End of an Era

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Should Moore have started the 9th inning in game 4?

It’s been just a little over 48 hours since the Giants’ season came to an end in one of the most gut-punching, low-blow, torturous ways possible. Pouring salt on the fresh and open wound was the fact that the Dodgers somehow, although in the exact same position as the Giants, being down 2-1 at home, won games 4 and 5 by one stinking run, and are now facing the Cubs in the NLCS.

The even-year magic is officially dead.

DEAD

As a lifelong 42-year old fan of the Giants, this one hurt. It hurt a lot. Ok, not quite as much as 2002, but I’d rank this at #2 on my personal pain index of postseason failures. Sure, they lost in 2000 to the Mets (I was there, by the way), after J.T. Snow hit a game-tying HR off of Armando Benitez in the 9th, but lost it and the series in the 10th. (Why did we ever sign Benitez, anyway). Then there was J.T. Snow getting thrown out at the plate in Florida to end the 2003 NLDS. The 1989 World Series sweep by the A’s, the 1987 collapse against the Cardinals in the NLCS (CANDY MALDONADO!). The 103 wins in 1993.

I’ve been a conscious, breathing, sentient being for all of these failures. However, the magical even years of 2010, 2012 and 2014 essentially erased all of that pain and sorrow, and then some. How many fans have this much surplus in championship gold in baseball? Certainly the turn-of-the century Yankees, and maybe the Red Sox are somewhat close with three in 10 years. Three in five is amazing. Four in seven would have even been more amazing. But, it wasn’t meant to be.

The 9th inning collapse on Tuesday hurt so much, that I literally didn’t sleep. And I tried. I went to bed immediately. Was under the covers by 9:45 pm. I was still awake at 7 am, never having left the bed. Is that okay? Does that mean I have a problem? I broke out in cold sweats imagining how Bochy could’ve altered the outcome, or how perhaps, I could conjure a time machine and literally alter time by planting suggestions in Bochy’s ear or taking a bat to Zobrist’s ankles. I imagined an alternate universe where the Giants won games 4 and 5 (yes, they would have won game 5) and beat the Dodgers in the NLCS and somehow beat the Indians for retribution for the Warriors and their 4th ring.

I love this team too much.

Here’s a question that will never be answered, really: Why not let Moore start the 9th?

Now, many are on board with this idea, and many are not and are fine with the conventional wisdom plan of baseball.

Personally, I was begging for Moore to start the 9th. Implored the baseball gods. But, when I saw that Derek Law was on the bump, I was partly horrified, but also vexed. Bochy said he was going to close with Romo/Smith. Ok, Romo pitched two innings the night prior, but so did Law, so that can’t be the reason why Romo didn’t start the 9th.

Before I get too deep in the “conga line of doom” that Bochy rolled out, let me get back to the Moore hypothesis:

  1. Moore was CRUISING! He allowed 2 hits through 8 IP, and had struck out 10, while only walking 2. More importantly, he retired the last 8 batters in order! The Giants were out-hitting the Cubs 11-2 after 8 innings!
  2. The bullpen sucks. Ok, we all know that, and yes, at some point, Bochy would have to have relied on his bullpen in the NLCS and/or World Series. But did he HAVE to in this elimination game? NO!
  3. If pitch count was a concern, Moore threw 133 pitches in a no-hitter attempt in LA. Of course this game is more important than a no-hitter, it’s an elimination game! Moore could have faced at least one batter, as he was at 120 pitches. He gets on, they go to the pen. He gets him out, he faces another guy. Butterfly effect and shit.
  4. Moore had not pitched in 9 days since the regular-season closing win against the Dodgers, where Moore had a masterful 8 IP. Of course Romo closed it out, but it was a 6 run lead.
  5. Moore would probably not have pitched until game 4 of the NLCS on 10/18, meaning he would have had 7 days of rest. Basically, the few extra pitches wouldn’t have mattered much.
  6. Moore’s OPS against after pitching 101 or more pitches is better than when he pitches less. Basically, in 18 of his 34 starts in 2016 when he went over 101 pitches, he was money.
  7. DID I MENTION THE BULLPEN SUCKS AND ALSO BLEW THE SAVE THE NIGHT BEFORE?!

Look, it was an elimination game. The type of game where Bochy has brought in Bumgarner to pitch 5 innings (yes, that was game 7 of the World Series). But, you can’t get there if you don’t trust your bullpen, which presents the paradox for Bochy. If he continues to push starters to the brink (Bochy led the league in pitches thrown by starters), it may have a counter-effect on the confidence of the pen. Reality is, the pen failed over and over and over in the second half, and it almost cost them the postseason, and surely cost them the division (and of course, the NLDS), so I don’t think there would have been any psychological effect. I mean, the Giants lost the west by 4 games, but lost 9 games after leading going into the 9th and blew 30 saves overall, far more than the Dodgers.

So, I was surprised to see Law in. Then Kris Bryant hits, what normally would have been an easy ground out to Crawford, but it went in between the shift that the Giants were employing. Then, the quick hook to Lopez. He’s been a saint, a savior, a deft specialist to get that key left hander out. Alas, his age showed as he walked Rizzo, something YOU CAN NEVER DO! Bochy immediately goes to Romo, and he turns Zobrist to the left side, and he hit the only really solid contact of the inning, a double down the right field line that made the score 5-3 and put the tying run at second. This is when my sphincter was in full clinch mode.

Bochy, again!, went to another reliever, Will Smith. Maddon countered with Contreras, who hit a 25 hopper up the middle to score both runs and tie the game. Smith stayed in the game and Heyward had a horrible bunt right back to Smith, who promptly fired to Crawford for the out, but Crawford sailed his throw to Belt for an error, which allowed Heyward to take second, a crucial play. Crawford also had an error earlier in the game which cost the Giants a run, something not to be forgotten.

At this point, the new Giant-killer Baez was coming up, so Bochy went to his fifth and final reliever of the inning, Hunter Strickland. Once again, a not-so-hard-hit-grounder found its way up the middle, delivering Heyward to the plate in what would eventually be the deciding run as Aroldis Chapman struck out the side in the bottom of the ninth.

We saw it happen so many times this year, including two losses when having three run leads in the ninth. With all the magic that Bochy pulls, he appeared to be the frantic kindergartener in the 9th, playing matchups, something that he stopped doing in mid-September, which seemed to stabilize the bullpen.

No one could be trusted. No one could find a rhythm, no one knew their role.

The ninth inning is special territory, reserved for those who have the mental fortitude or possession of a crazy gene to inherit and thrive under that pressure.

Giants’ brass made it clear that they will pursue a closer this offseason in today’s end of year press conference. How can they not?

There’s a reason we call this site and podcast “TortureCast.”

Go Cubs?

Chad

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Even Year Magic Goes Code BLUE, then Sucks us Back in

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This is like the fourth image for this article tonight. So many possibilities. It was the missed call on Gillaspie, then the triple by Gillaspie, then the Chevron HR by Bryant, and now finally, the game-winning double by Panik. That’s 10 consecutive elimination game victories for the Giants, a record that may never be broken. (Photo: John Hefti, USA TODAY Sports)

Holy crap. It’s midnight.

Well, Giants fans. Even-Year Magic has a trick or two up its sleeve, as it turns out.

It seemed alive and well in the first half, then experienced a near-death crisis after a 2 1/2 month-long bout with some rare disease, before rising from the ashes with a sweep of LA to close out the season. It even squeezed out another magical toot when Conor Gillaspie sent a ball soaring into the New York night to win the Wild Card and send them up against the best team in baseball, the Chicago Cubs, who have experienced the opposite of “even-year bullshit.”

Most of us had high hopes, even a little swagger and confidence, much like Johnny Cueto’s shimmy in game 1 of the NLDS that would have won 9 of 10 such contests. But, that lingering cough that Even-Year Magic had came back, allowing a late inning homerun by Baez that sealed a 1-0 victory for the cubbies. Or, was Even-Year Magic (bullshit) just getting warmed up?

Then, game 2. Many fans thought that Matt Moore deserved the start after his last two performances down the stretch. However, Bruce Bochy, the god of postseason decisions, decided to go with Jeff Samardzija, because he “earned” it. That blew up in his face, as the Shark gave up 4 runs in the first 2 innings, a deficit that the Giants would never overcome.

Even-Year Magic is now in prime post-season form, ready to pounce, right?

Game 3. Elimination game. Madison Bumgarner, postseason wizard. Of course, the Giants would win this game and send us hopefuls to the wishing well and wearing all manner of good-luck-superstitious attire to somehow pull out the last two games of the series, duplicating the magic of 2012 when the Giants won three consecutive elimination games TWICE, against Cincinnati and St. Louis.

But, after 24 consecutive scoreless inning in elimination games, Bumgarner did something a bit uncharacteristic. He missed Posey’s target. Against a pitcher. With 2 outs. And 2 strikes.

Jake Arrieta, a good hitting pitcher (.262 w/2 HR), promptly launched a three-run homer to the only Cubs’ fan sitting in a section just beyond the left field fence.

Now, Even-Year Magic was on life support, or planning the best bullshit party we’ve ever seen. Not just that, but Cubs’ magic (or impending doom) was materializing. It wasn’t Kris Bryant, or Rizzo, or Fowler, or any of the usual suspects.

The Goddam pitcher. Against the best postseason pitcher in history.

Then, Even-Year Magic gets a 2nd, or 32nd breath, as the Giants rallied in the 8th, putting two runners on, forcing Joe Maddon to put in Chapman for a six-out save. After striking out Hunter Pence, wild card hero Conor Gillaspie sent a ball just over the outstretched glove of the right fielder for a 2 run triple, giving the Giants their first lead of the night. Crawford followed with an RBI single, and moved to third with one out. This is where things started to swing back in the Cubs’ direction, because, of course it would.

The Giants couldn’t plate Crawford, which proved to be a huge run, should they have gotten it. But, two weak groundouts prevented that from happening, and Romo took the ball into the 9th. We all knew what could happen; feared it; lamented it’s coming, but maybe with Even-Year Magic present, it couldn’t possibly, right?

Leadoff walk.

F that.

Then Kris Bryant did what good hitters do, hit a mistake, a hanging slider right down the middle into the night. But, that wasn’t enough. No. It had to scrape the top of the Chevron car and bounce into the stands for a 2 run game-tying homer. Looking at the angle, because it was hit so high, it appears that if the car wasn’t there, it would have been a double off of the wall. No matter, Romo retired the next three in order.

Yeah, another blown save. 30 in the regular season, including 9 losses when the Giants led going into the 9th. Surely this would prove to be the 10th.

The Giants had a shot at a walk-off. After a one-out walk by Belt, Posey, who was 3-3 on the night, laced a laser into deep right field, but Almora Jr., made an incredible game-saving catch as he sprawled out on the warning track to snare the line drive. Belt gambled, and was running on the play, so he was doubled off, which means, if that hit got down and by Almaro, Belt scores easily, and the Giants win. But no. Of course not. That drive couldn’t have been one foot to the right. One foot back. One foot short. Almaro couldn’t have been playing one foot deeper or to his right. It was as close as close could be.

Romo retired the side in order in the 10th, with a little bravado vs. Baez, which, honestly, was stupid. Dude, you gave up the tying homerun that led to the end of the season (a lot of people thought). Now you’re showboating?

Will Smith entered the 11th and retired the side in order. The Cubs were down to their last relief pitcher, although they had an assortment of starters. Panik led off the home half with a single, was sacrificed to second by Blanco, but neither Trevor Brown nor Denard Span could knock him in, sending it to the 12th.

Ty Blach, who looked so good in the regular season, and in his brief outing earlier in the NLDS, retired the Cubs in order in the 12th. After the Giants yet again, could not muster a run, Blach entered the 13th into a maelstrom that he worked hard to escape. After Black got Russell out, singles by Baez (only the second hit since the 4th inning, the other hit was the one that TIED the game in the 9th), put pressure on the rook. However, pinch-hitter David Ross grounded into a 4-6-3 double play to end the threat.

 

Then, just when you thought that old crafty lefty, Even-Year Magic had its last moment of glory, it decided to make it’s presence known once again. Brandon Crawford delivered a two-strike double just prior to Joe Panik driving a double to the deepest part of the yard, easily delivering the win to the Giants dugout in a raucous celebration amongst fans and players alike.

The Giants live for at least another day. It’s their 10th consecutive elimination game win. Guys, that is an insane number. Even if they lose tomorrow.

Yes, this magic could run out tomorrow, but boy, we’ve witnessed its glory over two memorable games and four memorable post seasons. Go get ’em, Matt Moore, you even-year-grinning assassin. God damn, my liver can’t take this. And it’s my wedding anniversary tomorrow.

Chad

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The Next Three Games are Elimination Games

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Travis Wood became just the second relief pitcher ever to hit a postseason home run. (Photo: Dennis Wierzbicki, USA TODAY Sports)

Ok, the title of this article is a little prophetic, I admit.

After the Giants fell to the Cubs 5-2 tonight, they find themselves in a 0-2 hole in the best of five NLDS, a situation in which they need to win three straight games, which they did twice in 2012 against the Reds and then the Cardinals (being down 3-1 in a best of seven). So, they’ve done it before, but against this Cubs club? They are clearly the better team, but that doesn’t always guarantee a ring, obviously.

If a comeback is to materialize, it begins on Monday with Bumgarner, Mr. October 2, toeing the rubber against Jake Arrieta. Bumgarner has 23 consecutive scoreless innings, and the Giants have won nine consecutive elimination games. Sounds good, but even if they extend that streak to 10, they’ll need Moore to pitch well in game 4 and of course, Cueto back in Chicago for game 5. Possible, but not likely.

It was crucial for the Giants to split in Chicago, and the key was definitely game 1. That is a game that could have gone the other way, but the Giants made crucial base-running mistakes, and never got a hit with a runner in scoring position. Tonight, Cubs pitchers knocked in three runs, one more than the Giants have in two games.

Samardzija “earned” this start, according to Bruce Bochy, but his poor stats at Wrigley, and against teams he used to play for (9+ ERA), confirmed the foreshadow. He struggled with pitch count and location, and allowed a crucial two-run single to starting pitcher Kyle Hendricks, which extended the inning for the next ensuing RBI hit, putting the Cubs up 4-0. George Kontos had an excellent third inning, but after Travis Wood relieved Kyle Hendricks after he exited the game after being hit on the arm by a Pagan line drive, Kontos promptly gave up only the second homerun hit by a relief pitcher in postseason history, in the fourth, to finalize the score at 5-2. That energized the crowd at Wrigley shortly after Giants fans and the media were wondering if the Billy Goat curse manifested itself in the injury to Hendricks.

Apparently not.

We’ll never know if Moore would have performed better, but many Giants fans preferred the latter option, given his last two starts that helped the Giants seal the second wild card. Besides, it’s hard to win a game at Wrigley with just two runs. We may get a chance to see Moore on Tuesday, should the Giants take game 3.

On the positive side, the Giants bullpen threw six innings, only giving up one run (that rogue relief pitcher HR by Wood), and Ty Blach looked good, setting down the 3-6 hitters in order. He looks to be a valuable asset and possible starter in 2017.

After their horrid second half, the Giants are fortunate to be in the NLDS, erasing that memory, but their performance in these first two games is a reminder of the offensive struggles that permeated the summer months. Of course, facing the #1, 2, and 3 leaders in ERA in the NL in their first three games didn’t help that. Jake Arrieta struggled at times this year, but has a swagger that almost matches Bumgarner, and is a Cy Young winner, so I don’t think Monday will be a cakewalk, especially if the Giants don’t score more than a few runs.

We’ll have to wait and see, one game at a time, if the even-year magic has run its course or not.

Chad

 

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Episode #114: Heading to Chicago! NLDS Preview

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MadBum continued his legendary postseason performance with a 3-0 complete game shutout victory over the Mets in the NL Wild Card game. (photo: AP)

Download the podcast here, or stream it below!

Willie, Chad and Eric soak in the post-wild card game glory of another legendary performance by Madison Bumgarner and another unlikely postseason hero as Conor Gillaspie hits a 3-run homer in the 9th to defeat the Mets 3-0 and move on to face the best team in the majors, the Chicago Cubs.

The Giants have now won 11 consecutive postseason series, tying the Yankees, and Bum has 23 scoreless innings in elimination games in the postseason, and lowers his road postseason ERA to a microscopic 0.50, easily the best in the history of baseball.

We revel in the stats, the momentum and talk about how the pressure now is really on the Cubs.

Join us for episode 114, it’s a good time!

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Episode #113: We’re In!

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Wildcard game to take it all. Bum vs. Thor. Courtesy of “The City Graphics”

Download the episode here, or click the stream below!

Somehow, some way, the Giants figured out how to win five of their last six games, including a sweep of the Dodgers at AT&T Park to stave off the also-surging Cardinals by one game.

Their reward? At least one postseason game. But, what a game this will be with postseason hero Madison Bumgarner dueling Thor himself, Noah Syndergard at Citi Field on Wednesday night.

The whole crew (Chad, Eric, Willie and Ben) talk about this magical one game of barf-baggedness. Will the Giants keep their undefeated postseason streak under Bochy alive? (They’ve won all 10 under him). Or, will an unfortunate error, or mistake by Bum produce a heart-breaker for us Giants’ fans?

All I know is that I’m going to have an industrial-sized barf bucket nearby.

Chad

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162

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Marty Lurie always cites that the baseball season is a “mosaic of 162 games.” Welp, we’re down to game number 162, and things still need to be settled with the Cardinals trailing the Giants by a game, anything could happen tomorrow.

Here are the two possible scenarios:

1. Giants win or Cardinals lose: the Giants clinch the second wild card berth and will head to New York to play the Mets on Wednesday.

2. Giants lose AND Cardinals win: Giants will have to travel to St. Louis for game #163 (still considered part of the regular season) to earn the right to play the Mets in New York on Wednesday. The Cards hold the tiebreaker on the Giants (4 games to 3 in their regular season series).

What I can’t help imagine is all of the blown saves this year, including the 9 games lost when heading into the 9th with the lead. Additionally, the Giants never won a single game this year when trailing heading into the 9th. It’s some weird voodoo baseball god magic that has turned the balance on the law of averages for the sole purpose of blessing Giants fans with that dreadful feeling of “torture.”

Of course, the biggest blown save right now is the won they blew a few weeks ago to the Cards (I’M LOOKING AT YOU BOCHY FOR PUTTING CASILLA BACK IN AFTER YOU SAID YOU WOULDN’T). That represents a two-game swing, meaning the Giants would’ve clinched the wild card after Friday night’s win, and these last two games would have been torture-free.

It’s quite something, however, to see all three teams, the Mets, Cards, and Giants, who had been playing mediocre ball, at best, over the last few weeks, suddenly respond and turn it on. All three teams have won three in a row.

On our last podcast, both Eric and I agreed that over their last six games, the Giants would have to win at least four to get the playoff spot. Well, they’ve already won four with one to go. Apparently all that four wins guaranteed is an extra game in St. Louis.

Let’s just thank those same odds-busting baseball gods that a rookie earned his first major league win by shutting out the Dodgers over eight incredible innings and beat, you know, CLAYTON F’N KERSHAW! I honestly chalked this one up as a loss before the game.

Both the Cards and Giants start their games at the exact same time tomorrow, so it’s going to be simultaneous torture.

Baseball is weird. Let’s not get too weird tomorrow.

Oh wait, yes it can. Ryan Vogelsong is pitching for Pittsburgh against the Cardinals.

EAT YOUR #RALLYENCHILADAS!

 

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Episode #112: The Final Stretch

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Remember when the Giants backed into a wild card spot in 2014? What happened next? Just sayin’

You can download the episode here, or stream it below!

The Giants went 5-9 since we recorded two weeks ago, just when we thought they were turning the corner. Those 9 losses included 3 in which they led going into the 9th, including vs. STL and LA. Not gonna lie. Those losses hurt, A LOT. And now, they’re having a direct impact on the Giants’ chances of making the playoffs, but here they sit, 1/2 game back of NY and 1 game up on STL.

Eric and Chad talk about the final six games of the year, and the keys to securing a wild card spot, now that LA has clinched the NL West.

Please enjoy, what will most likely be our last regular season podcast of 2016. Hopefully, we’ll have a playoff edition for episode 113. Disregard that 13 part of the number.

RIP Jose Fernandez

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Giants Lose to Cardinals. Matt Cain Explains.

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You can download the interview with Matt Cain here, or stream it below!

Ok, Matt Cain doesn’t explain why they lost, but he has a message for Giants fans: they signed up for criticism, and they do deserve some right now, but they are in control of their own destiny.

I talked with Matt Cain after the Giants lost 3-0 to the Cardinals. The Giants now trail the Mets by 1 game and lead the Cardinals by only 1 game. He did mention Rally Cupcakes. So, Giants fans, eat those cupcakes, their playoff hopes hang in the balance.

Chad

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Casilla Blows Another Save. Everything is OK.

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The Giants blew another 9th inning lead tonight. In fact, it was their 8th loss after leading in the ninth. Never mind the 28 blown saves that lead the NL. At least they won some of those games. But, 8 losses after leading after 9 (2 of them came after leading by 3 in the 9th, btw) is SOUL-CRUSHING. Let’s look at the what ifs:

  1. If they won tonight (blowing only 7 9th inning leads), they’d trail the NL West by 4 and lead the Mets by 1 and Cardinals by 4 in the wild card.
  2. If they had only blown 6 ninth inning leads, they would trail LA by 3 and lead the Mets by 2 and Cards by 5.
  3. If they had only blown 5 ninth inning leads, they would trail LA by 2 and lead the Mets by 3 and Cards by 6.
  4. If they had only blown 4 ninth inning leads, they would trail LA by 1 and lead the Mets by 4 and Cards by 7.
  5. If they had only blown 3 ninth inning leads, they would be TIED WITH LA and lead the Mets by 5 and Cards by 8.
  6. If they had only blown 2 ninth inning leads, they would LEAD LA by 1 and lead the Mets by 6 and Cards by 9.
  7. Ok, so most teams don’t blow more than a few leads in the ninth, so I’ll stop here. Most teams blow a lead or two or three, but not EIGHT!!

Point being, the Giants are still in this race, but the NL West is most likely out, unless they go 6-0 against the Dodgers.

Let’s hope they win tomorrow, because if they don’t, the Giants may miss out on the playoffs by 1 or 2 games, and it will all come down to the bullpen in the 9th.

Did anyone think that Casilla would be called upon again? I’m shocked that he’s still in the “rotation,” but I don’t think we see him again in the regular season in a save situation after the boos that rained down on him and Bochy tonight.

Chad

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Episode #111: The Turnaround?

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The majestic Pence beard has awoken from its slumber. (photo: Darin Wallentine/Getty Images)

Download the episode here, or stream it below!

Hey, the Giants have won 4 out of their last 5 and turned a 1-4 roadtrip into a 5-5 with great starting pitching and Hunter Pence playing like frickin’ Hunter Pence, wildly flailing appendages, hair and all!

The Giants still have a slim shot at the division and hold a lead on a wild card spot. Chad and Eric talk about their chances, Santiago Casilla, and if Bochy has developed dementia all in episode 111.

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