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Closing Time: Red Sox 11, Orioles 0

06.04.10 at 10:09 pm ET
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BALTIMORE — On a day when the Orioles changed managers in hopes of generating (in the words of their GM, Andy MacPhail), “a spark,” the only heat that was generated occurred when the Red Sox scorched them. In a show of complete dominance, the Sox — behind emerging star Clay Buchholz — outhit the Orioles, 16-5, en route to a 11-0 victory at Camden Yards.

Buchholz went the distance, recording his first complete-game of the season and his second-career shutout. His only other shutout also came against the Orioles: a no-hitter on Sept. 1, 2007.

WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE RED SOX

Clay Buchholz continued his emergence as one of the best pitchers in the American League. The right-hander was in complete control, allowing just five hits and one walk, en route to his ninth straight road start (dating to last Aug. 19), tied for the second longest streak in Red Sox history. Only Roger Clemens had a longer road winning streak, reeling off victories in 12 straight road starts.

Buchholz (8-3, 2.39) has also claimed victories in each of his last five starts. He has allowed no more than two runs while pitching at least six innings in each of those outings, and his ERA in that time is 0.99.

On Friday, he was extremely efficient, mixing his two- and four-seam fastballs with a cutter and changeup to get a lot of early-count outs from the Orioles.

Kevin Youkilis continued his two-out excellence, unloading on a Mark Hendrickson fastball with two out and two on for his 11th homer of the year. He later added a two-out single, going 2-for-4 on the night when the Sox were down to their final out of the frame. He is now hitting .308 with a .483 OBP, .662 slugging, 1.144 OPS and 16 RBI in such situations.

–Youkilis was not the only Red Sox player to deliver two-out production. J.D. Drew also delivered a two-out double in the bottom of the first inning. The Sox have now scored 131 runs with two outs this year, the most in the majors.

Marco Scutaro recorded his fourth three-hit game in his last seven contests, going 3-for-6 with a single, double and his second homer in as many games. In that span, he has raised his average 26 points (from .250 to .276) and his OPS by 76 points (from .660 to .736).

WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE RED SOX

–The only concern for the Sox was the result of a bizarre and difficult-to-believe instance of deja vu.

With two outs in the bottom of the third inning, Nick Markakis lifted a pop up down the left field line in foul territory. Red Sox third baseman Adrian Beltre and left fielder Jeremy Hermida both raced to the ball, converging upon it at nearly the same time. As Beltre made a stunning over-the-shoulder catch, his knee slammed into the sliding Hermida’s left arm and shoulder in a startling echo of Beltre’s collision with left fielder Jacoby Ellsbury on April 11, when Beltre’s knee plowed into the chest of the left fielder.

Both Beltre and Hermida made it off the field under their own power, and both initially remained in the game. Beltre, in fact, homered in the fifth inning, unloading on a Matt Albers pitch with a corkscrew swing that ended with his knee on the dirt in the batter’s box. But Hermida ended up leaving the game prior to the bottom of the fifth inning.

Orioles GM MacPhail: ‘It’s a giant step back’

06.04.10 at 3:05 pm ET
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BALTIMORE — Orioles general manager Andy MacPhail, in a press conference to explain his firing of manager Dave Trembley and the hiring as interim manager of Juan Samuel, said that he felt compelled to make the move based on his club’s regression this year. The Orioles had appeared to be on the cusp of a step forward with a talented young nucleus of players in 2010, solidifying gains made under Trembley in 2009, but instead, the team has the worst record in the majors (15-39).

“It’s a giant step back,” MacPhail said of the season. “We needed to move the needle forward in terms of where we were in the standings.”

MacPhail insisted that the team’s struggles were not solely the fault of Trembley, enumerating several reasons why the team has performed below expectations.

–Players brought in this offseason (including free-agent signee Mike Gonzalez and others) “to prevent this calamity” have been either injured or performed poorly

–The back end of the bullpen has been devastated by injuries

–The offense is last in the league in runs (3.3 per game), with MacPhail characterizing the team’s production with runners in scoring as “frankly abysmal.” The Orioles are last in the majors in average (.217), OBP (.300) and slugging (.305) with runners in scoring position.

–The Orioles play in the toughest division in baseball

–Perhaps most importantly for a team that must win or lose on the strength of young talent, MacPhail had seen the young core of players such as Matt Wieters, Nick Markakis, Nolan Reimold and Adam Jones taking steps in the wrong direction.

“Maybe most disappointing of all to me and most distressing is we’ve had some of our young players go backwards,” said MacPhail. “You’re hoping to ignite a spark [with the managerial change]. … It’s a goofy business. We just felt we had to get an opportunity to get our team a fresh start.”

MacPhail suggested that Samuel would offer a measure of discipline to a club that has been making numerous lapses on the field and on the bases. The 49-year-old Samuel, who had been in his fourth year as the Orioles’ third base coach, said that he would re-emphasize fundamentals.

“For some reason,” he said, “guys don’t seem to be paying a lot of attention to the details that are supposed to go right.”

MacPhail insisted that the Orioles remain on the only possible path to establishing themselves as legitimate competitors in the relentless American League East, namely, a path of scouting and player development that requires a commitment to a young core that will be prone to growing pains.

“I wish it would come faster,” said MacPhail. “[But] there is not one scintilla of doubt that this is what we need to do.”

Read More: andy macphail, Dave Trembley, juan samuel, Orioles

Red Sox vs. Orioles matchups, 6/4

06.04.10 at 2:06 pm ET
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When the Red Sox and Orioles open up their three-game series on Friday night, two young hurlers will be on the mound in Clay Buchholz and Chris Tillman. Buchholz will look to continue his recent success while Tillman will face Boston for the first time in his career.

In his third full season in the majors, Buchholz seems like he’€™s finally put it all together after having struggles early in his career. Following a loss to the Yankees on May 8 in which he was shelled for five earned runs in only five innings, Buchholz has put together a string of four stellar outings. In that span, he’€™s recorded a win in each start and has tossed at least six innings without allowing more than two runs. Buchholz’€™ best performance came in his last start against the Royals when he outdueled Zack Greinke to the tune of seven scoreless innings to improve his record to 7-3.

Facing Baltimore on Friday night, Buchholz will take on the same team against which he made history  in 2007 in only his second career start. He tossed a no-hitter in a 10-0 victory, making him only the 21st rookie to complete the feat since 1900. For his career, Buchholz is 4-2 with a 4.21 ERA and a .205 batting average against in six starts against the Orioles.

Opposing Buchholz on the mound in the series opener will be Tillman, a highly touted pitching prospect in his first full season in the majors. After he was called up last year at the end of June, Tillman was solid in his first seven outings before fading in the final month of the season. In five September starts, he went 1-3 and allowed four or more runs in four appearances.

Tillman began the 2010 season at Triple-A Norfolk before being promoted to replace David Hernandez in the fifth spot in the Baltimore rotation. In his first start on May 29 against the Blue Jays, he allowed two runs in 5 2/3 innings and got a no-decision in a 5-2 loss. Tillman has never pitched against Boston in his career, and the only Red Sox hitter he’€™s ever faced is Marco Scutaro when he was on the Athletics.

Boston has been on the rise in its last 16 games, in which it’€™s gone 12-4 and climbed back within 5 1/2 games of the division-leading Rays. Facing Tillman on Friday night, the Red Sox will look to take advantage of a young pitcher while Buchholz attempts to keep up with David Price for the league lead in wins (8).

Red Sox vs. Tillman

Marco Scutaro (3 career plate appearances against Tillman): .500 average/.667 OBP/.500 slugging, 1 walk

The Baltimore starter has never faced Adrian Beltre, Mike Cameron, J.D. Drew, Bill Hall, Jeremy Hermida, Mike Lowell, Victor Martinez, Darnell McDonald, David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia, Jason Varitek or Kevin Youkilis.

Orioles vs. Buchholz

Nick Markakis (18 career plate appearances against Buchholz): .154 average/.389 OBP/.154 slugging, 1 RBI, 4 walks, 3 strikeouts

Luke Scott (12): .100/.250/.400, 1 home run, 1 RBI, 2 walks, 3 strikeouts

Adam Jones (6): .500/.500/1.500, 1 double, 1 home run, 4 RBI, 1 walk

Matt Wieters (6): .600/.667/.800, 1 double, 1 walk

Ty Wigginton (6): .333/.333/.833, 1 home run, 2 RBI, 3 strikeouts

Cesar Izturis (5): .250/.400/.250, 1 walk

Corey Patterson (4): .000/.000/.000

Miguel Tejada (4): .000/.000/.000

Scott Moore (3): .000/.000/.000, 2 strikeouts

Luis Montanez has a hit in his only at-bat against Buchholz with an RBI. The Boston starter has never faced Garrett Atkins, Julio Lugo or Craig Tatum.

Read More: Chris Tillman, Clay Buchholz, Orioles, Red Sox

So this is why they traded Engel Beltre

06.04.10 at 1:40 pm ET
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Remember Engel Beltre? He was one of three players (David Murphy and Kason Gabbard being the others) that the Red Sox traded to Texas for Eric Gagne in 2007. Well, Beltre hit a walk-off home run, and then made some news …

Video: The Full Count Show 6/2/10

06.04.10 at 1:37 pm ET
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Read More: Adrian Beltre, Clay Buchholz, Red Sox,

Number Crunch: RBI vs Opportunity

06.04.10 at 12:14 pm ET
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You’ve heard it many times: RBI are, in large part, a result of opportunity. 

 Well, let’s take a look at who the American League RBI leaders were in May and who led the league in opportunities (number of runners in scoring position while batting):

* – AL RBI Leaders in May:

31 – Vladimir Guerrero, TEX
27 – David Ortiz, BOS
27 – Alex Rodriguez, NYY
26 – Jose Bautista, TOR

* – Most RISP When Batting in May (AL):

53 – Michael Cuddyer, MIN
51 – Robinson Cano, NYY
49 – Alex Rodriguez, NYY
49 – Mark Teixiera, NYY
49 – Evan Longoria, TBR

But who took advantage of their opportunities?  I’ve provided a table below which lists the AL leaders and trailers (and the individual Red Sox) in RBI per RISP during May.  Keep in mind that RBI includes more than simply driving in runners from scoring position as hitters could drive in runners from first base or drive themselves in on a home run.  Therefore, a batter can (and did, in May) have more RBI than RISP opportunities.

For reference, here are a few results from April:

Pedroia – .947
Martinez – .227
Ortiz – .133 (4-30; Lowest rate in AL in April)

O’s manager Trembley’s unlikely tenure comes to an end

06.04.10 at 9:22 am ET
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Dave Trembley knew this moment would come. Once you are hired as a major league manager, you are, in essence, on notice that you will one day be fired.

‘€œI know that sooner or later someone will come after me and be the manager of the Baltimore Orioles,’€ Trembley said last season. ‘€œAll we are is a caretaker of the game. We are here to make sure the game is better and pass it on to the next guy in line.’€

And so, the fact that the hatchet dropped on him (as reported by the Baltimore Sun this morning) after a 15-39 start this year with the Orioles ‘€“ unwelcome though it certainly was ‘€“ likely did not come as a shock. The shock of Trembley’€™s job, after all, was that he had it at all.

He had been a gym teacher and ‘€œbehavior modification specialist,’€ working with problem children in an inner-city school in Los Angeles from 1977-79. There, he learned about being a teacher, and about being a manager of not just players but complex and demanding personalities and needs.

As he made the transition to junior college coach and inner-city baseball scout, and then to minor-league coach, it was passion rather than ambition that moved him forward. In 2007, the then-55-year-old was an unassuming baseball lifer, someone who had committed himself to coaching in obscurity

‘€œI never pursued [managing in the majors]. I wasn’€™t obsessed with it,’€ said Trembley. ‘€œI managed 20 full seasons in the minor leagues, 16 seasons in instructional league, went to winter ball, was a player development guy, managed against an awful lot of people that made it to the big leagues. I managed against [Red Sox manager Terry Francona] in 1994 when he was in Birmingham.

‘€œMy thrill was developing players, calling them in, telling them they were in the big leagues, moving to the next level, and at some particular point in time having the light come on and they would come back and say, ‘€˜Thank you,’€™ and never, ever, ever have anyone say that no one taught you something.’€

It was an unexpected and improbable sequence of events led him to the manager’€™s office in Baltimore. Rick Dempsey decided to walk away from a job as the Orioles’€™ bullpen coach after the 2006 season. The O’€™s turned to Trembley ‘€“ a longtime manager in their minor-league system ‘€“ to take over that task and to coordinate spring training.

Yet that spring, he moved up to the job of interim bench coach because bench coach Tom Trebelhorn had to leave the club to attend to his sick wife. Then, in June of 2007, just three months into his first season on a big league coaching staff, the Orioles fired manager Sam Perlozzo and gave Trembley a job that he kept for just under three years.

‘€œHow the hell did this happen?’€ Trembley recalled thinking of his whirlwind ascent. ‘€œThirty-five years of your life have gone right in front of you. It was the greatest thing in the world to happen to me.

‘€œI used to cut box scores out of Sporting News when I was a kid. I read all the books, all the stat books. I was reading Bill James‘€™ books when Bill James was writing stuff out of his home in Kansas. I got Baseball America when it was All-American Baseball News.

‘€œI don’€™t play golf. I don’€™t go to cocktail parties. I don’€™t network. I love the game. People say, ‘€˜What do you do?’€™ I watch games. I think about games all year. I get a cup of coffee in the winter, look out the window and replay the games. I love the game.’€

Trembley was selected for and retained his job in no small part because he was a baseball educator. The Orioles were looking to develop a young nucleus that could learn through failure to compete in a brutal American League East division; Trembley, an educator with missionary zeal about imparting respect for the game to his players, made sense.

Despite his embrace of new ways of thinking about the game, he was an unapologetic baseball traditionalist. He was one of the few managers in the game to have his players regularly take infield, a measure intended to get his players — particularly his young players — to understand how to play the game properly.

‘€œI’€™m not naïve. You’€™re judged on winning and losing. When you manage in the big leagues, you’€™re judged on winning and losing,’€ said Trembley. ‘€œBut I think that our situation here might be a little more interesting in that that’€™s not the total picture. We want to win, but we want to establish an identity. We want our guys all buying into the team concept, and believing that they don’€™t have to take a back seat to anybody.

‘€œThings don’€™t happen overnight. Manna from heaven doesn’€™t fall from the sky. It takes time. You’€™re got to be patient, persistent. You have to persevere. You’€™ve got to stay the course. You can’€™t look for a quick fix.’€

But now, with the Orioles in possession of the worst record in the majors (15-39), and having gone 187-283 under Trembley, Baltimore apparently has decided that it was time for a different dugout voice to lead the club. The Orioles were expected to take a competitive step forward this year, with a young nucleus of players such as Nick Markakis, Adam Jones, Matt Wieters and Brian Matusz able to give them at least some kind of foothold for competing in the AL East.

Instead, the team’€™s performance went backwards, and so Trembley’€™s improbable tenure came to its end.

Read More: Dave Trembley, fired, Orioles,

Facing Chris Tillman?

06.04.10 at 9:17 am ET
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Tonight the Red Sox will face the Orioles’ Chris Tillman in their series opener in Baltimore. Tillman will be making his 14th career start. Much has been made in the past about the perception that the Red Sox tend to struggle against “new” starters that they have not developed a “book” on yet. Well, let’s take a look:

Since 2004, the Red Sox have faced 45 AL starters on the road who at the time had made 15 or fewer major league appearances. In those 45 starts, they went a combined 12-21 with a 5.03 ERA while averaging 5.1 innings per start. Overall, the Red Sox went 26-19 in those games (keeping in mind that they were all road games).

How has the rest of the AL done on the road versus starters with 15 or fewer appearances since 2004? Here are the best winning percentages:

.667 – New York Yankees (36-18; 6.34 ERA)
.635 – Los Angeles Angels (33-19; 5.31 ERA)
.578 – Boston Red Sox (26-19; 5.03 ERA)
.556 – Seattle Mariners (30-24; 4.81 ERA)

And the worst:

.304 – Kansas City Royals (14-32; 4.19 ERA)
.365 – Tampa Bay Rays (19-33; 4.88 ERA)
.373 – Minnesota Twins (19-32; 3.99 ERA)

So it’s not the overall stats put up by those pitchers against the Sox that has led to the notion that they tend to dominate them to an unusally high degree. However, in that same span, those starters have made 17 starts (out of 45) where they went 6+ innings and allowed 2 earned runs or fewer (38%). Is that out of line with the rest of the league? Actually, it’s the LOWEST percentage in the AL in that span:

38% – Boston Red Sox (17-45)
46% – Los Angeles Angels (24-52)
50% – New York Yankees (27-54)

Yes, the Yankees’ percentage jumped out at me as well. How can half of those starts be so good (ERA of 3.00 or better) and the total ERA be over six? Well, in the other 27 starts, the aggregate ERA was 9.37 over 138 innings and the Yanks went 19-8 in those games.

I think it’s safe to say that perception doesn’t equal reality in this case. The Red Sox fare as well or better than any road team when facing a relatively inexperienced starter. It’s just that when one does shut them down, it’s a REALLY big deal. But we don’t notice as much when those starters do the same thing to other teams.

Bogar accepts blame for failed jaunts home

06.03.10 at 6:35 pm ET
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Back in late November, after he had been named as the Red Sox‘ third base coach, Tim Bogar described his new position to WEEI.com as “a great challenge.” Thursday afternoon he was reminded of that reality. (See: ‘Tim Bogar braces for the hot seat”)

Bogar was forced to hold his second postgame media gathering of the season, this time after the Sox’ 9-8 loss to the A’s in which he waved two runners in with nobody out, coming away with no runs (and two outs) to show for his efforts.

“Obviously with nobody out, two bad decisions and I got two runners thrown out at the plate,” he said. “Obviously both times I was wrong so I take full responsibility for it.”

The first instance when Bogar ran into trouble came in the third inning, when Victor Martinez barreled around third base from first on Kevin Youkilis‘ drive to left. Martinez, who has been battling a sore left big toe, was waved in by the third base coach only to get tagged on the shoulder by Oakland catcher Kurt Suzuki after the A’s made a solid relay from left fielder Eric Patterson to shortstop Cliff Pennington to home plate.

The second occasion occurred in the fourth inning when Jeremy Hermida rifled a single to right field, advancing Darnell McDonald from second. This time there was no cut-off, with outfielder Gabe Gross throwing a strike to Suzuki to nail McDonald, who had experienced a brief knee injury when diving back into first base earlier in the frame.

“I think the first play was a pretty good play by the catcher,” explained Bogar. “Pennington’s got a strong arm, but it short-hopped him and he made a good play and it was a close play at the plate. Obviously the second play, when the ball was hit, I didn’t think it was hit as hard as it was. Sometimes you have to give credit to the other guys, but when there is nobody out you have to make sure they can score and it just didn’t go that way.”

Oakland manager Bob Geren, for one, could understand the decisions.

‘€œThe one was a great throw by Pennington. And Suzuki made one of the better plays on the final end of that. That was an incredible athletic play with a great tag and a good call by the umpire,” Geren said. “And Gabe just absolute threw an absolute low rocket from right. He was a quarterback in college, he’€™s got a cannon.

‘€œIt took two incredible plays to get them. I understand why they were being aggressive. It took two absolute perfect plays to get people so more times than not, they’€™re going to be safe. It just took two incredible plays.”

Bogar insisted that neither injury — Martinez’ toe or McDonald’s knee — factored into his decision-making process.

“It had nothing to do with it,” he said. “They were two decisions I made that didn’t go our way. Obviously I should have learned from the first one.”

Bogar’s most notable mistake prior to Thursday had come on April 16 when he sent Kevin Youkilis with nobody out in a 1-1 game. Youkilis would be gunned down on a relay from Ben Zobrist to Reid Brignac to catcher Dioner Navarro.

“I think we’ve talked before because of my over-aggressiveness. Is it a fault? I guess if it continues to happen, yeah,” Bogar said. “But you know what? Every time I sent a guy at that point I thought I made the right decision. I’m going to live with those results and try to learn from them. You know what? I’m not going to change who I am and how I go about it. I’ll just try to learn and make better decisions.”

Bogar insisted, however, the pair of decisions won’t affect him going forward.

“I’m confident in what I’m doing,” he said. “I’m confident in my decision-making. I feel like I do a good job over there. Today is one of those days where I made two decisions that went the wrong way.

“It’s a job that you have to. Every guy who steps up to the plate you have a decision to make sooner or later. If you keep thinking about what you’re doing and what has happened in the past, you’ll be over there with a lot of stress. Just do my job, keep making decisions, learn from my mistakes and go on.”

Closing Time: Athletics 9, Red Sox 8

06.03.10 at 5:03 pm ET
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The Red Sox dropped the final game of their three-game series with the A’s in a 9-8 decision Thursday afternoon. Although never behind by more than three runs in the contest, the Sox struggled to play catch-up for most of the afternoon, especially after starter Tim Wakefield allowed four runs in the fourth inning to give Oakland a 5-2 lead. The team dropped to 32-23 and now will make its way down to Baltimore for a three-game set with the Orioles. (Click here for a complete recap.)

WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE RED SOX

–Sox third-base coach Tim Bogar sent two different runners home with no outs that were each tagged out at the plate. In defiance of the notion that a team should not make the first out of an inning at home, Bogar’€™s decisions were even more suspect based on who he sent to the plate. Victor Martinez, who still looks to be hobbling around the bases with a sore big toe on his left foot, was the first out of the third, and Darnell McDonald, who came up limping after a dive back to first on a pickoff attempt, was the next victim in the fourth. You have to circle those two decisions after the one-run loss.

–This was the second straight outing in which Wakefield woefully struggled in the fourth inning. The eight A’€™s hitters Wakefield saw in the fourth punished him in their second time through the lineup with four runs on five hits, including two doubles and Kurt Suzuki’€™s second home run over the Green Monster on the day. He settled down and allowed just one run over the next two innings, but those four runs had Boston playing catch-up the rest of the afternoon.

Manny Delcarmen entered Thursday’€™s game with just a one-run deficit in the eighth inning and having given up just two home runs in 26 innings this season. Then, he left straight two pitches right in the wheelhouses of Jack Cust and Kevin Kouzmanoff respectively, and those numbers jumped to a three-run deficit and four home runs allowed just like that. After those two shots alone, his ERA jumped from 1.73 to 2.36.

–As good as eight runs look on paper, the Red Sox offense had its fair share of missed opportunities. As a team, the Red Sox were just 3-for-19 with runners in scoring position. They left at least one runner on base in every inning and left 11 runners on in total.

WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE RED SOX

Bill Hall and Jeremy Hermida, Boston’€™s eight and nine hitters respectively, were not expected to be the team’€™s biggest offensive threats coming in, but they certainly were on Thursday. The duo created just three outs between them on the entire afternoon, going a combined 7-for-10 with a home run apiece. Hermida was just a triple away from the cycle as the nine hitter. Hall’€™s home run in the ninth breathed some life into the Fenway crowd while his four runs scored were a career-high.

–As for the rest of the lineup, eight runs on 18 hits is no small feat. To find a game when the Sox had that many hits, you’€™d have to go as far back as May 3, when the Sox totaled a season-high 20 hits in a 17-8 rout of the Angels. For the series as a whole, Boston tallied an impressive 22 runs over the three games against an Oakland club that ranks fifth in the AL in ERA.

–Say what you want about the six earned runs, but there was one positive sign from Wakefield’€™s performance: his efficiency. Over his six innings of work, the knuckleballer walked no one and had three 1-2-3 frames. In total, he threw just 78 pitches, meaning he could have gone perhaps a few more innings if his stuff justified it. If it hadn’€™t been for the four-run fourth, this would have been a solid start from Wakefield.

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