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Instant analysis: Nats 5, Diamondbacks 1

May 14, 2014, 6:14 PM EDT

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GAME IN A NUTSHELL: In the finale of what became a frustrating West Coast trip, the Nationals once again struggled to produce at the plate with a makeshift lineup. But they had a highly effective Doug Fister on the mound for them, and because of him, they gave themselves a chance to beat the Diamondbacks.

Fister allowed just one run over seven sterling innings — Aaron Hill’s solo homer in the fourth — in a performance that put to rest any doubts that surfaced after the right-hander’s disastrous debut last weekend against the A’s. The Nationals needed it, because Brandon McCarthy was just as good for Arizona, carrying a 1-hit shutout into the seventh. Jayson Werth’s homer, though, tied the game and left this one in the hands of the respective bullpens.

The Diamondbacks’ pen has been a mess this season, but Brad Ziegler hasn’t been the problem. This time, he was. The Nationals pounced on the side-winding right-hander for four runs in the top of the ninth, with Ian Desmond and Tyler Moore each driving in a pair on clutch hits. Rafael Soriano then finished off the Nats’ 12th come-from-behind victory this season, tied for the most in baseball.

HITTING HIGHLIGHT: Desmond takes a lot of heat for his penchant to swing at the first pitch so much, but it’s tough to criticize him when he delivers a big hit like this while stepping to the plate ready to hack. After Werth was intentionally walked to load the bases with nobody out in the top of the ninth, Desmond knew Ziegler needed to throw strikes. So he pounced on the first one he saw, drilling a two-run single that gave the Nationals the lead for good. Desmond has proven over his career his aggressive approach can pay off. He’s now hitting .377 (148-for-393) with 57 RBI when putting the first pitch into play as a major leaguer.

PITCHING HIGHLIGHT: This is what the Nationals were thinking when they acquired Fister last winter. After an uncharacteristic season debut Friday night in Oakland, he was back to his old self today. Fister fired sinker after sinker down in the strike zone, mixing in some breaking balls to keep hitters off-balance. He was relatively efficient, completing seven innings on 100 pitches. He didn’t walk a batter. He struck out six. Fister’s only real mistake was falling behind Hill 3-0 in the bottom of the fourth, then grooving a fastball to the Diamondbacks second baseman, who had the green light and promptly homered. Other than that, Fister was fantastic during a performance the Nationals can only hope becomes the norm for him.

KEY STAT: The Nationals are now outscoring opponents 19-3 in the ninth inning this season.

UP NEXT: The Nationals head home tonight, then will enjoy a day off before opening a weekend series against the Mets. Tanner Roark faces Jonathan Niese in Friday’s 7:05 p.m. opener at Nationals Park.

  1. ehay2k - May 14, 2014 at 6:16 PM

    I turned on the game, tied in the ninth. Span walked, I yelled to keep the line moving, and here we are. Looks like all their woes at the plate are solved, from the AB’s I saw!

  2. natsfan1a - May 14, 2014 at 6:32 PM

    (with apologies to Lloyd Bridges) Looks like I picked the right game to start watching. You know. One when I was actually awake. And they won. So, yeah, good game. Great outing by Fister, and our bats, eventually. That Aaron Hill person was really annoying, but we did win and all, so I forgive him.

    • npb99 - May 14, 2014 at 10:17 PM

      Surely, you jest!

      • natsfan1a - May 15, 2014 at 7:15 AM

        I am serious, and don’t call me Shirley. :-)

  3. Candide - May 14, 2014 at 6:34 PM

    Is it too early to speculate that we’re over the Curse of the Nats Fifth Pitcher?

    • Eugene in Oregon - May 14, 2014 at 6:52 PM

      Knock on wood (or at least some imitation wood grain).

      • Ghost of Steve M. - May 14, 2014 at 7:47 PM

        The 5th starter is Tanner Roark. Fister looked better than advertised. He had Goldschmidt looking silly and he was the only starting pitcher able to do that in the series.

  4. Theophilus T.S. - May 14, 2014 at 6:38 PM

    Add my observations and endorse some of Marks:

    1. Balls are starting to hit Desmond’s bat.

    2. Moore is becoming very useful.

    3. Clippard is being Clippard again, due to adroit managing by Williams beginning about three weeks ago.

    4. GSM characterized my carping about Z’mann and Strasburg as “wishing for an ace Stopper.” Actually I wish just for a Stopper, which is why I was angry at Z’mann after losing three in Oakland. Fister (and Roark) means the Nats will find a Stopper at the bottom of the rotation if not at the top. Between them, one of them is going to slam the brakes on any losing streak. Prediction the Nats (barring injury) will not have a four-game losing streak the rest of the season, and maybe not even a three-game streak.

    • natszee - May 14, 2014 at 6:55 PM

      +1 on all points.

      On a down side, Danny is Danny again. Four more games like today and he will be under .100 for May.

      Hope the see April Danny soon else the Chiefs will have a new 2nd baseman.

      • Eric - May 14, 2014 at 7:24 PM

        I agree Espi’s on a sketchy trend, but he got robbed of a hit by Hill, and it moved the runners, who scored on TyMo’s single…

  5. secretwasianman - May 14, 2014 at 6:39 PM

    Clipp did a good job

  6. Eugene in Oregon - May 14, 2014 at 6:58 PM

    To reiterate and expand on something I wrote at the end of the game thread, I give huge credit to Denard Span for his 10-pitch BB to lead off the 9th inning. The no-out baserunner gave the Nats the advantage and Anthony Rendon and the others then grabbed that advantage and produced. If Mr. Span’s AB had turned into an out, the inning could have ended quickly.

    • knoxvillenat - May 14, 2014 at 7:19 PM

      +1

    • natsjackinfl - May 14, 2014 at 7:21 PM

      Unfortunately, Denard has already established his hate group and nothing short of getting on base at a. 375 clip and wrecking havoc on the base paths will even come close to appeasing them.

      But I agree. That at bat took a lot out of Zeigler.

      • Danny - May 14, 2014 at 7:28 PM

        I mean that is what he was brought here to do… The man plays fine defense though.

    • Hiram Hover - May 14, 2014 at 7:35 PM

      + another.

    • dcwx61 - May 14, 2014 at 9:10 PM

      +2

  7. Brookstoor - May 14, 2014 at 7:35 PM

    Doug Fister reminds me of a young Bill Paxton. Not sure if that’s a compliment, but hopefully he stays clear of all Terminators, Aliens, and Predators.

    • npb99 - May 14, 2014 at 10:20 PM

      Lot of movie references today. Happy crowd when a pitcher seems to have a million dollar arm.

  8. Danny - May 14, 2014 at 7:40 PM

    Not an Espy hater, but the guy has Kd in almost half of his plate appearances in May. Fix your approach man.

    • adcwonk - May 14, 2014 at 7:51 PM

      Even Espi supporters agree with you on that!

      • Eric - May 14, 2014 at 7:54 PM

        +1

        I’m a huge fan of the guy based on his defense alone, but yeah, he really needs to get back on track at the plate.

      • Sonny G 10 - May 14, 2014 at 8:36 PM

        +1

    • zmunchkin - May 14, 2014 at 8:01 PM

      Before we over-react, all players go thru slumps. And yes, given his history, some concern is appropriate.

      In the month of May Danny’s BA is .128. Just .012 lower that what Mike Trout is hitting in May – .140.

      And yes, I realize that it is easier to chalk up Trout’s performance to a slump. But it makes the point that all players have slumps.

      • Sonny G 10 - May 14, 2014 at 8:37 PM

        +1

      • natszee - May 14, 2014 at 9:27 PM

        I disagree. Everyone here noticed the short compact “swing within yourself” swing in ST and through most of April and the results were remarkable. In the past few weeks, it seems Danny has lost all of that discipline and is back to the “swing at anything and almost fall down” swing which results in many k’s and, occasionally, if a ball gets in the way, a HR.

        This is not a slump … This is reverting. I only hope he can stop himself. We need him, the April Danny that is!

  9. Ghost of Steve M. - May 14, 2014 at 7:56 PM

    You hope that 9th inning AB by Span can get him going. Walks are a key for him. While NatsJack is talking about a .375 OBP, I’d be happy with a .340.

    I still don’t get who the haters want to replace him or Espi with? Sure, Espi rides the bench when RZim comes back but I don’t see anyone taking Span’s spot.

    • knoxvillenat - May 14, 2014 at 8:12 PM

      Short of a trade, and I don’t see that in the future just yet, certainly no one in the Nats minor league system is ready to be an everyday CF for this team.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - May 14, 2014 at 8:15 PM

        Agreed. I just don’t see it. If McLouth was hitting the ball he would seem to be the only player to take his spot but McLouth isn’t even hitting 1/2-Mendoza.

    • adcwonk - May 14, 2014 at 10:12 PM

      I’m not an Espi hater. But he swung like cr@p for much of today. I think he’s capable of fixing it (he was doing so in April). I think. But if he can’t — you’re right — we’re sort of stuck with him, really — until RZ comes back.

  10. Joe Seamhead - May 14, 2014 at 8:06 PM

    Happy days are here again! What a great job by Doug Fister, eh?

    • Section 222 - May 14, 2014 at 11:13 PM

      And another scoreless inning from Soriano. ;-)

  11. letswin3 - May 14, 2014 at 8:09 PM

    I can’t remember being more comfortable on defense than when Fister was out there today. He looked like he had a plan, and he finds a way to throw it where it doesn’t find bats. I don’t say this in any way to show disrespect for the others that are part of the rotation, just to say that he looks like a guy with more confidence than most.

    • David Proctor - May 14, 2014 at 8:12 PM

      After Desmond’s error, Fister pointed to him and told him don’t worry about it, he’ll get out of it. And he did.

      • natsfan1a - May 14, 2014 at 9:36 PM

        I loved that.

      • scmargenau - May 15, 2014 at 12:10 AM

        Teach that to SS

      • NatsLady - May 15, 2014 at 7:52 AM

        Fister’s used to playing on a team with poor defense. Not saying that excuses the Nats, but Fister knows you can’t let it get to you.

  12. Ghost of Steve M. - May 14, 2014 at 8:13 PM

    Teheran pulled after 3 1/3 innings and Giants got him for 5 runs. So much for the comments that he’s better than any of the Nats starters.

    Nats only 1 1/2 games back. If the Marlins lose tonight to the Dodgers, they will fall below .500 Hard to believe how quick things have changed in the NL East.

    Braves play the Cardinals this weekend and the Marlins play the Giants.

  13. Eric - May 14, 2014 at 8:24 PM

    Dillon Gee to the DL with a strained back muscle..

    • Sonny G 10 - May 14, 2014 at 8:41 PM

      I saw that on twitter today and I think, “oh boy, they won’t have the number one Nat killer pitching against us”.

  14. veejh - May 14, 2014 at 9:06 PM

    Like I said, no worries on Fister, he’s a stud. Superb outing.

    Another gutsy come from behind win.

    Clipp looks to be regaining some confidence.

    Where’s the D&G crew?

  15. veejh - May 14, 2014 at 9:10 PM

    I’m thinking Fister is going to be teaching a thing or two to the other Nats pitchers. This is going to work out well.

  16. veejh - May 14, 2014 at 9:17 PM

    ……also, the Dez double was huge to follow up that killer AB by Span. So nice to see a Dez xbh. Seems like its been an eternity w men on base.

    • veejh - May 14, 2014 at 9:18 PM

      Oops, sorry Rendon.

    • Hiram Hover - May 14, 2014 at 9:22 PM

      You mean Rendon?

      • veejh - May 14, 2014 at 9:30 PM

        Yeah…I just wanna give credit to Dez for everthing today. Its been so long. Dez can have coMVP behind Fister.

      • Hiram Hover - May 14, 2014 at 10:14 PM

        I hear you – 5 of the Nats 9 RBIs in Phoenix. Not bad!

  17. dcwx61 - May 14, 2014 at 9:20 PM

    The worst prognostication from today’s game goes to :

    SWM in the 1st inning:
    ” Fister real close to getting rocked yet again. If he gives up more than 1 run it’s over.”

  18. dcwx61 - May 14, 2014 at 9:32 PM

    And honorable mention also goes to SWM:

    “With this lineup this is a ninety loss team. Just pitiful. Does anybody in here honestly think this team has any shot at scoring 2 runs today?”

    Congrats to SWM for winning today’s SWM (Single Worst Mentionable comment ) twice!
    Stay tuned for Friday’s SWM

    • snerdblurter - May 14, 2014 at 9:38 PM

      Personally, I liked the one where he said that all we had to do to score runs was have everyone hit .300.

      • dcwx61 - May 14, 2014 at 9:42 PM

        Anyone is eligable to win…I’ve made some spectacularly poor prognostications in my blogging career.
        Many times also winning the IE award (Irrational Exhubarance).

    • scmargenau - May 15, 2014 at 12:15 AM

      He does make it colorfull. We need SWMs and rabbits, and at times myself. It’s healthy!

      • dcwx61 - May 15, 2014 at 12:56 PM

        100 % agree and we should be rewarded for our efforts

  19. thecynicin408 - May 14, 2014 at 9:33 PM

    I’ll have to confess that I was mightily discouraged as the game wore on and Brandon McCarthy was shutting the Nats down. The 9th was the closest to baseball ecstasy that I’ve experienced in some while.

    Now, revealing myself (if I haven’t before) as an LSU fan, I noticed the comment in the game thread that the Nats could use some of the Tigers’ bats based on their lopsided win over an in-state directional school last night. Believe me, the LSU boards are typically filled with the same kind of gloomy perspectives and lamentations as this board when we lose a low-scoring game after having erupted for many runs the night before. The “why can’t we make productive outs?” and “how can we be bat so poorly with runners in scoring position?” comments are common to baseball fans everywhere and at all levels. We second guess the skipper’s handling of the bull pen, call for the sacking of the hitting coach, and complain about defensive positioning too.

    It does seem to me that my ex-LSU guys have on occasion made it hard on the Nats and Aaron Hill is the most recent example. BMac is an LSU fan as well (maybe he was recruited for our program, but went to the pros when drafted?) and posts on our boards, so I typically pull for him if other interests don’t override it. But today, it was very nice to see them both disappointed.

    We’ll be there Friday night, but so far this year we’ve not been good luck when in attendance. Last year was the opposite as we saw wins the first 10+ times we attended and we’ve had “bad” years in the past too. We’ll try to change up a few rituals and practices to see if that helps the guys.

  20. Ghost of Steve M. - May 14, 2014 at 9:35 PM

    For all the crap Desi gets, he’s batting .286 with RISP and has 16 RBIs with RISP and overall has 22 RBIs.

    Desi is 2nd on the Nats with RBIs only behind Rendon. I just don’t get all the hate thrown his way. Yes, he’s made some errors and yes he has some bad at-bats but overall he’s still contributing for this team and should get on a hot streak and carry this team on his back.

    • veejh - May 14, 2014 at 9:40 PM

      You’ll never hear me hate on Dez. If, and when, he gets hot, he’s an RBI machine. Can’t wait to see all the doubles in the left center gap, again.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - May 14, 2014 at 9:51 PM

        Glad you get it. I’m sure Schu has been working with him. You can see Desi is moving his head a lot and pulling off of the pitches. When Desi is on, he’s hitting those oppo HRs over the out-of-town scoreboard.

        Those are the pitches he’s missing as they pound him outside. Like you said, when he gets hot he’s an RBI machine.

      • scmargenau - May 15, 2014 at 12:18 AM

        Me either. I love his attitude. Werth, Dez, Rendon, Ramos, can do no wrong in my book cuz they are winners.

        Now the rest of them…open season.

    • Eric - May 14, 2014 at 9:43 PM

      I think FP or Carp said Desi is 4-4 with bases loaded this season?!

      He does seem to be finding his way, but it has taken awhile and it’s been disheartening seeing him cruising down Frontage road.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - May 14, 2014 at 9:52 PM

        Yes, 4-4 with 9 RBIs which include that 1 Grand Slam.

    • manassasnatsfan - May 14, 2014 at 10:11 PM

      He’s one of the few whose RISP is better than overall.

      Wish he reduce the swing with 2 strikes automatically.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - May 14, 2014 at 10:15 PM

        On your first point, that’s correct and even though it’s frustrating to see him K with nobody on base he’s doing great in RISP and Hi Lev, Espi has been the opposite.

    • adcwonk - May 14, 2014 at 10:15 PM

      I haven’t’ been throwing hate his way. I keep telling others that the two-time defending silver slugger is too good to not come out of it.

      But his hitting has been frustrating of late.

      Consider (not including today) – -he’s batting .179 in the month of May! That’s darn frustrating!

      • Ghost of Steve M. - May 14, 2014 at 10:18 PM

        Yes it is but he’s still driving in runs.

      • adcwonk - May 14, 2014 at 10:21 PM

        Until today — he had only 4 RBI’s in May.

        In fact, before Monday night, he had only 1 RBI in May!

        He is an RBI machine, but May’s been tough for him (and us!). It may be that he’s starting to break out of it.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - May 14, 2014 at 10:26 PM

        To be fair, the Nats have only played 12 games in the month of May. He’s on a 14 RBI pace in May. Not too shabby.

      • adcwonk - May 15, 2014 at 9:33 AM

        Look, I agree with you that he’s an RBI machine. But we must admit that he was in a terrible two week slump.

        From Apr 27 to May 11, 12 games, he hit .159 and had 1 RBI, going 7-for-44 with 11 K’s and 3 GIDP’s, seeing his BA drop from .243 to .217

      • Ghost of Steve M. - May 15, 2014 at 9:37 AM

        Certainly was in a slump and we can agree on that and I never said he wasn’t BUT when runners are on base he seems to do a little better. Game Winner yesterday.

      • adcwonk - May 15, 2014 at 9:52 AM

        I think he’s coming out of his slump. He wasn’t hitting well with runners on during those two weeks

      • Ghost of Steve M. - May 15, 2014 at 9:57 AM

        Who was hitting “well” with RISP the last 2 weeks?

  21. dcwx61 - May 14, 2014 at 9:39 PM

    From MLB trade rumors….congrats to the Wizard of South Capital Street

    The Nationals‘ unheralded acquisition of current fifth starter Tanner Roark represents a “triumph of scouting,” writes Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. With the Nats looking to dump the salary of Christian Guzman back in 2010, the team identified the little-known Roark as a potentially useful arm and picked him up along with righty Ryan Tatusko. While Roark was the real prize of that swap, GM Mike Rizzo says that Tatusko (who owns a 2.15 ERA through seven starts at Triple-A) could reach the bigs himself “somehow, somewhere, with somebody.”

    • Ghost of Steve M. - May 14, 2014 at 10:04 PM

      Tell him to add Blake Treinen on to that list. The pitcher development staff is excellent. if they can fix Purke that will be impressive. His last start was promising.

    • adcwonk - May 14, 2014 at 10:20 PM

      Rizzo has a way of finding those unheralded guys.

      Remember, he traded Langerhans (!) for Morse.

      Then, traded Morse for AJ Cole and Treinan.

      • David Proctor - May 14, 2014 at 10:22 PM

        And Ian Krol, who was part of the package that netted us Doug Fister. A minor part, but he had at least some worth. And he was the PTBNL in that deal.

      • adcwonk - May 14, 2014 at 10:24 PM

        Yep — good call.

        Rizzo’s good with the draft, too. The other guys sent for Fister were Lombo (drafted before Rizzo got here?), and Robbie Ray, who was a 12th rounder in 2010.

  22. manassasnatsfan - May 14, 2014 at 10:12 PM

    Looking forward to getting my bobble head Friday.

    • tcostant - May 15, 2014 at 8:28 AM

      Me too – can’t wait!!!

  23. Ghost of Steve M. - May 14, 2014 at 10:20 PM

    I didn’t hear or watch the post-game. Did anyone ask MW why he didn’t pinch-hit Ramos instead of Hairston?

    I thought that was the reason for retaining Leon on the bench.

  24. npb99 - May 14, 2014 at 10:28 PM

    The most overused word on this blog is “hate.” Yes, some commenters truly cross the line and throw bile at the team. But others express frustration with players who can and have done better, e.g. Espi reverting to wild swings, or Desi lacking discipline at the plate, and are called haters. Seems a bit extreme.

    • Ghost of Steve M. - May 14, 2014 at 10:44 PM

      There’s a big difference saying “I hate you” vs. calling someone a “hater”. The people begging for a benching of Desi or to trade Desi is someone I would call a “hater”. They know who they are.

    • Joe Seamhead - May 15, 2014 at 3:51 AM

      I hate the way “hater” is thrown around, too. Last July when I mentioned that Desi only had 6 RBI’s for the entire month I was lambasted as being a Desi hater which wasn’t true then, nor has it ever been.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - May 15, 2014 at 7:51 AM

        Joe, you’re not a hater but for the people who are, they know it and as they say “if the shoe fits, wear it”. Scroll through the people crowing about trading him and benching him. That’s not from the real NI posters, its from the D&G crowd who only show up in adversity.

  25. Ghost of Steve M. - May 14, 2014 at 10:58 PM

    Crazy stat of the day is Tyler Clippard is now 4-2 and on a 16 win pace.

  26. Section 222 - May 15, 2014 at 12:23 AM

    I couldn’t follow the game today, but managed to avoid hearing about it and watched on DVR this evening. Very fun game. Glad I didn’t know what happened. That made the 9th all the more satisfying. Shout outs to Span and Rendon for getting the rally started and Desi and Moore for coming through in the clutch. And of course to Sori for yet another scoreless inning.

    I also reviewed the game post after the fact. Now that’s entertainment. I suggest a new rule: Anyone who in a game that the Nats come back and win says things like:

    “The Nationals offense is totally nonexistent!” (in the 4th inning), or
    “PIT-E-FULL. These guys realllly stink!” (after the top of the 6th when a fantastic play by Hill on Rendon’s potential RBI hit), or
    “With this lineup this is a ninety loss team. Just pitiful. Does anybody in here honestly think this team has any shot at scoring 2 runs today?” (also after the top of the 6th), or
    “Let’s swing a foot above the ball, Ian,” (after his AB in the 7th), or
    “If the BP loses this who cares. The hitting on this team is just anemic,” or, my favorite,
    “Pinch hit for desi please,” (right before his game winning hit).

    These folks should take a day off from posting during the game. Or maybe two. You won’t be missed.

    • David Proctor - May 15, 2014 at 12:36 AM

      I think the same poster posted every single one of those. Most of them, at least.

      • Section 222 - May 15, 2014 at 12:46 AM

        Believe it or not, there is only one repeat commenter in that group. Five different people said those things. Just imagine what the game thread would be like if they all took the day off from posting. Just relax, have a beer, watch the game, and curse at the TV if you must.

    • Ghost of Steve M. - May 15, 2014 at 7:57 AM

      That is an instant non-classic. What about the poster who called Rendon slow and that he should have beat out that grounder when he was robbed by Hill.

      I won’t miss Aaron Hill. That guy looked like the best 2nd baseman in baseball to me for a total of 3 games. His play was named the Capital One Premiere Play Of The Night on MLB Network. Rendon got robbed on 4 hits in this one series and 3 of the 4 were from the RF, SS, and 2nd baseman.

      I’m sure Rendon is happy to be back in Washington.

    • dcwx61 - May 15, 2014 at 1:01 PM

      i love the timing of the last one….I’ve been guilty of it…great stuff….keep on prognosticating!

  27. rabbit433 - May 15, 2014 at 6:01 AM

    YIPPIE!!!!! Love those wins. Now, let them lose and I’ll dump on them all over again!! GO NATIONALS!!

  28. natsfan1a - May 15, 2014 at 7:25 AM

    I almost spit out my coffee when I read this in an AP story in the dead-tree edition this morning.

    “Ian desmond is not known as a first-pitch hitter”

    I just searched for a link to the original story so I could post it here, and I found only this one.

    http://ww2.cox.com/myconnection/today/news/national-sports/article.cox?articleId=cf411edf4e914f9f994c9b2baaeb4e60

    The bulk of the online stories seem to have been modified as follows, although the original first line remains as an artifact if you plug it in for online searches.

    “Ian Desmond likes to be aggressive early in the count, often swinging at the first pitch.”

    http://www.denverpost.com/rockies/ci_25763382/nationals-knock-off-d-backs-5-1

    I wonder who clued them in? Maybe we *do* need editors online, after all (non-baseball-related link alert). I totally would have caught that one. :-)

    http://ajr.org/2014/05/13/copy-editors-digital-media/

    (Love ya, Desi, but that was just too funny not to share.)

Archives

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