Slow-working Finnegan isn't worried about pitch clock

finnegan throws @STL gray

Kyle Finnegan smiles when the subject comes up. He knows he’s one of the slowest-working pitchers in the majors. And he knows people assume that will become a major problem once he’s subject to a pitch clock next season.

Here’s what the Nationals closer wants you to know about that: He spent two seasons in the minor leagues with a pitch clock enforced and had no trouble adhering to it. But until he’s required to speed his process up, he’s not going to voluntarily do it.

“I think it’s just a product of taking what’s given to you,” he said earlier this week. “There’s no clock here, so why not make sure you’re ready to go?”

Nobody’s going to claim Finnegan isn’t giving himself enough time to make sure he’s ready. According to Baseball Savant, he averages 25.6 seconds between pitches when there’s nobody on base, fourth-slowest in the majors. With runners on base, that number goes up to 28.5 seconds, sixth-slowest in the sport.

(Important qualifier here: That “tempo” stat Baseball Savant uses tracks how long it takes from the time a pitcher releases the ball for one pitch until the time he releases it for the next pitch. The pitch clock that Major League Baseball will institute next year - 15 seconds with nobody on base, 20 seconds with runners on base - starts when the pitcher receives the throw-back from his catcher and ends when he begins his delivery. Accounting for that, Finnegan’s pace this season drops to 19.6 seconds with nobody on base, 22.5 seconds with runners on base.)

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Nats will have real impact on fate of NL East race


The Nationals are nowhere near the pennant race this season. They enter the week an astounding 41 games back in the National League East, the largest deficit in club history.

But make no mistake, the Nats will play a significant role in determining who wins the division and who qualifies for the postseason as a wild card, because they’re about to play the majority of their remaining games against those teams.

There are 16 games left on the schedule, 13 of which come against the Braves, Phillies and Mets. It begins tonight with a three-game series at Atlanta. Then, following a three-game respite in Miami, the Nationals host the Braves for three and the Phillies for four in the final homestand of 2022 before finishing the year with a three-game series at New York.

What’s at stake? For the Mets and Braves, a division title. For the Phillies, a chance to end an 11-year playoff drought.

In the only truly close division race in the majors right now, the Mets hold a one-game advantage on the Braves (though they’re tied in the loss column, with Atlanta having two more games than New York still to play). Both have dominated the Nationals this season – the Braves are 10-3, the Mets are 11-5 – but the Nats haven’t faced Atlanta since the All-Star break.

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Nats dominated again by Alcantara, can't sweep Marlins (updated)

Sanchez red

The Nationals have seen Sandy Alcantara enough to know there isn’t a particularly good way to try to beat him. The Marlins ace has a 100-mph sinker, a 90-mph slider, a 94-mph changeup, command of everything and a rubber arm that allows him to keep on pitching all day and all night.

So when formulating a gameplan for today’s series finale, manager Davey Martinez decided there wasn’t much sense trying to wait out Alcantara and drive his pitch count up. Better to attack him early and hope for the best.

"The big thing about Sandy is, we know he's going to be around the strike zone," Martinez said this morning. "You can't sit there and wait, because you know he's going to pound strikes. So, be aggressive early, and get a ball that you can hit. You don't have to swing overly hard. Just try to make good, solid contact."

That’s all well and good, but if that approach doesn’t produce runs, all it does is keep Alcantara’s pitch count low enough to allow him to go the distance.

Which is previously what happened this afternoon during the Nationals’ 3-1 loss to Miami. Despite getting another quality start out of Aníbal Sánchez and keeping the game within reach, they could not push across more than one run off Alcantara, who was so efficient he took the mound for the bottom of the ninth with a modest pitch count of 90.

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Surging Thomas gets a day off vs. Marlins ace

lane Thomas gray

Lane Thomas has become one of the Nationals’ hottest hitters down the stretch of this season, owner of a .357 batting average, .419 on-base percentage and .991 OPS over his last 13 games. And his leadoff homer Saturday helped set the tone for his team’s 5-3 win over the Marlins.

So why isn’t Thomas in the Nats’ lineup for today’s series finale? Consider the numbers against Miami’s starter this afternoon: Thomas is 0-for-11 with six strikeouts in his career against Sandy Alcantara.

Not that anybody has particularly good numbers against Alcantara, who could be on his way to the first Cy Young Award of his career. But in this case, the numbers are so striking, manager Davey Martinez didn’t want to risk Thomas falling into a slump via one bad game at the plate against an ace.

“He’s been swinging the bat well. And I want him to continue to swing the bat well,” Martinez said with a laugh. “I saw the numbers as well, and I thought he’s been playing every day. He’s been playing a lot. I know we’ve had some days off, but I thought give him a day, a little breather, and keep him going.”

Indeed, Thomas has started 30 consecutive games, so he certainly has earned a day off at this point. But he’s also been quite productive during this stretch. Over his last 28 games, he’s batting .310 with seven doubles, a triple, six homers, 14 RBIs and a .913 OPS.

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Game 146 lineups: Nats vs. Marlins

meneses and voit

The Nationals haven’t found themselves in this position very much this season, but here they are today: After back-to-back wins over the Marlins the last two nights, they have a chance to sweep a series for the first time in 2022.

To do that, though, they’ll have to either outpitch Sandy Alcantara or score some runs off him. Neither is an easy task. Alcantara remains the favorite to win his first career Cy Young Award this fall, entering today’s start with a 2.43 ERA across an MLB-high 203 2/3 innings. He is the very definition of a modern ace, and the Nationals have had all kinds of trouble against him.

This is Alcantara’s fourth start against the Nats this season. He’s 2-0 with an 0.78 ERA, having allowed only two runs and 19 batters to reach base across 23 innings. He pitched a six-hit, zero-walk shutout the last time he faced them, June 8 here in D.C.

So, if the Nationals aren’t going to outslug the Marlins today, they’re going to have to outpitch them. Aníbal Sánchez, the long-ago Marlins right-hander, faces that task this afternoon. He has pitched quite well recently, with only three runs allowed over his last five starts, spanning 23 1/3 innings. His last outing lasted only two innings, though, because of that long rain delay in Philadelphia one week ago. So he’s plenty rested for this one.

Nationals Park
Gametime: 1:35 p.m. EDT
Radio: 106.7 FM,
Weather: Partly cloudy, 82 degrees, wind 8 mph out to center field

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Nats topple Marlins again with rare power display (updated)

Luke Voit swing cherry blossom

The Nationals’ offensive issues this season really can be boiled down to a simple disparity in their production at the plate: Plenty of contact, not nearly enough power.

Entering the day, the Nats actually led the National League with 853 singles, which would be meaningful if not for the major-league-leading 130 double plays they had grounded into. And it’s not like they’ve made up for that with extra-base hits; they ranked 13th in the NL (25th in the majors) with 367 of them.

So consider what they did today during a 5-3 victory over the Marlins within the context of the season as a whole. The Nationals launched four home runs (all solo), then added a pair of doubles. They wound up, remarkably, with zero singles in this game, yet proved it’s still possible to win without them for only the fifth time in club history.

"Don't get me wrong; I like homers," manager Davey Martinez said. "But I also like homers the right way. These guys swung the bats well today. We hit some balls hard. We hit some balls that went out of the ballpark, which is really nice."

It certainly helped matters that four relievers combined to toss five scoreless innings after Erick Fedde labored through four long innings. Without the work of Hunter Harvey, Erasmo Ramirez, Carl Edwards Jr. and Kyle Finnegan, the Nats don’t pull off back-to-back wins over the Marlins after opening the season 1-12 against their division counterparts.

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Gore's elbow healthy, but lefty still battling command on rehab


As he makes his way back from the injured list, MacKenzie Gore’s biggest challenge doesn’t appear to be the health of his left arm but the sharpness of his pitches.

Gore made his second rehab start for Triple-A Rochester on Friday night, and though he emerged healthy, he did have some trouble keeping the ball over the plate: Only 32 of the lefty’s 57 pitches were strikes.

“When you’re out for a while, part of the rehab is getting yourself back in rhythm,” Nationals manager Davey Martinez said. “The first inning was very clean, they said. The second inning was clean; he walked a batter. And then the third inning is when it really became an issue.”

Indeed, Gore threw 25-of-40 pitches for strikes during his first two innings of work, then threw only 7-of-17 for strikes in the third before getting pulled.

“That could be just a little bit fatigued, not staying on his legs,” Martinez said. “That could easily be corrected by going out there and continuing to build up. But we’ll get him back here. He talked with (pitching coach Jim) Hickey about some of the things he wants to continue to work on in the bullpen, so he’ll come back and work on those things, and we’ll get him back out there.”

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Game 145 lineups: Nats vs. Marlins

fedde throws white

The Nationals did the unthinkable and actually beat the Marlins on Friday night. Now they’ll see if they can somehow do it two days in a row and really reverse their season-long struggles against their sub-.500 division foes.

As was the case Friday, the Nats are facing a Miami left-hander. They’ll need to be better against Trevor Rogers than they were against Jesús Luzardo, who didn’t give up a run until Joey Meneses’ inside-the-park homer in the bottom of the seventh. Rogers has not had a good season (4-11, 5.35 ERA) but he’s been quite good against the Nationals (3-0, 2.25 ERA).

On the bright side, Erick Fedde has always been good against the Marlins (4-1, 1.86 ERA in nine career starts) and he held them to two runs on three hits over six innings in his last outing against them on July 3.

Nationals Park
Gametime: 4:05 p.m. EDT
Radio: 106.7 FM,
Weather: Partly cloudy, 82 degrees, wind 8 mph out to left field

RF Lane Thomas
LF Alex Call
1B Joey Meneses
DH Luke Voit
3B Ildemaro Vargas
2B Luis García
C Riley Adams
CF Victor Robles
SS CJ Abrams

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Gore makes rehab start, Hassell heading to Fall League


As Cade Cavalli deals with another shutdown and Josiah Gray deals with September struggles, the Nationals at least are seeing some positive signs with the third member of the young pitching trio they hope to build their rotation around.

MacKenzie Gore made his second rehab start for Triple-A Rochester on Friday and tossed 2 2/3 scoreless innings on 57 pitches, another step on his path toward making his Nats debut before season’s end.

Gore, on the 15-day injured list with elbow inflammation since late July (before he was part of the Nationals’ blockbuster trade with the Padres for Juan Soto and Josh Bell), built up both his innings and pitch count in his second rehab start for Rochester.

The left-hander did put six Lehigh Valley batters on base in his 2 2/3 innings (four singles, two walks) but didn’t allow any of them to score while striking out two. He threw 32 of his 57 pitches for strikes.

Assuming Gore came out of this outing healthy, the Nats are likely to have him make another rehab start in five or six days, building up to roughly 70 pitches. Depending on how that goes, the club could decide to activate him off the IL with enough time to make two big league starts before the season ends Oct. 5.

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Nats storm back to get Gray off hook, finally beat Marlins (updated)

Josiah Gray blue home

First came Joey Meneses’ inside-the-park homer, a huffing-and-puffing adventure around the bases to add the latest improbable chapter to the 30-year-old rookie’s out-of-nowhere arrival.

Then came CJ Abrams’ two-out, two-run triple, an explosive sprint from the plate to third base by the dynamic 21-year-old shortstop.

And when Ildemaro Vargas drove the go-ahead double to left-center in the bottom of the eighth, the Nationals had finally pulled off something they’d done only once in 13 previous tries this season: They beat the Marlins.

Storming back to score five runs in their final two offensive innings, the Nats emerged with a 5-4 victory over Miami, only their second win over their division counterparts this season, certainly the most uplifting to date.

"I look back, and I think about when we play good defense, good things happen," said manager Davey Martinez, whose team indeed sparkled in the field again tonight. "We're playing good defense, we're staying in some of these games. And the hits are going to come, the runs are going to come. Continue to get the defense, get good pitching, and we'll win some games."

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Cavalli shut down again, gets cortisone shot in shoulder


Cade Cavalli has been shut down again after experiencing a recurrence of shoulder discomfort in his first throwing session since landing on the injured list three weeks ago, though both the Nationals and the rookie right-hander say they’re confident he’s not dealing with anything more serious than inflammation.

Cavalli had just completed a two-week shutdown period following his shaky Aug. 26 major league debut and was cleared to resume throwing Wednesday. But his session, in which he was going to be restricted to 60 feet on flat ground, had to be cut short when he reported more shoulder soreness.

The Nationals gave Cavalli a cortisone shot and instructed him to shut down for another three to seven days before he attempts to throw again.

“It was a little painful, but we got it all worked out,” the 24-year-old said. “And here in a couple days, I should be back out there throwing again after letting it calm down. I’m very encouraged. I think it’s going to be very good.”

Though the team insists Cavalli continues to deal with only shoulder inflammation and nothing more serious, the fact he was unable to make it through his first throwing session in two weeks has to concern club officials.

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Game 144 lineups: Nats vs. Marlins

josiah gray pitches red

The Nationals have been dreadful within the NL East this season, going an inconceivable 11-46 against division opponents to date. But would you have guessed their biggest struggles have come not against the division’s three playoff contenders but the only other sub-.500 team? Somehow, the Nats have gone 1-12 against the Marlins, a shocking head-to-head record when you think about it.

Which brings us to the season’s remaining schedule: 19 games, all against NL East foes, including six against Miami. That’s still a significant 25 percent of their overall intradivision games to go, which could either makes a miserable season even worse or perhaps offer a tiny sliver of good vibes heading into the winter.

Josiah Gray gets the start for tonight’s series opener, his first appearance in eight days. These are important outings for the young right-hander, who has run up a higher innings count than he ever has in his professional career and is in danger of being shut down if he doesn’t show some encouraging signs here soon. Tonight would be a good time to begin that process.

The Nationals go up against Jesús Luzardo, their former prospect who was dealt to the Athletics way back in 2017 for Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madson and has experienced some ups and downs since then. The 24-year-old lefty is 12-18 with a 4.87 ERA overall in 57 career big league games, 3-7 with a 3.81 ERA in 14 starts this season. Luzardo is facing the Nats for the first time this year, but he went up against them three times in 2021 and gave up 14 runs in 13 innings.

Nationals Park
Gametime: 7:05 p.m. EDT
Radio: 106.7 FM,
Weather: Clear, 76 degrees, wind 4 mph out to left field

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Over-amped Harvey pays the price facing old teammates


Hunter Harvey had taken the mound 55 times in a big league game, and aside from perhaps the first time three years ago, he did so feeling like he was completely in control of the situation. Until the Nationals right-hander found himself jogging in from the bullpen during the fourth inning Tuesday night, tasked with pitching out of a jam created by starter Cory Abbott, against the Orioles team that drafted him in 2013 and gave him his first big league appearance in 2019.

“That was like debut adrenaline,” he said afterward. “It don’t come around very often.”

And he didn’t mean it in a positive way.

By the time he departed one inning later, Harvey had suffered through perhaps the worst of his 30 appearances with the Nats this season, giving up both the tying and go-ahead runs in what would end up a 4-3 loss. Making matters worse, the tying run came via the first home run he’s surrendered this year, and it just so happened to come off the bat of one of his best friends: Ryan Mountcastle.

After escaping the fourth-inning jam with one inherited runner scoring but his team’s lead intact, Harvey prepared to return for the fifth. He knew Mountcastle would be leading off, and both guys knew they were about to square off for the first time in an actual game after years of imagining just such a scenario.

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Nats squander chances in 4-3 loss to Orioles (updated)

Cory Abbott throw white

The way they jumped out to an early lead, this felt like a night that would see the Nationals keep putting runners on base and keep threatening to add to that lead. Turns out they wouldn’t score again, and the one time they seriously threatened, their rookie shortstop ran himself out of the inning.

This 4-3 loss to the Orioles was frustrating, though for different reasons than many previous losses were. There was no bullpen meltdown. There was no critical defensive mistake. There was no disastrous outing by the starting pitcher.

Instead, this one-run loss saw the Nationals lineup go cold after the third inning, then botch its last best chance to tie the game when CJ Abrams tried to advance to third base on a ground ball right in front of him to kill a sixth-inning rally.

"He's young and wanting to get to third base, knew he had to get to third base," manager Davey Martinez said. "But that situation, you've got to see the ball through. You've got to get back to second and see what happens. It's just a young mistake. He knew right away: He should've gone back."

Abrams, whose play of late has mostly been sensational, led off the inning with a double to the gap in left-center, knocking Baltimore starter Dean Kremer from the game. But when reliever Dillon Tate immediately got Israel Pineda to hit a sharp grounder to short, Abams took off for third, an ill-advised gamble.

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García batting cleanup, Gore heading back to Rochester

Luis Garcia swings white

Luis García has excelled at his new position in the field. How will he handle a new position in the Nationals lineup?

García finds himself batting cleanup tonight for the first time in his career, penciled in by manager Davey Martinez as his No. 4 hitter for the Nats’ series opener against the Orioles.

It’s both a reflection of García's performance at the plate and the state of the rest of the lineup, which has seen Nelson Cruz struggle mightily and get bumped out of the cleanup spot, plus Keibert Ruiz land on the injured list likely for the remainder of the season.

“I wanted to try to break up our lineup with some of those righties and get him in there,” Martinez said. “He matches up well with (Orioles starter Dean Kremer) in there today. I thought we’ll give it a shot, see how he reacts to it. When he hits the ball, he hits it hard. I like the way he’s swinging the bat. So we’re going to put him at cleanup and see how he does.”

García has enjoyed a sustained stretch of success at the plate, batting .312 with four doubles, two homers, nine RBIs and an .809 OPS over his last 14 games. That coincides with his return from a minor groin strain and his move from shortstop to second base following CJ Abrams’ arrival from the Padres.

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Game 142 lineups: Nats vs. Orioles

abbott delivers white

And we’re back at Nationals Park for the first time in 12 days. The Nats return to town following a long, three-city road trip that included series wins at New York and St. Louis but then a sweep in Philadelphia, which left a sour taste in everyone’s mouths. Now they begin a five-game homestand against the Orioles and Marlins as the final 21-game stretch of the season arrives.

The two interleague rivals split their two-game series at Camden Yards in June, one of those a rain-shorted loss. At that point, the Orioles were just starting to push their way into the American League postseason picture. They remain in the mix now, but they’ve taken a few steps back in the last week and enter this week 5 1/2 games behind the Rays for the final wild card berth.

Cory Abbott makes the start tonight as the Nationals give Josiah Gray and Paolo Espino extra rest before their next starts. The right-hander has done a solid-if-unspectacular job as a swingman, bouncing between the rotation and the bullpen. We’ll see how he does tonight against an emerging Baltimore lineup.

Nationals Park
Gametime: 7:05 p.m. EDT
Radio: 106.7 FM,
Weather: Clear, 76 degrees, wind 7 mph out to right field

CF Lane Thomas
RF Joey Meneses
1B Luke Voit
2B Luis García
DH Nelson Cruz
LF Alex Call
SS CJ Abrams
C Israel Pineda
3B Ildemaro Vargas

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Monday morning Nats Q&A

martinez w ipad dugout

That was a long day at the end of a long road trip as the end of a long season approaches. The Nationals sat through a 3-hour, 36-minute rain delay Sunday afternoon before finally losing 7-5 to the Phillies to be swept at Citizens Bank Park. What was shaping up to be a nice 10-day road trip against nothing but National League contenders wound up ending on a sour note and a 4-6 record.

The Nats get a well-deserved day off before returning Tuesday night to face the Orioles in a quick, two-game interleague series before getting another day off Thursday, after which they'll face only NL East rivals the rest of the way.

There's plenty to discuss, though, so let's take some time this morning to answer your questions. As always, submit them in the comments section below, then check back for my replies throughout the morning ...

Nats swept by Phillies following long rain delay (updated)

hunter harvey gray

PHILADELPHIA – On the final day of a 10-game road trip, at the end of a ballgame that started more than seven hours earlier, the Nationals were left with an exhausted bullpen and a weekend sweep at the hands of a division rival that has owned them all year long.

Forced to take over in the third inning for starter Aníbal Sánchez thanks to a three-hour, 36-minute rain delay, the Nats bullpen was battered around by the Phillies during a 7-5 loss that tested the patience of anyone who dared sit through the entire affair.

A game that began at 1:08 p.m. ended at 8:12 p.m., that extra-long rain delay throwing a wrench into everyone’s Sunday plans when it commenced prior to the top of the third inning. With no more trips to Philadelphia on the Nationals’ schedule, and the Phillies very much in the National League wild card race, this game was going to be completed, no matter how long it took.

The rain was an annoyance for fans and players alike, but its most tangible impact on the game itself was the manner in which it knocked out both teams’ starters after only two innings and put added strain on the respective bullpens to pitch the rest of the afternoon and evening.

"It's a good thing we've got a day off tomorrow, so we get to regroup a little bit," manager Davey Martinez said. "That's a lot, but both teams went out there and we battled. A home run just got us in the seventh."

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García dealing with sore side; Espino, Gray getting skipped

luis garcia gray

PHILADELPHIA – News and notes before the Nationals (hopefully) take the field for their series finale against the Phillies (provided the weather holds up) …

* Luis García is out of the lineup for the second straight day. Manager Davey Martinez said on Saturday the young second baseman was simply getting a breather and would be back for today’s game. But it turns out while taking swings in the cage Saturday, García didn’t feel right.

“He actually hit yesterday after we spoke, and he came up to the trainer and said his right side was sore,” Martinez said this morning. “So he got evaluated. They worked on him. I want to be extra careful, so we’ll give him today off. Then we’ve got a scheduled day off tomorrow. So we’ll see how he feels today and then tomorrow.”

With García out, the Nationals interestingly enough are having Ildemaro Vargas start at second base this afternoon, with César Hernández at third base. That’s the opposite alignment they used Saturday night, when both players were charged with throwing errors and Hernández made several other poor throws from second base.

“They’ve both played both positions,” Martinez said. “Give Vargas a day or two over at second base as well, just to see what that looks like. We’ve talked a lot about being versatile, so I want to get him over there. And César’s been playing third base well, so we just decided today we’ll switch it up.”

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Game 141 lineups: Nats at Phillies

sanchez gray pitching

PHILADELPHIA – The forecast here is not good. It’s supposed to rain all day. The forecast tomorrow is somewhat better, though not guaranteed to be dry. That’s the only remaining common off-day for the Nationals and Phillies. In other words, this has the potential to be a mess, and we could be here for a while, then possibly coming back tomorrow.

Whenever they play, the Nationals will be trying to avoid a series sweep that would put a real damper on what had been shaping up to be their best road trip of the season. A win would at least allow them to head home with a 5-5 record.

To do that, Aníbal Sánchez is going to have to keep up his surprising resurgence (0.84 ERA, 0.797 WHIP over his last four starts) by keeping the ball in the yard. The Phillies have out-homered the Nats a staggering 32-9 in 14 head-to-head games this year.

The Nationals will be going up against Aaron Nola for the fourth time this season. The right-hander has a sparkling 1.66 ERA in the previous three starts, though his record is only 1-1.

Citizens Bank Park
Gametime: 1:05 p.m. EDT
Radio: 106.7 FM,
Weather: Steady rain, 73 degrees, wind 5 mph right field to left field

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