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Tale of 2 pitchers favors Mets over Yanks

Saturday was a tale of two pitchers at Yankee Stadium. There was just too much Matt Harvey for the Yankees and not enough CC Sabathia.

Harvey, who grew up in Connecticut as a Yankees fan, pitched as if he had lifted the entire Mets team on his shoulders. He came within one out of a complete game and paid the Yankees back for ending his team’s 11-game winning streak Friday night. The 8-2 victory improved Harvey’s record to 4-0 and dropped Sabathia’s to 0-4.

“I didn’t give us a chance at all,” Sabathia said. “I was missing spots. Everything was up. I couldn’t keep the cutter down. I couldn’t find a rhythm.”

CC beat himself up almost as much as the Mets did. One start after a strong, complete-game outing at Detroit albeit a loss, Sabathia was rocked for seven runs and nine hits in five-plus innings as his ERA skyrocketed to 5.96. As he walked off the mound in the sixth inning, the 6-foot-7 lefthander was targeted by boo birds, which did not surprise him.

“You pitch bad, you get booed,” he said. “I gave up a lot of two-strike hits. I couldn’t finish hitters off.”

The killer two-strike hit was probably a single by Wilmer Flores that followed a triple by Juan Lagares in the fourth inning. It was a two-out, two-strike hit that made a 2-1 game 3-1 and saved an at-bat for rookie catcher Kevin Plawecki, who got his first major-league home run to make it 5-1.

That spread seemed enormous considering the way Harvey was pitching. Showing no ill effects in coming back from Tommy John surgery, the Mets ace looked like a young Roger Clemens.

The first Yankees’ run scored as Jacoby Ellsbury grounded into a double play in the third inning. Harvey walked Brett Gardner after that and then retired 10 batters in a row before Mark Teixeira smacked his eighth home run of the season and third of this series which concludes Sunday night on ESPN with the Yanks’ Nathan Eovaldi against the Mets’ Jon Niese.

Sabathia has been successful in keeping the ball in the yard in his first three starts. He had given up only one home run in 20 2/3 innings. Yet he was stung for three long balls Saturday. Lucas Duda started the parade with a solo shot in the first inning. The two-run blow by Plawecki climaxed a four-run fourth for the Mets, and Eric Campbell went yard to start the sixth.

“CC struggled with location,” manager Joe Girardi said. “He made mistakes up in the zone. I’m not going to make too much of one start. All starters are going to have clunkers. We’ll get him back to work and get him right.”

The Mets do not have to do that with Harvey. He was at 91 pitches at the start of the ninth inning and got two outs quickly. Teixeira then hit a ground single to right field through the shift. Harvey lost a chance for the complete game when he walked Brian McCann. Mets manager Terry Collins felt that at 107 pitches his stud was done for the day.

It was an unseemly sight for Yankees fans as Mets fans drowned them out at the Stadium. That hurt more than the boos.

Singles a rarity so far for Teixeira

Now there is something you do not see every day. Mark Teixeira got a single in the second inning Saturday. Facing the Mets’ fireballer Matt Harvey, Teixeira hit a soft spinner to the left side against the exaggerated shift applied by the Mets and beat it out for a single.

It was Tex’s 13th hit of the season but only the second single. He has become an extra-base hitting machine with four doubles and seven home runs, including a pair of two-run, second-deck shots to right field in the Yanks’ 6-1 victory Friday night.

Teixeira entered the game batting only .218, but his other offensive numbers are monstrous. He ranks fifth in the American League in slugging percentage at .673 and seventh in OPS (on-base percentage plus slugging at 1.006. There is another stat called Isolated Power that measures extra-base efficiency. It is derived by subtracting batting average from slugging percentage. Teixeira’s .455 IP was the highest in the majors entering play Saturday.

Yankees pitchers had not allowed a home run in five straight games, the team’s longest such streak since an eight-game run from July 10-20, 2011. Mets first baseman Lucas Duda ended that streak in the first inning with a solo shot to right field off Yankees starter CC Sabathia. It was only the second long ball yielded in 21 innings this year by the big lefthander.

The third homer off Sabathia this year would prove more damaging. It was a two-run shot by Kevin Plawecki, the rookie catcher who was called up to fill in for injured Travis d’Arnau, out with a broken right hand.

Plawecki’s first major league home run and RBIs capped off a four-run fourth inning that might have been worse if not for some dazzling play in the outfield by Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner.

Ellsbury shaded towards right-center against Eric Campbell made a mad dash to left-center field and made a lunging catch to avert a sure double and a possible triple. Lee Mazzilli, who works with the outfielders in spring training, calls that a “turn-and-burn” play.

Not even Ellsbury could come up with the smoking liner Juan Lagares drove to right-center for a triple that broke up a 1-1 score.   CC couldn’t stop the bleeding and gave up a two-out, RBI single to Wilmer Flores before Plawecki went deep.

The inning became more embarrassing for Sabathia when he lost the race to first base covering what became an infield single for former teammate Curtis Granderson. This has been a problem this season for CC, who has slowed down considerably because of his size and surgical right knee.

Gardner saved Sabathia’s bacon with a diving catch in left field to snare a low liner by John Mayberry Jr.

Yanks stop Mets’ winning streak away from Citi

By jumping all over Jacob deGrom early Friday night, the Yankees took some of the buzz out of the highly-anticipated opening of the first round of this season’s Subway Series. They had a six-run lead by the third inning and coasted to a 6-1 victory that put an end to the Mets’ 11-game winning streak, which tied a franchise record.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Friday night at Yankee Stadium marked the first time in the 19 seasons of inter-league play that the Yankees and the Mets faced each other while owning at least a share of first place in their respective divisions. At 13-3, the Mets had the best record in the major leagues atop the National League East while the 9-7 Yankees were tied with the Red Sox for the American League East lead.

There was the usual buzz in the crowd leading up to the game’s start after Bernie Williams tossed the ceremonial first pitch (more like a lob, actually).

Yankees starter Michael Pineda got off a good start with a scoreless first inning with two strikeouts. DeGrom was not so fortunate. The righthander entered the game with a 2-1 record and a 0.93 ERA. The 2014 NL Jackie Robinson Rookie of the Year made an impressive debut last year against the Yankees at Citi Field.

Mark Teixeira, who has not been as imposing from the left side of the plate as from the right, turned that situation around. Tex drove a 2-1 pitch into the second deck in right field for a two-run home run that showed the Mets they were no longer at Citi Field. It ended an 18-inning scoreless streak by deGrom.

Teixeira struck again in the third inning but not before Jacoby Ellsbury led off with his first home run of the season. Brett Gardner did deGrom a favor by getting thrown out at second base trying to stretch a single into a double.

After Alex Rodriguez walked, Teixeira went deep again to right field for another two-run blast. It marked the 38th multi-homer game of Tex’s career.

The Yankees were not finished scoring that inning. They loaded the bases on singles by Brian McCann and Chase Headley surrounding a walk to Carlos Beltran. Stephen Drew pushed the Yanks’ lead to 6-0 with a sacrifice fly.

Teixeira had the opportunity to do more damage when he came up with the bases loaded and none out in the sixth, but he fouled out to third against Hansel Robles, a hard-throwing righthander who made an impressive big-league debut by turning the Yanks away with strikeouts of McCann and Beltran.

That was probably the highlight of the game for the Mets. That is how dominant the Yankees were in ending the Mets’ franchise-record-equaling winning streak. The Yankees continued their role and have won nine of their past 12 games.

Pineda ran his record to 3-0, equaling the mark of teammate Dellin Betances, who was not needed Friday night. Pineda worked into the eighth inning and only hurt himself with a wild pitch that pushed Curtis Granderson into scoring position. A sacrifice fly by Lucas Duda in the sixth inning was the only blemish for Pineda, who lowered his ERA to 3.86. He allowed five hits and no walks with seven strikeouts in 7 2/3 innings. Of his 100 pitches, 78 were for strikes.

“We’ve turned it around,” manager Joe Girardi said. “We have swung the bats well. We’re pitching well. Our defense is doing what we thought it was capable of.”

Subway Series highlights homestand

The Yankees will return home Friday night for the first of six games at Yankee Stadium. The stretch will feature a three-game series against the Mets (Friday-Sunday, April 24-26) and a three-game set against the Rays (Monday-Wednesday, April 27-29).

As part of his retirement celebration, Bernie Williams will throw out the ceremonial first pitch prior to Friday’s 7:05 p.m. game vs. the Mets. Additionally, the Hard Rock Cafe will debut a souvenir pin that honors Williams in a pregame ceremony. Fifteen percent of pin proceeds will go to Hillside Food Outreach (www.hillsidefoodoutreach.org).

Prior to Sunday’s 8:05 p.m. game vs. the Mets, Matthew Morrison will sing the national anthem. The Tony, Emmy and Golden Globe-nominated actor is currently starring in the Harvey Weinstein musical Finding Neverland and recently wrapped up the final season of Fox’s musical comedy Glee where he starred as Will Schuester.

Ticket specials will run Saturday, April 25 (Youth Game), Monday, April 27 (MasterCard $5 and Military Personnel Game), Tuesday, April 28 (MasterCard $5, Military Personnel and Senior Citizen Game) and Wednesday, April 29 (MasterCard Half-Price, Military Personnel, Senior Citizen and Student Game).

For a complete list of ticket specials, including game dates, seating locations, and terms and conditions, fans should visit http://www.yankees.com/ticketspecials. Please note that all ticket specials are subject to availability.

The homestand will also feature the following promotional items and dates:

Saturday, April 25 – Yankees vs. Mets, 4:05 p.m.
     Brett Gardner Replica Bat Day, presented by Bank of America, to first 10,000 Guests, 14 and younger.

Tuesday, April 28 – Yankees vs. Rays, 7:05 p.m.
      Masahiro Tanaka Bobblehead Night, presented by AT&T, to first 18,000 Guests.

Tickets may be purchased online at http://www.yankees.com, http://www.yankeesbeisbol.com, at the Yankee Stadium Ticket Office, via Ticketmaster phone at (877) 469-9849,  Ticketmaster TTY at (800) 943-4327 and at all Ticket Offices located within Yankees Clubhouse Shops. Tickets may also be purchased on Yankees Ticket Exchange at http://www.yankees.com/yte, the only official online resale marketplace for Yankees fans to purchase and resell tickets to Yankees games. Fans with questions may call (212) YANKEES [926-5337] or email tickets@yankees.com.
For information on parking and public transportation options to Yankee Stadium, please visit http://www.yankees.com and click on the Yankee Stadium tab at the top of the page.

As part of Major League Baseball’s initiative to standardize security procedures at all 30 parks, visitors are required to be screened via metal detectors before entering the Stadium. The increased security measures are the result of MLB’s continuing work with the Department of Homeland Security and are designed to elevate and standardize security practices across the game. The added security measures are in addition to bag checks that are conducted at all MLB ballparks.

As a result, the Yankees strongly encourage all visitors to budget extra time for arrival and entry to the Stadium for all home games throughout the 2015 season and future seasons.

Bernie to make his retirement official 

Although he has not played a game in the major leagues since the end of the 2006 season and has already fallen off the Hall of Fame ballot, Bernie Williams has never officially announced his retirement as a player.

That will change at 5:45 p.m. Friday in the press conference room at Yankee Stadium before the first game of this season’s Subway Series when Williams will formally sign his retirement papers in a ceremony to be overseen by general manager Brian Cashman and assistant general manager Jean Afterman.

During Friday’s press conference, the Yankees will unveil a logo related to his uniform number (51) retirement and Monument Park plaque dedication, which will take place on Sunday, May 24, prior to the Yankees’ 8:05 p.m. game against the Texas Rangers.

Additionally Friday — in an on-field ceremony at approximately 6:45 p.m. — the Hard Rock Cafe will debut a souvenir pin that honors Williams. Fifteen percent of net sales from the pins will go to Hillside Food Outreach (www.hillsidefoodoutreach.org).

Bernie will also throw out the ceremonial first pitch prior to Friday’s 7:05 p.m. game against the Mets.

Williams, 46, played his entire 16-year major-league career with the Yankees (1991-2006). The switch hitter batted .297 over 2,076 games. In franchise history, the former center fielder ranks third in doubles (449), fifth in hits (2,336), sixth in games played and runs scored (1,366) and seventh in home runs (287) and RBI (1,257). The five-time American League All-Star (1997-2001), four-time Gold Glove winner (1997-2000) and Silver Slugger Award recipient (2002) won the American League batting title in 1998 with a .339 average.

A four-time World Series champion in pinstripes (1996, ’98, ’99, 2000), Williams is the Yankees’ all-time postseason leader in home runs (22) and RBI (80), ranks second in playoff runs scored (83), hits (128) and doubles (29) and is third in games played (121).  He was named the 1996 AL Championship Series Most Valuable Player after batting .474 with two home runs and six RBI in 19 at-bats in the Yankees’ five-game series against the Orioles.  In Game 1 of the 1999 ALCS against the Red Sox, Williams hit a 10th-inning home run to win the game for the Yankees.

I remember telling Bernie when the 2012 Hall of Fame ballot came out by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America that whether he liked it or not he was officially retired. He just laughed and said, “Man, I can’t believe five years went by so fast.”

 

Bernie Williams


 
Williams stayed on the ballot for only two years. He received 9.6 percent of the vote in 2012 and 3.3 percent in 2013. Players need to achieve 75 percent of the vote to gain election and are dropped from consideration if they do not get five percent of the vote. I voted for him both years and wish more of my colleagues recognized the Hall of Fame worthiness of his career.

Yanks get healthy on the road as Tiger tamers

That the Yankees seem to have righted themselves could not have come at a better time. The Mets, the hottest team in the major leagues with an 11-game winning streak, a 10-0 home record and an overall best mark of 13-3, come to Yankee Stadium Friday night for the first round of the 2015 Subway Series.

While the Mets were winning all 10 of their games at Citi Field thus far, the Yankees went on a 10-game trek through Baltimore, St. Peterburg and Detroit and emerged with seven victories and showed exceptional pitching, timely hitting and much improved fielding.

After dropping two of three games to the Orioles, the Yankees swept a three-game series from the Rays and took three of four games from a Tigers team that had the best record in the majors at the start of the set and might have been knocked out of first place in the American League Central if the Royals could win Thursday night against the White Sox. Similarly, a Red Sox loss Thursday night would have thrust the Yankees into a first-place tie in the AL East.

All this sounded impossible a week and a half ago when the Yankees seemed adrift with an abundance of hitting, pitching and fielding lapses. They started the trip with a woeful 2-4 record and come home with a strapping 9-7 mark.

Granted, they ran into a Tampa Bay club that is already heavily laden with injuries, but the Detroit team the Yankees faced has one of the most ferocious lineups in the game and yet was held to nine runs in four games, an average of 2.3 runs per game by the Tigers, who began the series averaging 6.4 runs per game.

The Yankees’ 13-4 victory Wednesday night when they jumped on former AL Cy Young Award winner David Price for six runs in the first inning contained more runs by them than the Tigers scored in the entire series. Former two-time AL Most Valuable Player Miguel Cabrera was tamed with a 2-for-13 showing.

The Yankees followed that blowout with a tight pitching duel in Thursday’s frosty Comerica Park (33 degrees at first pitch) between Masahiro Tanaka and Anibal Sanchez. Neither was involved in the decison as the score was 1-1 in the seventh inning, the last for each starter.

Tanaka gave up a first-inning run on a sacrifice fly by Victor Martinez and held the Tigers to two hits, both doubles by J.D. Martinez, one out into the seventh with two walks and six strikeouts. The Yankees’ offense wasn’t much better. They had merely three hits. Their runs, both scored by Jacoby Ellsbury, came on a balk by Sanchez and an infield out.

The winning decision went to Dellin Betances (3-0), who snuffed out a rally in the seventh with two critical outs and added a scoreless eighth with two strikeouts. Andrew Miller followed with a  no-hit, two-strikeout ninth inning to go 6-for-6 in saves.

Behind the pitchers was outstanding defense from a team that made 11 errors over its first eight games. The Yankees in their past eight games have committed only one error. Third baseman Chase Headley made two sparkling, back-handed plays that robbed hits and in one case in the seventh inning saved a run.

Playing a day game gave the Yankees the opportunity to get back home the same evening and not in the wee hours of the following morning, so they could enjoy a deserved night of rest before the job ahead of them against their resurgent neighbors from Queens.

Yankees pitchers styming Tigers’ imposing lineup

The imposing Detroit lineup that is among the strongest in the major leagues has not been much of a match against Yankees pitching the past two nights. Although the clubs have divided the first two games of the four-game series, the Yankees have been impressive with their mound work.

One night after CC Sabathia was hung with a tough loss in a 2-1 complete game, Nathan Eovaldi earned his first victory with the Yankees on the strength of seven-plus solid innings in which he allowed merely one run as well. The Tigers brought some drama to the game in the bottom of the ninth with a run on a bases-loaded walk, but Andrew Miller ended the 5-2 Yankees victory with a strikeout.

Eovaldi found out that the double play is indeed a pitcher’s best friend as the Yankees turned four twin killings behind him. The righthander with the power arm spaced out eight hits and one walk and got four strikeouts in an outing that took him one batter into the eighth inning. That alone was a good sign for Eovaldi, who threw 101 pitches over five innings in his previous start.

Eovaldi has his usual high-octane fastball but kept the Tigers off balance with a biting slider that proved his most effective pitch. His one hiccup came in the seventh inning, a wild pitch that put J.D. Martinez on third base from where he scored on a fly ball to center by Yoenis Cespedes. A sacrifice fly and a bases-loaded walk accounted for the runs by the Tigers, who entered play with a team .303 batting average and averaging 6.4 runs per game. Detroit was hitless in nine at-bats with runners in scoring position.

The Yankees were only 1-for-11 in such situations and scored one run in six innings against Tigers starter Kyle Lobstein on a two-out, opposite-field double in the first by Mark Teixeira. But the soft underbelly of the Tigers is their bullpen. Chris Young and Stephen Drew poled solo home runs in the seventh off lefthander Ian Krol, and righthander Al Albuquerque wild-pitched home another run. An error by Tigers third baseman Nick Castellanos gift-wrapped a Yankees run in the ninth.

Young had three hits and is now batting .344 with four home runs. He is making a strong case for himself as an alternative against left-handed pitching instead of switch hitter Carlos Beltran, who was on the bench Tuesday night. Detroit is throwing another lefty Wednesday night, David Price, so expect Young out there again with Girardi perhaps giving one of his left-handed outfielders, Jacoby Ellsbury or Brett Gardner, the night off.

In two nights at Comerica Park, Yankees pitchers have held the offensive-roaring Tigers to four runs. Detroit has 17 hits, although only three for extra bases, all doubles. Miguel Cabrera, normally a Yankees killer (.338 career average, 18 home runs, 46 RBI) is 1-for-7 and has grounded into two double plays in the series.

It is up to Adam Warren Wednesday night to keep the effective pitching coming for the Yankees.

Teixeira crosses up shift for RBI in 4th straight game

Defensive shifts are designed to steal hits, but sometimes they can backfire. That was the case for the Yankees in the first inning Tuesday night at Detroit. Mark Teixeira crossed up the Tigers’ defense, and the Yankees got a run out of it.

Tex came to the plate batting right-handed against lefthander Kyle Lobstein with two out and Brett Gardner on first base. The Tigers were over-shifted to the left side, including the outfielders, who shaded him well to the left.

Teixeira jumped on a high fastball and punched to right field. With right fielder J.D. Martinez stationed in right-center, he had a ways to go to retrieve the ball, which allowed the speedy Gardner to score all the way from first base.

Teixeira has an RBI in four straight games and nine of his past 11. He is one of three major-league hitters with an RBI in at least nine games, along with the Royals’ Salvador Perez and the Mets’ Travis d’Arnaud, who just went on the disabled list. The previous Yankees hitter with at least one RBI in at least eight-or-more of the club’s first 13 games was Derek Jeter (eight games) in 2012. Eight of Teixeira’s nine hits have been for extra bases (four doubles, four home runs).

Yanks can’t prevent Tigers from late-inning comeback

The Yankees tried to carry the momentum of an uplifting weekend at Tampa Bay into Detroit, but the regenerated offense failed to follow them. They scored merely one run Monday night, a total seldom enough to prevail against the Tigers’ powerhouse.

And yet it almost was this time with CC Sabathia on the mound dealing with a hard-breaking slider and a tantalizing changeup to go with a fastball that occasionally rang in the low 90s. It also helped that the Yankees played exceptionally in the field and ran down several well-struck balls to the outfield.

Sabathia faced the minimum number of batters through the first six innings working with a 1-0 lead supplied by Mark Teixeira’s solo home run (No. 4) in the second inning off Alfredo Simon, who kept the Tigers close in not allowing a run after that.

The Tigers did not get a runner into scoring position until the seventh inning when they turned the game around into their favor. Rajai Davis led off with a single and raced to second after tagging up on Ian Kinsler flyout to deep left field. Miguel Cabrera, who grounded into double plays his first two times up, again hit the ball to the left side. Shortstop Didi Gregorius took a chance throwing the ball to second base in an attempt to trap Davis off the bag, but his throw was saved by second baseman Stephen Drew, who was able to get the second out of the inning by throwing to first base to get the plodding Cabrera.

The Yankees decided to walk Victor Martinez intentionally, which made sense with an open base and the designated hitter having hit the ball sharply in his first two at-bats with nothing to show for it. 

J.D. Martinez is no day at the beach, either, and he proved that with a slashing single off Gregorius’ glove in the hole that scored Davis with the tying run. Detroit grabbed the lead on a single up the middle by Yoenis Cespedes. J.D. Martinez headed for third base hoping to draw a throw to allow the slower Victor Martinez to score from second.

It worked, too. Jacoby Ellsbury threw to third base. While J.D. Martinez was eventually tagged out for the third out, Victor Martinez had already crossed the plate with what proved the deciding run.

Do not fault Ellsbury for the move. Cespedes’ grounder hit the lip of the grass behind second base, which slowed the ball down as the center fielder playing deep was charging. I doubt Ellsbury’s throw to the plate was certain to nail Victor Martinez.

The 2-1 Tigers lead would hold up because a familiar figure to Yankees fans pitched out of a jam in the eighth. With runners on first and third and one out, Joba Chamberlain came out of the bullpen to face Ellsbury, who hit the ball hard but into a rally-killing double play. 

There may be some second-guessing about a play before the DP when third base coach Joe Espada held Chase Headley at third base rather than waving him home from second base on a single to center by Gregorius. What Espada could not anticipate was that Davis, the Detroit center fielder, would bobble the ball for a moment before recovering a firing a bullet to the infield. Headley was no cinch to score in that spot, so I cannot fault the third base coach for playing it safe.

Joakim Soria made it 5-for-5 in saves with a scoreless ninth inning as the Tigers improved to 11-2 while the Yankees fell below .500 again at 6-7.

It was a tough loss for Sabathia, who looked a lot like the CC of old in the first complete game for a Yankees starter this season. To hold the Tigers to two runs and seven hits through eight innings is quite a feat. His record fell to 0-3, but the Yankees have every reason to be encouraged.

Yanks having a fielding renaissance as well

Carlos Beltran, who sat out the last two games against the Rays at St. Petersburg, Fla., found someone else in the 3-hole in the Yankees’ batting order when he returned to the lineup Monday night at Detroit.

Not surprisingly, it was Alex Rodriguez, who entered the game leading the Yankees in batting (.316), home runs (4), RBI (11), slugging (.711) and on base percentage (.447). Manager Joe Girardi said he would leave A-Rod in that spot for the time being.

Mark Teixeira drew even with Rodriguez in home runs when he jumped on a hanging splitter from Alfredo Simon leading off the fourth inning. Tex’s fourth bomb of the year was his first batting left-handed. He has been a much better hitter from the right side in the early going. Entering the game, Teixeira was a .286 hitter right-handed with three home runs and three RBI in 14 at-bats and a .125 hitter left-handed with three doubles and five RBI in 24 at-bats.

In addition to their bats waking up against Tampa Bay over the weekend, the Yankees also slapped some impressive leather. They did not commit an error in their three-game sweep of the Rays after having made 11 errors in their first nine games.

The defensive improvement continued Monday night. Tigers designated hitter Victor Martinez was robbed twice of hits on catches after long runs by left fielder Brett Gardner in the second inning and center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury in the fifth. Also in the fifth, Gardner made a fine grab coming in on the run to keep J.D. Martinez off base. Gardner found out how it feels to get robbed when Detroit shortstop Jose Iglesias made a tremendous play deep in the hole and threw him out at first base.

The Yankees also turned a couple of double plays behind CC Sabathia in victimizing Miguel Cabrera both times.

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