Abrams sitting again but hopes to return Tuesday

abrams k @BAL

SAN FRANCISCO – CJ Abrams is out of the lineup for the third straight day, but the Nationals shortstop appears to be progressing from an injured finger well enough to think he will be ready to return Tuesday night.

Abrams, who suffered a bone bruise in his left pinky sliding into second base Friday night, was due to take a full round of batting practice and fielding drills prior to tonight’s series opener against the Giants. Barring any setbacks, he could be available to come off the bench tonight and then return to the lineup Tuesday.

“He felt better today,” manager Davey Martinez said. “He’s going to go out and do all baseball activities. Hopefully he’ll be available to pinch-run, pinch-hit, whatever we need him for. But if he goes through everything well, he’ll probably be back in the lineup tomorrow.”

The bone bruise is on Abrams’ glove hand, so it doesn’t really impact him in the field. The larger issue is at the plate, but he’s made progress the last few days and should be able to play through it soon.

“Right now, it’s his swinging,” Martinez said. “He said he swung the bat better today in the cage. But it is his top hand. Every time he goes to turn like that, it kind of catches him. But they taped him up; he said the tape helped. Hopefully he’ll go out there today, take batting practice and get out in the field.”

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Game 10 lineups: Nats at Giants

williams @ NYM

SAN FRANCISCO – Unfortunately, there were no eclipse sightings here on the West Coast today. Fortunately, the view at Oracle Park is awe-inspiring enough, despite the absence of any celestial bodies.

The Nationals open a nine-game West Coast trip tonight, the first six of which take place in the Bay Area, with a nicely scheduled San Francisco-Oakland pairing all week before they head to Los Angeles. And they’ve arrived here just in time to be part of a big debut for the home team.

Blake Snell, the top free agent pitcher who sat around unsigned all winter and spring, finally makes his Giants debut tonight. The reigning National League Cy Young Award winner with the Padres is ready to go after his late start to spring training, but you’d have to think the lefty will be limited to some extent in his first start.

Trevor Williams starts for the Nationals, and if you forgot, he actually delivered the best start of anyone in the rotation the first time through, holding the Pirates to two runs and three hits over 5 1/3 innings Wednesday in D.C. This is a great pitcher’s park, so perhaps Williams (who has been known to serve up a homer or two) will benefit from it, though the Giants have quietly assembled a really nice lineup as they try to catch the Dodgers and Diamondbacks in the NL West.

Oracle Park
Gametime: 9:45 p.m. EDT
Radio: 106.7 FM, 88.7 FM (Spanish), MLB.com
Weather: Clear, 61 degrees, wind 13 mph out to center field

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Sources: Nationals, Strasburg reach agreement on retirement terms

strasburg pitching blue

The Nationals and Stephen Strasburg have finally reached agreement on financial terms of the right-hander’s contract that allowed him to officially retire from baseball today.

A formal announcement is still forthcoming, but two sources familiar with the agreement confirmed it has been finalized with terms amenable to both the pitcher and the organization, ending a long and protracted negotiation that threatened to ruin the Nats’ relationship with one of the most important players in club history. Major League Baseball's official transactions log shows Strasburg retired today.

Strasburg has not been able to pitch since June 9, 2022, when he made his one and only major league start of that season, giving up seven runs in 4 2/3 innings in Miami. Unable to fully overcome the symptoms of thoracic outlet syndrome, even after his 2021 surgery, he finally conceded last year another comeback would not be possible.

Strasburg and the Nationals had plans to formally announce his retirement in early September 2023, but those plans were scrapped only days before the expected ceremony when the two sides couldn’t agree on the financial details of the arrangement.

Strasburg, who signed a seven-year, $245 million extension in December 2019, less than two months after winning World Series MVP honors, is still owed a little more than $100 million over the next three years. His contract, like all long-term major league contracts, was guaranteed, but the Nationals wanted to alter those terms, or at least spread out his remaining payments over a longer period of time, according to sources familiar with the discussions.

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Depleted Nats lineup is quiet again in loss to Phillies (updated)


An early home run by the opposition left the Nationals in yet another early hole. A big blast of their own a few minutes later brought some life back into the park and left ample opportunity for them to make up the rest of the deficit before day’s end.

Alas, it’s kind of tough to mount a comeback – even if one requires only two runs to complete – without recording a single hit. And for the Nats, just one hit was a major chore.

Held scoreless and hitless the rest of the way following Joey Gallo’s two-run homer in the bottom of the third, the Nationals never even gave themselves a chance to mount a comeback against the Phillies, who rode their early offense to a 5-2 victory in the second game of a weekend series.

Despite getting a string of zeros from starter Jake Irvin and relievers Derek Law and Robert Garcia from the fourth through eighth innings, the Nats lineup was again shut down by a Phillies pitching staff that allowed only two hits Friday night during a 4-0 win.

All of which leaves the Nationals at 2-6 overall and now needing a win Sunday to avoid a series sweep and a hugely disappointing season-opening homestand before embarking on a long West Coast trip.

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Abrams scratched after jamming finger; Senzel to begin rehab

CJ Abrams throwing white

CJ Abrams was scratched from the Nationals’ lineup about two hours prior to first pitch, most likely still feeling the effects of Friday night’s slide into second base in which he jammed his left hand into the bag.

Rookie infielder Nasim Nuñez will take Abrams’ place at shortstop today against the Phillies, marking the Rule 5 Draft pick’s first career start in the major leagues.

Abrams lined a one-out single to right in the bottom of the third Friday night, advancing Luis García Jr. from second to third. Apparently believing García was going to attempt to score on the hit, he rounded first and continued to second, only to be thrown out when Bryce Harper cut off Nick Castellanos’ throw and relayed it to Trea Turner, who applied the tag in time. (García never attempted to score on the play, held up by third base coach Ricky Gutierrez.)

Abrams stayed on the ground for several seconds after the play, looking at his left hand, though he remained in the game and continued to play the rest of the way. He lined out to right his next time up and was robbed of a possible hit by left fielder Brandon Marsh in his final at-bat.

A Nationals lineup that has scored only 27 runs through seven games this season will miss Abrams’ presence. The 23-year-old leadoff man is slashing .321/.387/.607 with a team-leading two homers, five RBIs and three stolen bases.

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Game 8 lineups: Nats vs. Phillies (Abrams scratched)

Jake Irvin spring training

If it feels like the Nationals are always trying to play catch up, it’s true. Seven games into the season, they’ve played 63 total innings. They’ve held a lead at the end of only 11 of those innings, and eight of them came in Wednesday’s coast-to-coast win over the Pirates. Suffice it to say, these guys need to get better starting pitching from the outset and better offensive performances all around.

They’ll hope for both today in the second game of their weekend series against the Phillies, and it begins with Jake Irvin. The right-hander, as has been noted several times here, was excellent this spring and entered the season feeling really good about himself. Irvin wasn’t bad in his first outing Sunday in Cincinnati, but neither was he great, finishing with three runs and seven hits allowed in five innings. The Philly lineup is certainly more imposing, so this will be a good challenge for him.

At the plate, the Nationals simply need to get something going early against Ranger Suárez. Like Irvin, the left-hander gave up three runs in five innings in his season debut. And the Nats have had some success against him in the past, totaling 18 runs on 41 hits and 12 walks across 35 2/3 innings the last two seasons.

UPDATE: Lineup change for the Nats: CJ Abrams has been scratched, most likely feeling the effects of his slide into second base last night when he jammed his left hand into the bag. So it's going to be Nasim Nuñez making his first big league start, filling in for Abrams at shortstop.

Nationals Park

Gametime: 4:05 p.m. EDT
Radio: 106.7 FM, 88.7 FM (Spanish), MLB.com
Weather: Mostly cloudy, 55 degrees, wind 19 mph in from left field

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Corbin gives Nats length, but bats give lefty no support (updated)

Patrick Corbin

Patrick Corbin pitched deeper into a game tonight than anyone else in the Nationals rotation had through the season’s first week. He did so against the best lineup the Nats have faced to date in 2024. This should have been, by all accounts, a good night for the home team.

It mattered not how Corbin pitched in this one, though. Not when his teammates did nothing of consequence at the plate against Aaron Nola or the Phillies bullpen, which mowed down the Nationals lineup during a 4-0 victory that felt way too comfortable for the visitors (aside from the bitter cold and wind on a 48-degree Friday evening).

The three runs Corbin surrendered in the top of the second were all the Phillies needed, even though they added another when manager Davey Martinez allowed his starter to return for the top of the seventh and watched him give up another run in short order before finally turning to his bullpen.

Thus did Corbin fail to get credit for a quality start, an achievement nobody in this rotation has earned yet. Nationals starters own a collective 7.60 ERA through seven games, a number eclipsed only by the Rockies at this early juncture of the season.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Nats are 2-5.

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Game 7 lineups: Nats vs. Phillies

corbin v ATL

After back-to-back series against National League Central foes to begin the season, the Nationals face their first NL East rival this weekend, with the Phillies coming to town for a three-game series. That means the return to town of Bryce Harper, Trea Turner, Kyle Schwarber and probably more than a few phans from up I-95. This has been the reality for a while now, so it really shouldn’t catch anyone by surprise.

The best thing the Nats can do to minimize the impact: Win more games. They did OK against Philly last season, going 6-7 in head-to-head matchups. So we’ll see how they handle it this season.

More than anything, the Nationals would love to get a quality start for the first time in 2024. Can Patrick Corbin be the one to do it? The matchup wouldn’t seem to favor him. Then again, in his one start against the Phillies last season, he tossed five innings of one-hit ball. So maybe there’s hope for the veteran lefty.

The Nats will also try to jump out to an early lead for only the second time this season. They’ll do so against Aaron Nola, who was lit up by the Braves in his first start of the year, not to mention his first start since signing a $172 million extension.

Nationals Park
Gametime: 6:45 p.m. EDT
Radio: 106.7 FM, 88.7 FM (Spanish), MLB.com
Weather: Mostly cloudy, 50 degrees, wind 17 mph left field to right field

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Thomas copes with another slow start

Lane Thomas

Lane Thomas isn’t exactly in uncharted territory here.

The Nationals right fielder has gotten off to slow starts before. It took him 26 games before he finally hit his first home run in 2023. And he sported a .496 OPS at the end of April 2022.

In both instances, everything turned out fine for Thomas by season’s end. So a weeklong slump to open this season isn’t going to induce panic on his part. But it’s still notable just how much he’s struggling at the plate so far in 2024.

With another 0-for-4 showing Thursday in the Nats’ 7-4 loss to the Pirates, Thomas saw his batting average drop to .083. He’s just 2-for-24 through the season’s first six games, he doesn’t have an extra-base hit and he hasn’t even scored a run yet.

The results clearly aren’t there. But Thomas is at least encouraged that his process has improved in recent days.

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Another rough start by Gray sends Nats to another series loss (updated)

GettyImages-1617578897 gray home blue

The Nationals know what Josiah Gray looks like at his best, slinging up any of seven different pitches to keep hitters off-balance and induce a host of swings and misses while escaping the occasional jam.

The Nationals also know what Gray looks like at his worst, unable to locate his fastball, unable to put away hitters, unable to extend outings due to high pitch counts.

And two starts into his 2024 campaign, the 26-year-old right-hander has resembled only the latter version of himself, not the former.

Hoping to bounce back from a disappointing Opening Day outing in Cincinnati last week, Gray instead regressed in some ways, getting roughed up by the Pirates early and often and failing to make it out of the fifth inning during what wound up a 7-4 loss in a rain-delayed series finale at Nationals Park.

One week after allowing seven runs on eight hits and two walks in four innings against the Reds, Gray was charged with six runs on seven hits and three walks in 4 1/3 innings today, digging his teammates into a big hole early that made the rest of the affair mostly moot.

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Robles goes on IL with hamstring strain, Young comes up from Rochester

GettyImages-1499542595 victor robles

Victor Robles’ encouraging start to the season came to an abrupt halt Wednesday night when the Nationals center fielder strained his left hamstring running the bases, leading to his official placement today on the 10-day injured list.

Fellow outfielder Jacob Young was recalled from Triple-A Rochester to take Robles’ roster spot.

There was no immediate guess on a timetable for Robles to be out, but the strain is significant enough that club officials didn’t really consider keeping him on the active roster and hoping he’d be ready to return within days.

“It stinks about Vic,” manager Davey Martinez said. “He worked really hard to get back. Hopefully we can get him back soon, but it’s going to take him some time.”

It’s a frustrating development for Robles, who missed most of last season with a back injury that proved far more severe than initially believed. The 26-year-old was back healthy this spring and looked like he was finally starting to perform the way the Nats have long hoped he would, drawing three walks in his first five plate appearances after slashing .368/.455/.526 during spring training.

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Game 6 lineups: Nats vs. Pirates

GettyImages-1529404506 Gray home white

They managed to play Monday’s home opener as scheduled with no interruption. They managed to play Wednesday night as scheduled with no interruption. Can the Nationals and Pirates do the impossible and play today’s series finale as scheduled with no interruption?

There’s once again rain in the forecast, so that may be too much to ask for. But perhaps the baseball gods will smile upon us again and provide a window of dryness during the late-afternoon/early-evening hours.

The Nats will again be looking to win the rubber game of a series, having missed their chance to do that Sunday in Cincinnati when Kyle Finnegan blew the save. All things considered, if they could emerge from this opening week with a 3-3 record, everyone would have to be satisfied.

Josiah Gray is back on the mound for his second start, hoping for better results than his Opening Day outing. If nothing else, the right-hander really would like to go deeper in the game, perhaps even becoming the first Nationals starter to complete six innings this season.

The Nats are making a roster move today: Jacob Young is coming up from Triple-A Rochester, with Victor Robles headed to the injured list with a left hamstring strain. Young fits the profile well to take Robles’ spot, so look for him to share center field with Eddie Rosario and come off the bench to pinch-run and play defense late in games.

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Taylor appreciative of "special" ovation from fans in return to D.C.

Michael A. Taylor

As he stepped to the plate in the top of the second Monday afternoon and heard the sustained applause from the sellout crowd at Nationals Park, Michael A. Taylor sheepishly tried to contemplate the appropriate way to respond.

“It’s not something I’ve ever experienced before,” the Pirates center fielder said. “I honestly didn’t know what to do.”

After a few seconds, as the cheer grew louder and many in the crowd of 40,405 rose to their feet, Taylor finally gave a little wave, then stepped out of the batter’s box and doffed his helmet. No one who followed his career here in D.C. could’ve been surprised by the crowd’s enthusiasm or the outfielder’s reluctance to make a big deal out of the moment.

A fan favorite for the majority of his seven seasons with the Nationals, Taylor has never been one to actively seek the spotlight. His childlike facial expressions became memes. His soft-spoken words and genteel demeanor were unique in a clubhouse full of more boisterous teammates.

This, though, was Taylor’s first time back on South Capitol Street with fans in attendance since the 2019 World Series. Though he still played here in 2020, he did so in front of cardboard cutouts. By the time fans were allowed back in the park in 2021, he had moved on to the Royals.

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Williams, Gallo lead the way as Nats end Pirates' win streak (updated)

Joey Gallo home run trot

Trevor Williams won the Nationals fifth starter’s job to begin the season not on merit so much as on track record, contract status and the fact his spring training competition (Zach Davies) did nothing to earn the job himself.

The leash on Williams, who statistically ranked as one of the worst starters in baseball last year, is probably short. But Davey Martinez wanted to give the veteran a chance to open the season in the rotation and hope he would provide some sense of stability for his young and developing ballclub.

Who’d have guessed the best outing by any of the team’s five starters the first trip through the rotation would come from the last of them to take the mound?

With 5 1/3 innings of two-run ball, Williams became the first Nationals starter to earn a win in 2024. And thanks to enough offensive support – including Joey Gallo’s first homer of the year – the Nats emerged with a 5-3 victory over the Pirates on a cold, rainy April evening on South Capitol Street.

Williams was far from spectacular, or dominant. But aside from a rough top of the second, he was effective, holding down a Pittsburgh club that was looking to improve to 6-0 for the first time since 1962.

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Winker still recovering from illness, Weems able to pitch again

Jesse Winker spring training

As ballgames up and down the East Coast were being delayed or postponed altogether due to rain, Davey Martinez tried to remain optimistic about the Nationals’ chances of actually playing the Pirates as scheduled at 6:45 p.m. tonight.

“We’re going to get ready to play until they tell us otherwise,” the manager said about 3 hours before scheduled first pitch. “Hopefully we do play. All these days off at the beginning, it’s tough to get in that routine. So I want to play. I want to get them out on the field and get them going.”

Today is the seventh day of the regular season but only the Nats’ fifth scheduled game. They already had a day off in Cincinnati following the season opener, then another Tuesday following the home opener. The notion of another one at this early juncture isn’t exactly popular with anyone in uniform.

Even though they played as scheduled Monday, the Nationals weren’t able to take batting practice on the field due to the poor conditions. They same held true today, with players restricted to the indoor batting cage.

A break in routine, or an unexpected day off, can be appreciated at certain points during the long season – “August!” Martinez quipped – but not so much this early in the marathon.

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Game 5 lineups: Nats vs. Pirates

Trevor Williams Blues

The first four games of the Nationals’ season all were played in daylight, three of them starting shortly after 4 p.m., the other shortly after 1:30 p.m. Now, at last in Game 5 of the season, we get our first night game. But don’t forget: Night games at Nationals Park now start at 6:45 p.m. Adjust your commuting and TV-watching plans accordingly.

After a disappointing home opener Monday, the Nats will hope not only to beat the undefeated Pirates tonight, but perhaps even take an early lead and hold it all night. They’ve played 36 innings to date in 2024, and would you believe they’ve held the lead at the end of only three of those? That’s not a winning formula, even if they did manage to win one game in Cincinnati.

The Nationals also haven’t received a quality start from anyone yet. Trevor Williams would be an unlikely candidate to deliver the first one of those this season, but the veteran right-hander is certainly capable of keeping his team in the ballgame for five, maybe six, innings. That’s what Davey Martinez will hope for tonight before handing it over to a fresh bullpen thanks to Tuesday’s day off.

All of this, of course, depends on the weather. The forecast again isn’t great, but it looks better than it did earlier. And even though it didn’t look great Monday, they still played without a drop falling from the sky during the game. So keep hope alive!

Nationals Park
Gametime: 6:45 p.m. EDT
Radio: 106.7 FM, 88.7 FM (Spanish), MLB.com
Weather: Rain, 55 degrees, wind 12 mph left field to right field

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Where Nationals' top prospects are opening 2024 season

James Wood

After making a point to keep a group of their top prospects together in the minors late last season and throughout big league camp this spring, the Nationals have split those players up to begin 2024.

James Wood, Trey Lipscomb, Dylan Crews, Robert Hassell III, Brady House and Yohandy Morales all finished the 2023 season with Double-A Harrisburg, an arrangement that allowed all to get comfortable playing with each other and to grow together on their eventual path to D.C.

But as the 2024 minor league season was set to begin, Wood and Lipscomb were bumped up to Triple-A Rochester, while the others all were re-assigned to Double-A for the time being.

Lipscomb, of course, never even played a game at Triple-A, promoted to make his major league debut after Nationals third baseman Nick Senzel fractured his right thumb during fielding drills prior to Thursday’s season opener in Cincinnati.

So it’s Wood all alone among the prospects in Rochester, though there are several other intriguing names playing for the Red Wings to begin the season.

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Bullpen woes again plague Nats in home-opener loss (updated)

rainey pitches white

In adding several veteran relievers with late-inning experience this winter and even into the spring, the Nationals hoped they were assembling a bullpen that would give Davey Martinez more viable options for tight ballgames and not force the manager to rely too much on his top arms.

So when the situation arose today in the team’s home opener – tie game in the eighth, Kyle Finnegan and Hunter Harvey having both pitched the previous two days – Martinez entrusted it to Matt Barnes, a 33-year-old former All-Star closer with the Red Sox trying to bounce back from an injury-plagued 2023 with the Marlins.

The ensuing results suggested there’s still some work to be done figuring out who else can be trusted to be part of the so-called "A" bullpen.

Allowing four of the first five batters he faced to reach base, Barnes turned a tie game into a three-run deficit and eventually an 8-4 loss to the Pirates, who are off to a surprising 5-0 start to their season and have left the Nats at 1-3 for the sixth consecutive year.

"It's a long season, and obviously a handful of things haven't started out the way we want to," Barnes said. "But we've got 158 games to go. Hiccups like this are going to happen. You clean them up and work on getting better."

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Game 4 lineups: Nats vs. Pirates

CJ Abrams runs smiles white walkoff

In a perfect world, the Nationals would have come home from Cincinnati with a winning record to a sun-splashed ballpark for today’s home opener. Alas, this isn’t a perfect world. The Nats lost Sunday’s series finale to the Reds with a gut punch of a bottom of the ninth. And the sun will not be shining on South Capitol Street today, with lots of rain in the forecast.

The glimmer of hope? The percentage chance of rain goes down during the mid-to-late afternoon hours, so perhaps it will be dry enough to play as scheduled at 4:05 p.m. If the Nats knew Tuesday looked better, they absolutely would have postponed today’s game well in advance. Unfortunately, Tuesday’s forecast looks worse, so they really have no choice but to attempt to play today. It’s not ideal, but it’s the best they can do with what Mother Nature is throwing their way.

The Nationals come home to face a Pirates team that just swept a four-game series in Miami, two of those wins coming in extra innings. This is a team filled with young talent, making for an intriguing series here the next few days.

It’s MacKenzie Gore getting the ball for the home opener, an honor Davey Martinez wanted the young lefty to have. After less-than-dominant showings from Josiah Gray, Patrick Corbin and Jake Irvin in Cincy, it would be lovely to get some quality out of Gore today.

MASN has all the proceedings today, with a special hour-long pregame show beginning at 3 p.m. and concluding with all of the player intros, the anthem and flyover. If you can’t be here in person, be sure to tune in!

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What went right this weekend before it went horribly wrong

CJ Abrams

They would’ve come home flying high, having just won the season’s opening series on the road against a team with October aspirations, and having done it on the backs of some of their most important young players.

They would’ve taken the field at Nationals Park to a thunderous roar from a large crowd excited to welcome them home for the first time in 2024, enthusiasm soaring after such an uplifting start to the year.

They would’ve been the proud owners of a winning record for the first time since – get this – July 1, 2021, a night that saw a Nationals team loaded with star power fall to 40-39 after a loss to the Dodgers in which emergency second baseman Alex Avila strained not one but both of his calves. By month’s end, they would trade Max Scherzer, Trea Turner and a host of other veterans in the first act of a long and painful roster rebuild.

The Nats won’t take the field with a winning record today, though. They’re 1-2, not 2-1, after Kyle Finnegan’s swift and painful, bottom-of-the-ninth meltdown late Sunday afternoon in Cincinnati sapped all the goodwill out of the clubhouse and left a dejected ballclub to quietly shower, dress and head to the airport.

But does that loss, agonizing as it was, really change the overall state of the Nationals on this date? Does a blown save on March 31, ghastly as it was, erase everything else that preceded it?

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