Who will Nats fans root for this October?

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It’s always tough for a fan base to see their favorite team miss out on the postseason.

For Nationals fans, this is the third straight year without playoff baseball in the District since the team won its first World Series championship back in 2019.

With that being the case, an important question must be asked: Who will Nats fans root for this October?

It’s not a simple question to answer if you’re going to continue being a baseball fan over the next month. Do you root for whole teams or just individual players? Do you root for league or divisional pride, or for anything but that?

The 2022 Major League Baseball postseason is set. In the first year of the new expanded format, six teams each from the American League and National League qualified (three division winners and three wild cards), with the top two seeds earning a first-round bye as the Wild Card Series starts this weekend.

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While creating their own playoff atmosphere, Nats want to play spoiler

Davey Martinez dugout red

The Nationals were never really in contention for the postseason this year. They were officially eliminated from playoff contention earlier this month, sealing their third straight season without playing in October since the 2019 World Series championship.

But they have been able to play a role in the upcoming postseason by playing against teams still fighting for a division crown or wild card spot.

Twenty-five of the Nationals’ last 31 games to end the season would have come against playoff-hopeful teams by the end of the three-game series against the Mets that starts at Citi Field tonight. Of those 25 games, 19 are going to be against National League East rivals.

The Braves and Mets have been locked in a close battle for the NL East title and the No. 2 seed in the National League, which includes a bye of the Wild Card Series. The team that finishes in second will host the three-game Wild Card Series starting Friday.

The Mets just suffered a three-game sweep in Atlanta at the hands of the Braves, relinquishing their once 10 1/2-game lead in the division. The Braves now have a two-game lead in the NL East and a magic number of one to clinch the division crown for the fifth straight year. That means any combination of a Braves win or a Nationals win this week would ensure a wild card spot for the Mets, who are still looking for their first division championship since 2015.

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Corbin ends season in rare company as Nats lose finale to Phillies (updated)

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Patrick Corbin’s 2022 season came to a close this afternoon. It was another one with less-than-satisfactory results for the presumptive “ace” of this Nationals staff.

The day started with some confusion and uncertainty. With this game meaning a lot to the Phillies, who entered with a 1/2 game lead over the Brewers for the final National League wild card spot, and bad weather forecasted for most of the day, there was concern that we could be in for a long day at the ballpark.

The Nationals, Phillies and Major League Baseball discussed this morning all possible scenarios, including the idea of starting the game either an hour or 30 minutes earlier than the scheduled 1:35 p.m. start time.

But the weather cleared up enough for Corbin’s first pitch to be thrown as planned. The next question was if they could finish without any delays. They could not, with a rain delay that lasted one hour and 28 minutes before the final result of an 8-1 loss for the Nationals in six innings in front of an announced crowd of 32,789 on a cold and rainy afternoon on South Capitol Street.

“There was like a chance, I think, of a 12:30 p.m. start and then they said we're on time," Corbin said after the game. "It is what it is. Nothing you can really do about it. They tell you the game is going, and you go out there and try to do your best.”

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Nats and Phillies trying to start and finish series finale on time

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The Nationals, Phillies and Major League Baseball had multiple meetings this morning to discuss the situation and forecast surrounding today’s series finale.

This game is important to the Phillies, who currently own a one-game lead over the Brewers for the final National League wild card. The Brewers are wrapping up a home series against the Marlins today before welcoming the Diamondbacks for three games. The Phillies head to Houston to play the Astros for three games after finishing here, whenever that is.

With rain forecasted all day, there was talk of possibly moving the start time of this game up to 12:30 p.m. and then 1:05 p.m. from the scheduled 1:35 p.m. start, hoping to find a window to play in before the weather gets worse.

There was a light rain at Nationals Park earlier this morning that they could have played through. But then steady rain and strong winds made conditions unplayable on South Capitol Street for a while.

The tarp is being rolled up and players are starting to loosen up in the outfield, so it looks like they are going to try to start on time. Davey Martinez did not speak with the media before the game as he was still in discussions with the Phillies and the league office.

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Game 159 lineups: Nats vs. Phillies

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The Nationals and Phillies have been able to play three games so far this weekend. They have one more scheduled today to wrap up this four-game series and the home portion of the 2022 regular season at Nats Park.

The forecast isn’t great for today, but it looks like it’s mostly light rain this afternoon, which they might be able to play through. If not, we could either be here for a long time or back on Thursday if the National League wild card isn’t settled. 

Patrick Corbin makes his last start of the season today and fourth against the Phillies, who have been really good against him. The left-hander is 0-3 with a 10.97 ERA, 2.625 WHIP and six home runs allowed in 10 ⅓ innings against the Phils.

Zack Wheeler makes his second start against the Nationals this year. He held them to one run over seven innings in a win at Nats Park on June 16. He’s 9-14 with a 4.44 ERA in 27 career starts against the Nats.

PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES at WASHINGTON NATIONALS
Where: Nationals Park
Gametime: 1:35 p.m. EDT
TV: MASN2, MLB.tv
Radio: 106.7 The Fan, MLB.com
Weather: Rain, 57 degrees, wind 13 mph in from left-center field 

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Nats and Phillies postponed again, doubleheader rescheduled for Saturday

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We have to give them credit for trying, but the Nationals and Phillies will not be able to play tonight’s doubleheader nightcap.

The remnants of Hurricane Ian are moving into our area, so tonight’s game has been rescheduled to 7:05 p.m. tomorrow, Saturday, Oct. 1. All tickets for tonight’s 7:05 p.m. game will now be honored for tomorrow night’s game.

Tomorrow’s originally scheduled 1:05 p.m. game is still scheduled to be played at that time. But the Nats’ press release announcing the latest schedule change did include the phrase “at this time,” implying that game could be in jeopardy as well. 

This now means the two teams will, in fact, try to play a doubleheader on Saturday as was originally scheduled before the second game was moved to this afternoon, a game the Phillies won 5-1. The original doubleheader was scheduled for tomorrow to make up one of the two games lost between these teams when the first week of the regular season was canceled due to the offseason lockout.

For now, the Nats are planning on starting Aníbal Sánchez in Game 1 tomorrow and Tommy Romero in Game 2.

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Game 157 lineups: Nats vs. Phillies

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One down, three to go. Hopefully, this is the last time this season the Nationals will play a doubleheader as they try to get tonight’s nightcap in before the remnants of Hurricane Ian hit our area. Unfortunately, the forecast doesn’t look good, even though I’m furiously knocking on wood.

The Nationals have been dreadful against National League East opponents, which may play into the Phillies’ advantage this weekend. The Nats are now 2-14 against the Phils this season after this afternoon’s 5-1 loss. The Phillies are clinging onto a one-game lead over the Brewers for the National League’s final wild card spot.

If we are able to play baseball tonight, Tommy Romero will make his Nationals debut after being claimed off waivers from the Rays on Aug. 25. He was brought up as the Nats’ 29th man for the doubleheader, and although technically available for both games, is scheduled to start the nightcap. The 25-year-old right-hander went 1-0 with a 7.71 ERA and 1.714 WHIP in 4 ⅔ innings over three appearances (one start) with the Rays. He posted a 2.33 ERA and 1.138 WHIP in six games (two starts) with Triple-A Rochester.

Noah Syndergaard will make his 10th appearance, ninth start, for the Phillies tonight. Since arriving in a trade with the Angels, the right-hander is 4-2 with a 4.59 ERA and 1.388 WHIP over 49 innings. His last outing was just his second relief appearance of his career (and first since 2016) as he pitched two scoreless innings against the Blue Jays.

Syndergaard has struggled against the Nats in his two starts against them this year, giving up 11 hits and four runs in five innings on Aug. 4 and eight hits and three runs in six innings on Sept. 9. Both of those games were at Citizens Bank Park and the Phillies won each. 

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Prospects at instructional league visited Nats in Miami

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As the major league regular season enters its last week, the lower level of the minor leagues have already wrapped up their 2022 campaigns.

In the Nationals system, only Triple-A Rochester is still playing games with their season finale coming tomorrow afternoon. Double-A Harrisburg, High-A Wilmington, Single-A Fredericksburg and the Rookie-level Florida Complex League are done playing games and now see some of their top players come together for the instructional league camp at the Nationals’ facility in West Palm Beach, Fla.

Robert Hassell III, Elijah Green, James Wood, Jarlin Susana and Jackson Rutledge are among some of the top prospects taking part in instructs. A lot of the future faces of this franchise are all together for their first camp since many of them came to the franchise via this summer’s draft and trade deadline moves.

Just an hour away in West Palm, the group of players made a trip down to visit the Nationals over the weekend in Miami. General manager Mike Rizzo, director of player development De Jon Watson and manager Davey Martinez were among some of the heads in the organization to address the young players.

“Yeah, I spoke to them all and I talked to them for a little while,” Martinez said. “It was good to actually get in front of them and see some of those guys. Some of the guys I've seen before but congratulate them for being there. I mean, when you get to instructional league, it's kind of like the guys are handpicked to be there and get some more instruction. And I told them to keep working hard and kind of be the cream of the crop, really. And keep working. I mean, the door's wide open right now for you guys and we're looking at players and keep pushing. Be the best and keep putting up the numbers and have fun.”

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Nats shut out by Elder, lose 100 games for first time in over a decade (updated)

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This season has been headed in this direction for a while. It was a matter of when, not if, the Nationals would lose their 100th game of 2022.

Well, it happened tonight in the 153rd game on the schedule via an 8-0 series-opening loss to the Braves in front of an announced crowd of 24,684 at Nationals Park. For the first time since 2009, when they went 59-103, the Nationals have lost 100 games in a single season.

Thirteen years ago, the Nationals suffered their second straight 100-loss season. But those years netted the franchise back-to-back No. 1 overall picks, used to draft Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper.

A string of success followed that was matched by only a few other teams in the major leagues. From 2012-2019, the Nats won four National League East division titles, a wild card game and the 2019 World Series. They also finished above .500 in each of those eight years.

But those days of winning are gone for now. The Nats are going to suffer their third straight sub-.500 campaign and last-place finish in the NL East. They’re now the first team to lose 100 games this year.

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Abrams batting second, Corbin throws light bullpen

corbin back injury @ATL

The Nationals have a different look to their batting order for tonight’s series opener against the Braves. For just the second time in his big league career and the first time with the Nats, CJ Abrams will hit second behind leadoff man Lane Thomas.

Abrams hasn’t hit higher than sixth in manager Davey Martinez’s lineup over his first 35 games with the Nationals. He hit leadoff and second for one game each in his time with the Padres earlier this season.

“He's been doing well,” Martinez said of moving his young shortstop to the top of the lineup. “We talked a lot about, he's really trying hard to control his chasing. He's doing a lot better job throughout his at-bats. So I thought we'll get him up there and see how he does.”

The 21-year-old has been performing a lot better at the plate since a sluggish start to his Nationals career. In 21 September games so far, Abrams is slashing .307/.316/.427 with a .743 OPS, 11 runs, five doubles, two triples, six RBIs and three stolen bases.

He ranks seventh in the National League (second among NL rookies) with a .324 batting average since Sept. 3. He also ranks fifth in the major leagues with a 6.9 strikeout rate (five strikeouts in 72 plate appearances) over the same stretch.

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Game 153 lineups: Nats vs. Braves

CJ Abrams swing red home

The last full week of the regular season is here, and with 10 games against division rivals playing for postseason positions remaining on the schedule, the Nationals can have an effect on the October playoff picture.

Tonight begins a three-game set against the Braves, who beat the Nats two out of three last week in Atlanta. The Braves have already secured their spot in the postseason but are looking to gain ground on the Mets, who have a 1 ½ game lead in the National League East and are idle today before starting a home series against the Marlins tomorrow. Having struggled against divisional foes all season long, the Nats are just 4-12 against the Braves this year and 1-6 against them at Nationals Park. 

Cory Abbott will make his eighth start of the season tonight while still searching for his first major league win. He’s 0-3 with a 4.85 ERA over his 14 appearances on the season with a 5.70 ERA as a starter. His lone outing against the Braves came in his last start a week ago, when he allowed four runs with six hits and two walks over four innings at Truist Park.

Likewise, rookie right-hander Bryce Elder will make his second consecutive start against the Nats. He held them to just one run on four hits and two walks with six strikeouts over 5 ⅔ innings on Wednesday, a game in which the Nats rallied to win. Elder is 1-3 with a 3.38 ERA over his eight appearances, seven of which were starts.

ATLANTA BRAVES at WASHINGTON NATIONALS
Where: Nationals Park
Gametime: 7:05 p.m. EDT
TV: MASN, MLB Network (outside of D.C. and Atlanta markets only), MLB.tv
Radio: 106.7 The Fan, MLB.com
Weather: Partly cloudy, 70 degrees, wind 7 mph left field to right field 

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Revolving outfielders have more to prove over final weeks

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Even with two extra spots in September, the Nationals are currently only carrying four true outfielders on their active roster. That’s usually the standard for any team: three starters and one backup on the bench.

But manager Davey Martinez, in fact, has utilized six players in the outfield since the roster shakeup at the trade deadline.

Victor Robles and Lane Thomas have been in Washington all season long. Joey Meneses (typically a first baseman) and Josh Palacios were brought up to fill the holes left by Juan Soto and Josh Bell, with Palacios making a couple of trips back-and-forth between the majors and Triple-A Rochester. Alex Call was selected off waivers from the Guardians on Aug. 7. And utilityman César Hernádez has appeared in left field four times to start September.

This is part of the process for the Nationals to see what they have in these players before the season ends in three weeks.

For the most part, they know what they have in Robles, who you may have noticed has not played since Sept. 7 in St. Louis. He was scratched from the starting lineup with a stiff neck the following day, but has been seen walking around the Nationals clubhouse this week with seemingly no issues.

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Nats seeing how their young players match up with baseball’s best prospects

Davey Martinez dugout red

About an hour north up I-295, a rival organization provides a blueprint for the Nationals and their rebuild.

A few years ago, the Orioles began the process of rebuilding their own organization. Now they are starting to turn the tide into contention, finding themselves unexpectedly four games out of an American League wild card berth.

That path back to contention is a similar one the Nationals want to follow now that they have fully embraced their own rebuild. And perhaps reach that turning point sooner.

This week’s two-game series against the Orioles was a good chance for the Nats to measure their young players against some of the best prospects in baseball.

Adley Rutschman, Gunnar Henderson, Kyle Stowers and DL Hall were all at one time ranked in multiple publications’ top 100 prospects lists. They also headlined an Orioles farm system that has been one of if not the best in the sport since executive vice president and general manager MIke Elias took over in 2018.

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Nats give up Little League homer in loss to Orioles (updated)

Patrick Corbin throwing white

With the all-important and definitely real prize of the MASN Cup on the line, the Nationals could neither hold a close lead nor produce a late rally against their rivals from Baltimore.

After splitting two games at Camden Yards in June and dropping the Washington opener here last night, the Nationals fell to the Orioles 6-2 before an announced crowd of 32,497 to lose this year’s edition of the Battle of the Beltways.

Things went off the rails for the home team in the seventh while holding a 2-1 lead.

Mason Thompson, whose 0.60 ERA to begin the night was impressive even though it didn’t come in many high-leverage situations, entered in relief of starter Patrick Corbin for the start of the frame.

After back-to-back singles to Jesús Aguilar (with Terrin Vavra pinch-running) and pinch-hitter Cedric Mullins, Thompson faced Gunnar Henderson, one of baseball's top prospects.

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Cavalli cleared to throw, Cruz out with eye inflammation

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The Nationals received good news on two of their top pitching prospects this afternoon that involved both of them throwing a baseball in different ways.

After having been shut down for two weeks with right shoulder inflammation, Cade Cavalli was cleared to pick up a ball and resume throwing by team doctors and the medical staff.

His follow-up exam yesterday revealed that he was healthy enough to play a game of catch today at Nationals Park.

“Very good. He's actually playing catch as we speak,” manager Davey Martinez said of Cavalli’s follow-up exam and resumption of throwing. “It went really well. Inflammation’s gone. He said he feels great. Doctor evaluated him. Our medical staff put him through the gamut yesterday and today, so he's out there playing catch. So we'll see how he feels. This is great news for us. But with that being said, we still got quite a bit of ways (to go). But it's nice to see him out there throwing again.”

Cavalli was shut down after reporting unusual soreness in his right shoulder after his Aug. 26 major league debut. It was alarming news for the Nats after their top pitching prospect had finally earned the opportunity to debut in the bigs. At the time, the belief was that Cavalli would be done for the year out of extreme precaution and with only a month left in the season.

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Game 143 lineups: Nats vs. Orioles

corbin fires white

The Battle of the Beltways was split last year, with the Nationals and Orioles sweeping three-game series on their respective home fields. A Nationals win tonight would ensure a season split for the second year in a row.

The two rivals split two games in June at Camden Yards. The Orioles won the first game of this two-game set in D.C. last night. The Nationals hope Patrick Corbin and a resurgent offense can earn the split tonight. 

Corbin was charged with three runs and seven hits with six strikeouts over four innings in a rain-shortened loss to the Orioles on June 22. He also gave up home runs to Austin Hays (who ended up hitting for the cycle in a game that was called after just six innings) and Anthony Santander. In his career, Corbin is 1-4 with a 5.50 ERA in seven appearances (six starts) against Baltimore.

Tyler Wells makes his 22nd start of the season tonight, but just his second since coming off the injured list last week with a left oblique strain. The right-hander completed only two innings on 34 pitches against the Blue Jays in his return. In that June 22 matchup against Corbin, Wells tossed five scoreless innings with four walks and four strikeouts.

While Wells continues to stretch out, old friend Austin Voth is expected to back him up as a long reliever out of the bullpen. The Nats designated Voth for assignment on May 31 and the Orioles selected him off waivers on June 7. In 19 relief appearances with the Nats, Voth had a 10.13 ERA and 2.143 WHIP. In 18 games (14 starts) with the Orioles, Voth has a 2.82 ERA and 1.209 WHIP.

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Wood relishes representing his hometown on Nats farm

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FREDERICKSBURG, Va. – James Wood grew up about an hour away from Nationals Park in Olney, Md. He attended Nationals games while starting his high school career as a two-sport athlete at St. John’s College High School in D.C. before transferring to IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., to focus on baseball.

When the Padres drafted him in the second round of last summer’s MLB Draft, he moved even further away from his hometown. But a little over a year later at this summer’s trade deadline, Wood found himself on his way back to his original neck of the woods as part of the five-prospect package the Padres put together to acquire Juan Soto and Josh Bell from the Nationals.

Wood entered the Nats system and was assigned to low Single-A Fredericksburg, which operates about an hour and half south of D.C. and places him back in a familiar region. And familiar traffic issues.

“It's nice. I'm like, what, I'm gonna say like an hour and 30 minutes (from home),” Wood said outside the FredNats clubhouse in left field at Virginia Credit Union Stadium. “I mean it really just depends on traffic. Like it could be an hour and 20 (minutes) to two hours. But just being able to really go home, if I need something from home, be able to stop by on off-day, just having my family here just about every game, it's real nice. So, I'm glad to be back home, glad to be close to family, close to home, all that stuff.”

Some players need an adjustment period when traded from one organization to another. Rarely do young prospects land near the city in which they grew up.

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Rutledge rediscovering himself while finding stride at Fredericksburg

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FREDERICKSBURG, Va. – Not too long ago, Jackson Rutledge was the Nationals’ No. 1 overall prospect. A lot of promise surrounded the big first-round pick out of San Jacinto Junior College in Texas.

He made 10 starts in his first professional season, pitching to a 2-0 record, 3.13 ERA and 0.991 WHIP between rookie ball and Single-A during 2019.

Then, of course, he, like all minor leaguers, missed out during the pandemic-canceled 2020 season.

Coming into last year, Rutledge was joined by 2020 first-round pick Cade Cavalli as the Nationals’ top two prospects.

But while Cavalli quickly rose through the ranks, ultimately reaching Triple-A, Rutledge was hampered by injuries and left behind in A ball.

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Meneses delivers Nats' first walk-off win with three-run homer (updated)

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In years past, today’s result between the 44-86 Nationals and 49-82 Athletics would have been actually important. The finale of a three-game set between teams who have two of the worst records in the major leagues and split the first two matchups would have had draft-order implications for the following year.

But alas, the implementation of the MLB Draft lottery gives the three teams with the worst records an equal chance at next year’s No. 1 overall pick, rendering this just another getaway-day game between two bottom-feeders.

Whatever the stakes, the end result was an exciting 7-5 walk-off victory for the Nationals in 10 innings.

Who else but Joey "Four Bags" Meneses to deliver the game-winning blow?

With two runners on base in a 5-4 game in the 10th, the Nats' new slugging right fielder and No. 2 hitter stepped to the plate to hit a three-run homer for an extra-inning win.

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Barrera and Thompson recalled as September rosters expand

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It’s a new month, the last one of the season, which means major league rosters expand from 26 to 28 players.

The Nationals’ additions were no surprise: They officially recalled catcher Tres Barrera and right-hander Mason Thompson from Triple-A Rochester.

Barrera returns for his second stint with the Nationals this season. Over his previous time with the Nats, he hit .182 with a double, four RBIs and two walks in 14 games. 

In 55 games for Triple-A Rochester this season, Barrera hit .254 with seven doubles, a triple, seven home runs, 25 RBIs and 20 walks. He recorded a hit in all three of his starts as Rochester’s catcher since being optioned on Aug. 22.

The 27-year-old joins Keibert Ruiz and Riley Adams as the three catchers now on the Nats roster. Manager Davey Martinez will look to use some of their flexibility to get each of them an appropriate amount of playing time, with all of them able to serve as the designated hitter and Adams also able to spell Luke Voit at first base.

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