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Verlander loses 2-hitter, allowing 2 HRs to lowly Tigers

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HOUSTON (AP) — Justin Verlander pitched a two-hitter and lost, allowing homers to John Hicks and Ronny Rodriguez as the Detroit Tigers beat the Houston Astros 2-1 on Wednesday night.

Hicks led off the ninth with a tiebreaking blast to left-center field off Verlander (15-5), who leads the majors in strikeouts with 239 but ranks second in homers allowed with 33.

The veteran right-hander retired the first 14 batters, with six strikeouts, before Rodriguez homered to the seats in right with two outs in the fifth. Verlander sat down another 10 straight before Hicks connected.

With Verlander on the mound at home against the worst team in the majors, the Astros were more than a 5-1 favorite, one of the biggest favorites in an MLB game that Las Vegas oddsmakers could remember.

Buck Farmer (5-4) walked one in a scoreless eighth and Joe Jimenez finished the Tigers’ six-hitter for his fourth save.

METS 4, INDIANS 3, 10 INNINGS

NEW YORK (AP) — J.D. Davis lined an RBI single with two outs that capped a two-run rally in the 10th inning, and New York beat Cleveland.

All-Star reliever Brad Hand’s failure to cover first base on a potential game-ending double-play grounder cost Cleveland. Davis made the Indians pay with his first career game-ending hit.

The Mets won their fourth in a row and for the 20th time in 25 games, moving a season-high six over .500.

Carlos Santana hit a solo home run with two outs in the Cleveland 10th off Luis Avilan (4-1) for a 3-2 lead.

Amed Rosario opened the Mets 10th with a double off Hand (6-4), who later broke for the plate on what could have been a double play as the tying run scored.

CUBS 12, GIANTS 11

CHICAGO (AP) — Kris Bryant hit a go-ahead, two-run homer in the eighth inning to give Chicago a wild victory over San Francisco.

Nicholas Castellanos and Kyle Schwarber also connected for Chicago, which has won four straight despite losing leads twice in the last four innings. The Cubs moved back into first place in the NL Central by a half-game over St. Louis, which lost to Milwaukee in a rain-shortened game.

Castellanos, who went 4 for 5, has homered in three straight games for the second time in his career.

Evan Longoria, Mike Yastrzemski, Stephen Vogt and Kevin Pillar homered for San Francisco, which has dropped three straight.

Castellanos led off the eighth with an infield single to set the stage for Bryant, who stroked a 1-1 pitch from Reyes Moronta (3-7) into the left field bleachers.

Brandon Kintzler (3-2) pitched a scoreless eighth for the win and Craig Kimbrel worked a 1-2-3 ninth for his 11th save.

DODGERS 2, BLUE JAYS 1, 10 INNINGS

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Max Muncy homered in the bottom of the 10th inning to lift Los Angeles over Toronto for its 50th home victory of the season.

Will Smith also went deep and Walker Buehler threw seven shutout innings for the major league-leading Dodgers, who have baseball’s best home record as well at 50-16.

Muncy sent his 33rd homer to center field off Tim Mayza (1-3) with one out. The slugger picked up the Dodgers after closer Kenley Jansen gave up a tying homer to Rowdy Tellez in the ninth. Fans booed Jansen after he got two more outs to end the inning.

Pedro Baez (7-2) got the win with one inning of relief.

ATHLETICS 6, YANKEES 4

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Khris Davis and Marcus Semien each hit a two-run homer to lead Mike Fiers and the Oakland Athletics past New York.

Davis snapped an 0-for-17 slump — three at-bats shy of the longest hitless drought of his career — with his first home run since July 30 and second since June 18. It was just his 18th homer after he led the majors last season with 48 for his third straight year with 40 or more.

Stephen Piscotty added a solo home run for the A’s.

Mike Ford homered for the Yankees, and Didi Gregorius added an RBI double.

Liam Hendriks struck out DJ LeMahieu and Aaron Judge in the eighth to escape a jam after top pitching prospect A.J. Puk started the inning for his long-awaited major league debut. Hendriks finished for his 15th save as Oakland moved a season-best 20 games over .500.

Fiers (12-3) allowed two runs and six hits over 5 1/3 innings on the four-year anniversary of the first of his two no-hitters. Oakland won for the sixth time in seven games.

Yankees lefty J.A. Happ (10-8) permitted five runs and four hits in four innings.

BREWERS 5, CARDINALS 3, 7½ INNINGS

ST. LOUIS (AP) — Mike Moustakas homered and Keston Hiura drove in a pair of runs to lead Milwaukee over St. Louis in a rain-shortened game.

The game was stopped after 7½ innings and made official following a rain delay of 66 minutes.

Milwaukee broke a six-game losing streak against the Cardinals, who were knocked out of first place in the NL Central — falling one-half game behind the Cubs.

Adrian Houser (6-5) gave up three runs — one earned — and six hits in 5 1/3 innings.

Junior Guerra got the last out in the bottom of the seventh and earned his third save.

Moustakas, who also walked three times, hit a three-run homer in the first off Adam Wainwright (9-9) to highlight a four-run outburst.

PHILLIES 5, RED SOX 2

BOSTON (AP) — Bryce Harper homered to give Philadelphia a fifth-inning lead, and Corey Dickerson drove in two runs with a triple and a single to help the Phillies sweep a two-game series with Boston.

Jared Hughes (4-5) earned the win with 1 1/3 hitless innings of relief after Drew Smyly lasted just 3 2/3 innings. Héctor Neris pitched the ninth for his 23rd save.

Rick Porcello (11-10) allowed just one hit through four innings before César Hernández led off the fifth with a double.

Hernández took off on a wild pitch and scored when the throw got past Rafael Devers at third base. After a walk, Harper cleared the Green Monster with a two-run shot, his 27th homer of the year.

RAYS 7, MARINERS 6

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — Kevin Kiermaier drove in four runs, including a solo homer during a two-run ninth inning, and Tampa Bay beat Seattle to avoid a three-game sweep.

Kiermaier tied it at 6-6 on a leadoff homer against Matt Magill (3-1). The Rays then loaded the bases on Willy Adames’ single, a double by Mike Brosseau and an intentional walk to pinch-hitter Ji-Man Choi with no outs before Magill’s wild pitch with Tommy Pham batting allowed Adames to score the winning run.

Daniel Vogelbach had a solo homer and Mallex Smith added a two-run triple off Emilio Pagan (3-2) as the Mariners went up 6-5 in the top of the ninth.

Tampa Bay ace Charlie Morton was bidding for his 14th win but struggled in a five-inning, 99-pitch start, giving up three runs, four hits, two walks and striking out three.

WHITE SOX 4, TWINS 0

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Lucas Giolito pitched a three-hit shutout of the second-highest scoring team in the major leagues, racking up 12 strikeouts as Chicago took the series from AL Central-leading Minnesota.

Giolito (14-6) allowed only runner past first base, a double by Jonathan Schoop in the eighth. The 25-year-old fanned Jake Cave to finish that inning and reach double-digit strikeouts for the third straight time, the first White Sox starter to do so since Chris Sale did so in eight consecutive turns in 2015.

Giolito matched Cleveland’s Shane Bieber for the major league lead with his third complete game of the season. The White Sox and Indians have a baseball-best five apiece. Giolito got his with 115 pitches, without a walk.

José Abreu went 3 for 5 with two RBIs for the White Sox, with Leury Garcia and Tim Anderson each producing two hits. The trio scored all four runs against Twins starter Jake Odorizzi (13-6).

BRAVES 5, MARLINS 0

ATLANTA (AP) — Adeiny Hechavarría and Ronald Acuña Jr. each hit a two-run homer, Julio Teheran struck out a season-high nine and Atlanta beat Miami.

The Braves are 14-4 against Miami this year after winning the 2018 season series between the NL East rivals 14-5.

Teheran (8-8) combined with Sean Newcomb and Josh Tomlin for a seven-hitter. The right-hander allowed five hits in seven innings.

Acuña’s shot off Caleb Smith (8-7) in the fifth cleared the center field wall. His team-leading 36th homer came one night after he was hit by Elieser Hernandez’s first pitch, leading to the ejection of Braves manager Brian Snitker.

NATIONALS 11, PIRATES 1

PITTSBURGH (AP) — Patrick Corbin pitched eight scoreless innings to remain unbeaten in more than two months, and Asdrúbal Cabrera’s three-run home run capped a six-run third as Washington rolled past Pittsburgh.

Corbin (10-5) struck out four and walked two while throwing 93 pitches to help the Nationals maintain their lead atop the NL wild-card standings.

Joe Musgrove (8-12) gave up six runs and seven hits in five innings as Pittsburgh lost for the 29th time in 37 games since the All-Star break.

ORIOLES 8, ROYALS 1

BALTIMORE (AP) — Baltimore tied a major league record by allowing its 258th home run this season but hit four of its own to beat Kansas City.

Anthony Santander and Renato Núñez hit back-to-back home runs in the fifth inning for the Orioles, who won their first series since July 25-27 at the Los Angeles Angels. Jonathan Villar and Hanser Alberto also went deep.

Whit Merrifield’s homer was the record-tying blast against Baltimore. The Orioles have 35 games to surpass the 2016 Cincinnati Reds for the most homers allowed in a season.

Aaron Brooks (3-7) picked up his first win in eight starts with the Orioles since being claimed on waivers from Oakland on July 6.

Villar put the Orioles ahead with a two-run shot off Mike Montgomery (3-6).

RANGERS 8, ANGELS 7

ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — Hunter Pence drove in three runs, including an RBI single in the ninth inning that pushed Texas past Los Angeles.

Elvis Andrus led off the ninth with a single up the middle off Trevor Cahill (3-8), the seventh Angels pitcher. After two wild pitches got Andrus to third, Pence grounded a single through the left side of the infield.

The Rangers won three times in the four-game series.

Jonathan Hernández (1-0) worked the final 2 1/3 innings to win in his major league debut.

REDS 4, PADRES 2

CINCINNATI (AP) — Luis Castillo shook off his worst career start to pitch six solid innings and José Iglesias hit a solo home run to pace the Reds.

Castillo (12-5), who allowed nine hits and eight runs on Friday against St. Louis, bounced back to limit San Diego to five hits and one run with four strikeouts.

The Reds sent nine batters to the plate while scoring three runs in a third inning, started by Eric Yardley (0-1), who got the loss in his major league debut.

Nick Senzel led off with a line drive that left fielder Josh Naylor misplayed for a two-base error and scored one out later on Eugenio Suárez’s single.

Iglesias lofted his ninth homer of the season into the seats down the left-field line with one out in the fourth inning for a 4-1 lead.

Cincinnati’s Michael Lorenzen had two strikeouts in a perfect eighth. Raisel Iglesias had two strikeouts in the ninth on the way to his 26th save.

ROCKIES 7, DIAMONDBACKS 2

PHOENIX (AP) — Tim Melville pitched seven innings of two-hit ball in his first major league appearance in almost two years, and Colorado cruised past Arizona.

Melville (1-0), a 29-year-old right-hander with just six previous big-league appearances who started this season in independent ball, limited Arizona to a first-inning double and a sixth-inning home run to go with four strikeouts and two walks. He also picked up his first major-league hit — a two-out, fourth-inning single — and his first two career RBIs.

Ketel Marte and Alex Avila homered for the Diamondbacks, who had their four-game win streak snapped.

The Rockies jumped on struggling Arizona starter Mike Leake (9-10) early with two runs on three straight singles and a fielder’s choice in the top of the first.

___

More AP MLB: https://apnews.com/MLB and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports





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5 Players to Watch – NBC Chicago

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With the Chicago Blackhawks still eight points out of the second wild card spot in the Western Conference with 22 games left to play, Monday’s trade deadline will likely see the team in sell-mode rather than trying to bring in players for the stretch run.

The Blackhawks, who are 2-6-2 in their last
10 games and have lost seven of their last eight contests, were hoping to get
back to the postseason after missing out on the playoffs the last two years,
but with their recent struggles, it would appear that the team’s window of
opportunity is closing for a third consecutive year.

With that reality coming into sharper
focus, Monday’s trade deadline could represent an opportunity for the
Blackhawks to acquire assets for the future, rather than trying to bring in
short-term rentals to help for the remainder of this season.

With that in mind, here are some of the players
that could be on the move before Monday’s deadline:

Corey Crawford

The long-time Blackhawks goaltender will be
a free agent at season’s end, so in spite of a $6 million cap hit, he could be
an intriguing rental option for a team looking for an upgrade at goaltender ahead
of the deadline.

In 30 games this season, Crawford has a
2.89 goals against average, with a 10-16-3 record. He has played much better in
recent weeks, so if the Blackhawks decide they aren’t interest in retaining his
services moving forward, he could be a name to watch ahead of the deadline.

Erik Gustafsson

Speaking of rental players, Gustafsson has
been on the trade radar throughout the season, as he’s in the final year of his
contract with the Blackhawks.

After a 2018-19 season that saw him rack up
60 points, Gustafsson has fallen off a bit, with six goals and 20 assists in 59
games so far this season. Even still, teams like the Vegas Golden Knights have
expressed interest in potentially acquiring him, and he could be on the move in
the days leading up to the deadline.

Robin Lehner

Another soon-to-be-free-agent, Lehner has
had a solid season for the Blackhawks, with a 16-10-5 record and a .918 save
percentage. His goals against average has ballooned up to 3.01 after a strong
start to the campaign, but with a reasonable cap hit and free agency looming
after the season, teams in need of goaltending help could look to the veteran
netminder for a boost between the pipes.

Brandon Saad

In terms of players who aren’t heading for
free agency, a player like Saad could intrigue teams who are looking for a two-way
player with upside on both offense and defense.

With a cap hit of $6 million for next
season, Saad is a player the Blackhawks could look to move in order to clear
some salary cap space. According to reports, Saad could be on the radar for a
few teams, including the Boston Bruins, and his recent run of quality play
could help boost his trade value with the deadline approaching.

Dylan Strome

Strome, acquired last season from the
Arizona Coyotes, is due a big pay raise going into next season, but unlike Alex
DeBrincat he has not agreed to a new deal prior to his restricted free agency.

Whatever factors are going into the
decision on Strome’s contract, the Blackhawks could conceivably try to move him.
The team likes what it has seen from Kirby Dach in his rookie season, and
although losing Strome would hurt the club in terms of its center depth, they
do still have Zack Smith, Ryan Carpenter, David Kampf and Matthew Highmore
moving forward, potentially cushioning the blow if Dach slides into a full-time
second line center role next season.





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New London and southeastern Connecticut News, Sports, Business, Entertainment and Video

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Mohegan — Courtney Williams opted for the old “disrespect” narrative — amusing, if not disingenuous — to portray her departure from the Connecticut Sun.

Williams took her musings to Instagram, that hallowed portal of principle, where her words were fully substantiated by her own opinions. And then supported by all her groupies.

Sayeth young Ms. Williams:

“This process was definitely not an easy one for me, and it truly showed me that it’s all about business, and that loyalty and emotion has no place in these type of negotiations. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t hurt throughout this process. … Don’t get caught up in all the rumors that you may hear about why I left. I never intended nor wanted to leave CT and I hope the Connecticut fans and my teammates really understand that. The word loyalty is thrown around so loosely these days, and maybe I was raised differently, but genuine loyalty is shown through the good or the bad. At the bare minimum I could have gotten a ‘thank you’ like every other player that decided not to rejoin the team.”

On the next episode of Dr. Phil: The perils of youth mixed with entitlement, all on social media.

So here’s the deal: The Sun’s “thank you” came in the form of a max contract offer. No, it didn’t begin that way. But as negotiations progressed, the Sun offered Williams max money. This is called “salary negotiation.” You know. Real world stuff. It comes with being an adult.

Maximum money on a team that came within an eyelash of the championship — all while signing a jewel of a free agent in DeWanna Bonner, theoretically making the team even better.

Hmmm. Why would one want to leave such a situation?

I’ve spent the last day or two talking to people who know Williams. Their refrains have been mysteriously consistent about her departure: We’ve known about this for a while, they said, like before free agency negotiations even began. Hence, Williams’ Instagram bluster aside, she wanted out of here all along.

I asked Sun officials, given that Williams would be a commodity on the trade market, why it had to be Atlanta, not the most talented team in the league. Answer: Williams didn’t want to go anywhere else. It’s “home” for her. Which, again, underscores the idea that she had a specific target in mind for the summer of 2020. It wasn’t Connecticut.

The “disrespect” theme is about maintaining image. I doubt her groupies will change their minds. But I believe it’s important for the people who pay the money to watch the Sun play — honestly, the most loyal fans in the WNBA — to know the truth.

The franchise just dispelled the notion that free agents don’t want to come here. They got a two-time WNBA Champion, three-time all-star and three-time Sixth Woman of the Year in Bonner, illustrating that if you pay people and give them a chance to win, they’ll come here like everywhere else. Provided, that is, winning is important to them.

Courtney Williams’ actions show she’s more interested in Courtney Williams than anything else.

In many ways, Williams espouses the same ideals of many other young athletes now. It’s the James Harden-ization of sports: It’s all about you. Forty shots per game, 30 points per game, crowd adulation and no possibility of a championship because it’s all about one player. Doesn’t matter to them, though, because the checks don’t bounce and there’s always Instagram to craft your message.

It makes no sense to many of us older sports people, who honestly don’t care about salaries, playing time or number of shots. Just that our team has one more point at the end of the game.

The Sun’s addition of Bonner gave Courtney Williams a significantly better chance to win a championship than Atlanta. She could have max money, too. Ah, but would Bonner’s presence mean fewer shots? Fewer points per game? Can’t have that.

So Courtney Williams left.

Because she wanted to.

Know what? Free country. Enjoy Atlanta, kid. You were fun to watch here. But in the end, you weren’t about the Connecticut Sun, your teammates or your fans. You were about Courtney Williams.

This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro





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Creative Scoring, High Drama and Zion Williamson: All-Star Takeaways

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On a frigid Friday night in Chicago, before the annual Rising Stars Game, Pau Gasol joined the W.N.B.A. star Sue Bird at midcourt to pay homage to Kobe Bryant and the former N.B.A. Commissioner David Stern.

Gasol, one of Bryant’s favorite former teammates with the Los Angeles Lakers, told the story of how “my older brother Kobe used to say, ‘Do epic things always.’”

“So let’s have an epic weekend,” Gasol urged the United Center crowd.

Epic, in truth, was probably not a realistic target so soon after the deaths of Bryant and Stern, both last month. The leaguewide sense of loss is too great.

Yet the various All-Star events did manage to produce an array of memorable moments amid all the grieving. So as regular-season play resumes, here are my five biggest takeaways from what we saw (and didn’t see) in Chicago:

The Anthony Davis free throw that clinched the All-Star Game was not the biggest problem with the “Elam” scoring system.

The biggest names in the game, playing as hard as they did, is what basketball romantics like myself have always hoped the All-Star Game could be. But “Elam” scoring will become the scourge of the league as soon as such intense play leads to an injury. Sad but true.

Improbable as this sounds, we’re not talking enough about Zion Williamson.

So much happened in Chicago that the rim Williamson bent in Friday night’s Rising Stars Game featuring first- and second-year players was easily forgotten. We repeat: Zion bent the rim in an actual game.

Guard depth in the Western Conference is such that Memphis’s Ja Morant will have to be even better than he has been in a brilliant rookie season to become an All-Star in Year 2, like Doncic and Atlanta’s Trae Young. But I think we can safely say that Williamson, if healthy, is a lock to make it to the big game in Indianapolis next February.

Although his New Orleans Pelicans may run out of time to make up the 5 ½ games by which they trail Morant’s Grizzlies for the final playoff spot in the West, Williamson has been an absolute force in his first 10 regular-season games. In 27.4 minutes per game, Williamson is averaging 22.1 points (on 57.6 percent shooting) and 7.5 rebounds.

Get ready to enjoy him on the All-Star stage for years — health permitting.

I can’t wait for March 25.

The Milwaukee Bucks play host to the Houston Rockets that night. It will be their teams’ first meeting since Milwaukee won at Houston on Oct. 24 in the season opener for both.

It will also be the first time Giannis Antetokounmpo squares off against James Harden after a couple of recent shots from Antetokounmpo about The Beard.

To watch it, click here. To disagree with me, click elsewhere.

For the record: I also loved the modestly snowy Chicago weather for much of the weekend — once we got past a truly arctic Valentine’s Day on Friday — but don’t @ me about that, either.

Michael Jordan’s steadfast insistence on avoiding the spotlight, even for a few minutes, will never make sense to me.

The team Michael Jordan owns played host to the 2019 All-Star Game in Charlotte, N.C. The team Jordan led to six championships in the 1990s just played host to the 2020 All-Star Game in Chicago.

Jordan made the briefest of public appearances last year, when he was essentially considered the All-Star grand marshal, and then stayed completely out of public view this year.

Jordan defenders always tell me, when I bring this stuff up, that I cannot possibly understand how hard it is for His Airness to put himself out there. He’s a very private person, they always say, and makes it his mission to avoid the spotlight.

But Jordan had such direct ties to these last two All-Star Games. This has nothing to do with an ink-stained wretch from the news media like me wanting to interview him; this is about Hornets fans a year ago and Bulls fans worldwide this year who were desperate to see him.

The natural instinct Sunday night, when you saw Scottie Pippen being introduced to a roaring United Center audience, was obviously to ask: Where’s Michael?

One Jordan defender asked me why I haven’t made an issue of the fact that we never saw the Bulls’ team owner Jerry Reinsdorf over the past few days. Fair point. But who is really clamoring to see Reinsdorf except Bulls fans frustrated with the direction of their team?

Mortals like me will never be able to understand what it’s like for Jordan to put himself out there, true, but Barack Obama was an omnipresent figure throughout All-Star festivities. If arrangements can be made to allow the former president of the United States to comfortably serve as such an integral part of the weekend, surely there’s a way for Jordan to let himself be seen for the briefest of glimpses.

The only sure way to see Jordan at the first All-Star Game in Chicago since 1988 was to score an invitation to his exclusive annual party Friday night. Monday is when it really hit me how far behind the scenes he stayed all weekend, because the day after Sunday’s All-Star Game was Jordan’s 57th birthday.

Just as the whole party was leaving town, social media was awash with Jordan tributes and factoids. It’s hard not to be disappointed that Monday’s discourse was as close as the masses got to him.


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The roster still has holes — playmaking beyond James, shooting, wing depth — but Lakers management can certainly celebrate its decision to hire Frank Vogel as coach. Although the search was as messy as possible in the moment, Rob Pelinka’s decision to go with Vogel after talks with Tyronn Lue collapsed — with a strong nudge from the team adviser Kurt Rambis — has been a hit.

Worry all you want about the health of James and Davis, but I try not to spend too much time fretting about injuries that haven’t happened yet. What good does that do?

The Lakers are obviously relying heavily on their two studs, but it’s the way it has to be this season. The Clippers have many of the same worries, too, so it’s not exclusively a Lakers problem.

The Lakers appear to have much stronger team chemistry than outsiders imagined, too, which is also largely attributed to James’s influence. Factor in how James has missed only two of Los Angeles’s 53 games, and it must be said that his 17th N.B.A. season is shaping up to be one of his best.

Q: Who was it named for before? — @joesanders33 from Twitter

Stein: Joe is asking about the N.B.A.’s All-Star Most Valuable Player trophy, which has been named in Kobe Bryant’s honor in the wake of Bryant’s death.

Before the change, which the league made official Saturday, its All-Star M.V. P. trophy did not bear a former player’s name. The N.B.A. finals M.V.P. award was named after Bill Russell in 2009.

Q: How far did N.B.A. players run in each decade? As a 72-year-old lifelong fan of the game, I am frustrated hearing about “load management” and how much harder players worked “back in the day” without any data to back up these claims. Where is the data? — William Briggs (Nalcrest, Fla.)





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