat unless you get a hit. If you don't use Stairs in this situation, why is he taking up a roster spot? Sure, Ankiel could replace Hairston in CF if they game went to the bottom of the 9th. But you have to get there first. Ankiel took strike 3 looking and we don't get there at all.

  61. CBinDC - Apr 26, 2011 at 2:12 AM

    Riggleman post game "we have to score more runs and we will" Ok I am glad they have a handle on the problem but it begs this question, WHEN WILL YOU SCORE MORE RUNS ?

  62. Manassas Nats Fan - Apr 26, 2011 at 2:12 AM

    How many called strike outs for the season. This is simply unacceptable. Though Eck deos nothing about it. NOTHINGI am working on some stats that I want to bring to people's attention.Then number one stat is 9+ hits 7 wins – loses. 8 or less hits 3-11. Simple formula. Lets use our brains and do what is needed to win.I asked this question either last night or the night before? Why do we face Cy Young or Walter Johnson so often. We make the other pitcher regardless of who it is look great.Why?

  63. Anonymous - Apr 26, 2011 at 2:16 AM

    Desmond has 7 errors and a a paltry 5 walks on the season.He needs to spend some time reflecting on his approach to the game, and to the plate, in the minor leagues.

  64. CBinDC - Apr 26, 2011 at 2:27 AM

    WOW Ray Knight goes partial meltdown Calls out the excuses and waiting for good tings to happen line of thinking …..FINALLY somebody said it ….STOP waiting for things to go your way BE PROFESSIONAL

  65. Anonymous - Apr 26, 2011 at 2:32 AM

    There is so much rah-rah stuff on this board. People write in to say how pleased they are with the new direction. Wake up.This is a pathetic baseball team.We just lost 2 of 3 to a crappy team in an empty park. The Nationals, er, suck.I have written on this board that Desmond is a dim bulb. He cannot catch grounders. Now we get repeated comments from management and media that he's concerned about the arrival of a baby. I never heard this BS about a major leaguer before. I mean, is Desmond going to HAVE a baby?People on this board love how driven and committed Eckstein is. Tonight, after another pathetic loss, Ray Knight says it is "mind boggling to see so many pitches taken for strikes." I have written that Eckstein's pitch-count God is a false God. It looks like at least Ray Knight realizes it too.In the Manny Acta Impersonation Contest, Riggleman talked about how the short rain delay might've affected Lannan's "rhythm." Did this affect the Pirates' pitcher? It is MORE BS. We are a team that lives in the Language of Therapy: how guys feel, how their rhythm is, when their babies are due. This is a team that is getting really, really, REALLY good at making excuses for losing. In two months we can prepare for a new term from the Nationals: "Play out the string."

  66. Manassas Nats Fan - Apr 26, 2011 at 2:33 AM

    It seems most people are worried more about Desi than anything else. I am in the minority, I am much more concerned about the hitting approach, and how in 21 games it really hasn't changed. Way too many called third strikes. The best pitch is usually the first strike, and that is taken too, The teams put some really weird alignments against them, where we need runners, and the you just could bunt to third for a hit, and we instead ground out into the shift or worse yet take a called third strike.I would love to know out of the 158 stroke outs way too many for a team who has the 15th most hits in the NL, have been called third strikes. Riggleman keeps saying the Eckstein is working hard. So what if he is? He isn't working smart, because nothing is changing. To work hard and not get result changes is not really good work at all. I like the fact that the Cardinals have a hitting coach who was a slugger, though he emphasized contact to his hitters. He also emphasizes swinging at the first good pitch. Why get in the hole 0-1. First pitch is often the best hitting pitch.

  67. Manassas Nats Fan - Apr 26, 2011 at 2:37 AM

    I wish I had heard Knight I was so pissed, I came to type.he is right they make excuses all the time. I wrote just before this how if Eckstein working hard, he isn't working smart.Why all the excuse making. We don't do it in our professions. I called for Ray Knight to become manager when Acta was let go, but he isn't willing to put up with excuses, and Rizzo is so he would never hire him.Why all the excuses. Go out and play smart, not hard.

  68. Drew8 - Apr 26, 2011 at 2:41 AM

    OK, here's another positive comment.While Desmond clanged again, Lombo hit a double, a homer and stole a base at Harrisburg.Lombardozzi at second and Espy at short?Anyone? Anyone?

  69. Anonymous - Apr 26, 2011 at 2:46 AM

    This performance against Paul Maholm needs to get somebody fired!

  70. Manassas Nats Fan - Apr 26, 2011 at 2:52 AM

    The Nats number one problem is their Manager and Batting coach are willing to put up with pathetic performances without consequences. This has been a problem for the 6th year. I love baseball, but I want smart baseball and I get little of that. But I will never give up on them, I just keep wishing they would hire management that would demand excellence. and accept nothing short.I just believe the fans care about winning and losing more than the players. I really see little evidence they care as much as the same problems occur night after night. To little hitting, to little fielding, and the pitchers pitch well, but occasionally have a bad innings. The team fields and hit to poorly for a pitcher to have a bad inning.Am I wrong, do the players care more the fans. I know tonight I will lay in bed an hour figuring out what could be different. I really don't get the feeling they stay awake nights wondering.

  71. Mr. NATural - Apr 26, 2011 at 2:54 AM

    Another sad trend tonight is the maniacal Nats' organizational devotion to the concept of turning sub-journeymen pitchers into Cy Young. They've done it over and over this year–and last year, and the years before. It is becoming deeply embedded in the losing culture of the Nationals and I am sick of it. Maholm is NOT Tim Hudson–QUIT TELLING ME HOW MAHOLM WAS TOUGH AND "REALLY HITTING HIS SPOTS." It is BS.Eckstein must go. We have confused "intensity" with "quality." If I had to pick a neighbor, or someone to marry my outstanging (divorced) sister-in-law, I would pick Eckstein. He is a wonderful man and brother. But he is a "true believer" hitting coach and worships the pitch count God, which is FALSE. Let him GO.

  72. Anonymous - Apr 26, 2011 at 3:07 AM

    Jane….that aggressive myth just does not hold water….not this year and NOT LAST YEAR….most of his errors have always been just like two nights ago…..rock hands and not charging simple 4 hope balls….What you are buying is what Riggs would like you to sell you in his fantasy world of always supporting his guys…..Not true at all.And JaneB even Boz asked Riggleman about playing Desmond in CF where he probably rightfully belongs. He has had this problem since the first day he entered the minors. Its basically why so many people saw Espinosa as the Nats shortstop of the future and Desmond playing either second base or shortstop. I'm not sure what Davey Johnson, Riggleman and Rizzo have been smoking but to continually claim that Desmond belongs at shortstop after he has tried and failed, not just at the major league level, but in the minors? Its his bat that got him to the majors and even that has yet to really pan out. No matter where he bats in the lineup.Meanwhile, Espinosa continues to prove he should be the starting short stop and bat first or second.

  73. Manassas Nats Fan - Apr 26, 2011 at 3:08 AM

    Finally someone who believes like me. Thank you Mr NATural.This Pitch count nonsense has to go. The best pitch is usually the first strike. It doesn't take a genius to see this. I was listening to Rod Carew the other night on the Angel broadcast, and he was saying that about 80% of hitting coaches believe in the pitch count theory, and for 80% of the players it is making them much less effective. He was saying "anyone recently who has ever hit well was a first strike hitter, just ask Tony Gwynn and Wade Boggs" I trust those tthree guys, I do not trust Riggs and Eckstein when it comes to hitting.

  74. Anonymous - Apr 26, 2011 at 3:14 AM

    This is a team that is getting really, really, REALLY good at making excuses for losing. In two months we can prepare for a new term from the Nationals: "Play out the string.The Nats new slogan: Expect it … play out the string … to another 100 loss season … Giggleman Island Slogan: Ignore stats believe in the player … and who is the player he mentions in his ad? Ian Desmond Are we wondering what would have happened had Brandon Wood been available to the Nats and not the Pirates on irrevocable waivers? Riggleman seems to like the guy … ~smiles~

  75. Ernie - Apr 26, 2011 at 3:25 AM

    @ Manassass Nats Fan: I'm not one to argue with Rod Carew, but I followed the Red Sox pretty closely in the mid/late 1980s and I seem to remember Boggs almost always took the first pitch, to the point that the national TV announcers would laugh about it every time he came up to bat. My memory could be going, or he might have changed his approach later when I wasn't following baseball as closely. None of this changes the underlying point, of course.Meanwhile, I keep looking for all of these Desmond errors caused by his "great range." They look like the same old routine ground ball muffs that he's committed since he came up, only now he's dropping throws from teammates as well. I think we're stuck with him until we have an alternative though. Tonight's performance might quiet the Bixler crowd, but there is sure to be some other mediocre fielder that a number of posters on here will get behind. Heck, at this point I'd take an Espinosa/Adam Kennedy middle infield over what we have now…

  76. Manassas Nats Fan - Apr 26, 2011 at 10:52 AM

    Ernie you are right Boggs almost always took the first strike and drove the second one. You almost never saw him take a stike 3.





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