2002 ALCS Game 2

August 19, 2014

October 9, 2002

Mychael Urban’s article at MLB.com described a bit of a role reversal, similar to Game 1 of the ALDS:

MINNEAPOLIS — The Twins are the best defensive team in baseball, and they work so well in the giant sandwich bag that is the Metrodome that they might have the best home-field advantage in baseball, too.

But you wouldn’t have known that while watching the top of the second inning in Game 2 of the American League Championship Series on Wednesday. Balls that usually haunt Minnesota’s opponents here fell in favor of the Angels, and a rare Twins defensive lapse helped Anaheim score its fourth run in a 6-3 win that sent the series West in a deadlock.

“They play the game just like we do, and I saw that in the second inning,” said Twins center fielder Torii Hunter. “They did everything we usually do.”

The story of the pitching matchup pre-game had been home runs. Twins starter Rick Reed had allowed four in Game 3 of the ALDS a week before. Ramon Ortiz of the Angels had allowed 40 on the year, including three to the Twins in a game in May.

The Angels got to Reed with the long ball early when Darin Erstad hit a bomb in the first inning, but in the end it was sloppy defense and Angels’ hustle that did the Twins in. The Angels took the extra bases, forced throwing errors, and generally created havoc on the base paths to score three in the second inning.

Reed allowed another home run, this time a two-run shot to Troy Glaus in the top of the 6th, that ended Reed’s game and gave the Angels a 6-0 lead.

By the time the Twins bats woke up in the bottom of the 6th, it was too late. The result was a 6-3 Angels win and a 1-1 series headed west to Anaheim.


1. Brad Fullmer 0.12
2. Troy Percival 0.10
3. Doug Mientkiewicz 0.09

…and the worst…

1. Rick Reed -0.25
2. Adam Kennedy -0.09



2002 ALCS Game 1

August 17, 2014

October 8, 2002

Joe Mays was masterful in Game 1 of the ALCS against the Anaheim Angels, looking more like he did in 2001 than his 2002 numbers suggest. The Angels, who were fresh off a series against the Yankees in which they averaged nearly eight runs per game, looked off balance throughout the game. Mays allowed just four hits over the course of eight innings pitched, and if it weren’t for a ball that shortstop Cristian Guzman allowed through his legs, Mays would have held the Angels scoreless.

An interesting story about the decision to bring Guardado in to finish the game despite Mays only having thrown 99 pitches from Stew Thornley’s article in the SABR Games Project:

The Twins took their 2-1 lead into the ninth, and Gardenhire brought in Eddie Guardado to finish it off. Mays had delivered 99 pitches in what he called “the game of my career,” and had been asked how he was feeling by pitching coach Rick Anderson in the last of the eighth. “I said, ‘I feel great. I’ll go out there and close this out if you like me to. But Eddie’s been doing it all year, that’s his job.’ I gave him the option.

“It took me a little longer to loosen up in the eighth inning. That was the only reason I gave him that option. Otherwise, I would have told him I was ready to go back out there.”

The Twins scored on AJ Pierzynski’s second inning sacrifice fly that knocked in Torii Hunter who had doubled earlier in the inning, and on a Corey Koskie double to right field in the fifth inning.

1. Joe Mays 0.49
2. Eddie Guardado 0.17
3. Corey Koskie 0.15

Tough day for the middle of the Angels’ order, which went 0-for-8 combined:

1. Garret Anderson -0.17
2. Troy Glaus -0.17




2002 ALDS Game 5

August 14, 2014

October 6, 2002

“You can’t get rid of the Twins,” left-fielder Jacque Jones said. “[Contraction proponents] tried it. Then the strike situation. The Oakland A’s were up 2-1 [in the series]. We just never quit.” – Jacque Jones

You can forgive the 2002 Twins for assigning more meaning to their ALDS win over the Oakland A’s. Just a year before, there were reasons to have serious doubts if there even would be a 2002 Minnesota Twins.

While there was drama throughout Game 5, it looked as though the Twins had put the game away heading into the bottom of the ninth with a three-run top of the ninth.

The inning started when Dustan Mohr drew a walk from A’s closer Billy Koch. The next batter, AJ Pierzysnki, made a 2-1 Twins lead into a 4-1 lead with one swing of the bat. He reportedly said “Booya” as he stomped on home plate**, causing Koch to refer to him as a “jackass” in some post game interviews.

**It was later revealed that it may have been Dustan Mohr who yelled “Booya” at home plate, but this may be a case where facts get in the way of a good story – this was a very Pierzynski thing to say.

A David Ortiz RBI double made the score 5-1, which seemed like a safe lead with one of the best closers in baseball on the mound. As it turned out, two of the first three A’s batters reached safely, and Mark Ellis hit a three-run home run to pull the A’s within one. After getting the second out of the inning, Eddie Guardado provided more drama by allowing Randy Velarde, the tying run, to reach with a single. Finally, the game and series ended when he coaxed a foul ball pop out from the bat of Ray Durham.

The celebration ended the post season for Denny Hocking, who was the most valuable position player in the game according to WPA.

1. Brad Radke 0.35
2. Mark Mulder 0.17
3. Denny Hocking 0.14

Hocking, of course, had his finger spiked by a teammate in the celebration. Lost in all of the late inning drama, however, was how good Brad Radke had been.

One big key to the Twins’ advancement is their starting pitcher, Brad Radke. The long-time ace right-hander delivered in the biggest game of his career, going 6 2/3 innings and allowing one run on six hits with no walks and four strikeouts.

“He has been our man for a long time here,” Gardenhire said. “And he did it again today. He picked up our baseball team again, and it was vintage Brad Radke — [he] used all his pitches [and] got us through the 7th inning.”

Bottom WPA:

1. Jacque Jone -0.20
2. Terrence Long -0.20



2002 ALDS Game 4

August 12, 2014

October 5, 2002

In Game 4, it was Oakland’s turn to meltdown defensively. With two on in the home-half of the fourth inning and the score tied at two:

Luis Rivas then slapped a routine force-play grounder to Miguel Tejada at shortstop. As Mientkiewicz ran to third, Tejada’s throw sailed over Eric Chavez’s head at third base and into the Twins’ dugout, allowing the runner to score.

Hudson followed with a wild pitch to Jacque Jones, bringing Pierzynski home to make it 4-2, advancing Rivas to third base. Guzman hit a grounder at Scott Hatteberg at first base. Hatteberg fired home on a fielder’s choice to get Rivas, but his throw bounced off the dirt in front of catcher Ramon Hernandez for the inning’s second error. Rivas was safe at home, giving the Twins a 5-2 lead and Jones advanced to second base.

Another wild pitch and RBI hits by Hunter and Mientkiewicz finished the scoring in what turned out to be a seven-run inning for the Twins.

Later, in the bottom of the seventh, Mienkiewicz knocked a two-run home run to complete the scoring in an 11-2 Twins win.

“We just made a couple of throwing errors in the same inning, and that kind of opened the door,” A’s manager Art Howe said. “Then they strung a lot of hits together after that [and] broke the game wide open.

“Hudson pitched a lot better than the way it looked. [He] should have been out of that inning, probably, with no runs being scored. But that’s baseball.”

Eric Milton pitched well despite giving the A’s an early lead with a two-run home run off the bat of Miguel Tejada, who was, according to WPA, the game’s most valuable player.

1. Miguel Tejada 0.16
2. David Ortiz 0.15
3. Jermaine Dye, Luis Rivas 0.12

WPA was not as forgiving as Art Howe with Tim Hudson:

1. Tim Hudson -0.37
2. Ted Lilly -0.10




2002 ALDS Game 3

August 10, 2014

October 4, 2002

Rick Reed felt that he had some explaining to do after the Twins lost game three in front of the largest crowd in Twins history.

“I think I’m going to take full responsibility for this loss,” Reed said. “You got to give those guys lots of credit. They came out swinging the bats early, and they jumped on us early.”

The A’s took a 2-1 series lead on the strength of four solo home runs, all off of Twins’ starter Rick Reed, who set a new ALDS record for most home runs allowed in a single game.

The first was an unconventional inside-the-park home run off the bat of lead off man Ray Durham.

Ray Durham roped a tailing line drive to center field that was misplayed by All-Star Torii Hunter. The ball rolled to the wall for an inside-the-park home run.

Joe LaPointe had a more descriptive take on the play:

On the third pitch of the game, Durham lined a hit over second base. Torii Hunter, the center fielder for Minnesota, hesitated, charged toward the ball and then pulled up. The ball bounced directly in front of him, skipped past him and rolled to the fence, 408 feet from home plate, on the artificial turf. Durham began sprinting.

”He’s a tremendous center fielder, and I finally got one by him,” Durham said of Hunter. ”I’d definitely rather be jogging, but I’ll take it anyway I can get it.”

Durham said he expected to be held up at third base by the coach, Ron Washington, who waved him home. ”What, you’re kidding me!” Durham said he thought.

Reed also set another new mark, this one more positive. He struck out eight in his five innings of work, most by a Twins pitcher in postseason history.

That was small consolation for the Twins, who were looking at facing Tim Hudson and, if they could prolong the series, Mark Mulder in successive elimination games.

The game also featured a “Metrodome moment” when Scott Hatteberg lost a pop fly in the roof. He was still looking straight up when the ball landed 20 feet behind him.

I don’t believe WPA took Hunter’s misplay into account, so he was the top performer thanks to a big day at the plate.

1. Torii Hunter 0.19
2. Randy Velarde 0.16
3. Scott Hatteberg 0.13

Unsurprising despite the 8 K’s:

1. Rick Reed -0.22
2. Luis Rivas -0.21


2002 ALDS Game 2

August 7, 2014

October 2, 2002

Once again the A’s took an early lead, but this time there was no miraculous comeback by the Twins.

The good news was that Cristian Guzman hit a home run in the 6th inning.

Unfortunately for the Twins, that made the score 9-1 Oakland.

The A’s scored three runs in the first inning on a three-run home run by Eric Chavez. They added five more in the fourth inning. Joe Mays was knocked out after Miguel Tejada’s RBI double made the score 4-0. Ultimately, he was credited with six earned runs on nine Oakland hits.

“I didn’t do my job,” Mays said. “They were going after the sinker down and away, and I didn’t effectively pitch inside. That’s what I get. They know I’m a sinkerball pitcher, and they just went out there and got it.”

Tony Fiore, who took over for Mays, didn’t do much better, allowing a bases-clearing triple to David Justice and an RBI double to Mark Ellis in the same inning. Fiore also allowed an RBI single in the fifth.

The final score was 9-1. By the end, the Twins were glad to have earned a split in the first two games on the West Coast, but felt they missed an opportunity to head home up 2-0.

The A’s starting pitcher was the most valuable player according to WPA.

1. Mark Mulder 0.19
2. Eric Chavez 0.173. Scott Hatteberg 0.06

Not shocking to see a duo of Twins pitchers in the bottom two.

1. Joe Mays -0.22
2. Tony Fiore -0.08


AJ Pierzynski’s diary

2002 ALDS Game 1

August 5, 2014

October 1, 2002

The first hurdle for the Twins, who many assumed were just happy to be a part of the postseason for the first time in a decade, was to get to the ballpark.

It seemed that the Twins were on the wrong track, literally, before even getting to the ballpark. A car accident that blocked traffic on the Bay Bridge connecting Oakland and San Francisco prompted several players to skip the team bus and take public transportation from their hotel to the game. Several boarded the wrong BART train and went in the wrong direction, including starter Brad Radke.

“It was odd,” Radke said. “We decided to hop on the BART and it just didn’t work out.”

“We just realized that we’re not the brightest bunch of guys,” said first baseman Doug Mientkiewicz, who took the right train to the game.

They all made it, but perhaps they could have used a bit more time to get used to the spotlight of the postseason. The Twins looked lost for the first three innings, committing three errors in the field on the way to allowing 5 runs in the first two innings.

“We came out a little tighter than I thought we would,” Gardenhire said.

It was a comedy of errors that 2002 Twins fans were not used to. Throughout the season the Twins were highly regarded as the best defensive team in baseball. ESPN had even devoted an entire “web gems” segments to “Twins gems” late in the season. None of those things were evident in the first three innings at Oakland, and it looked as though the team was going to get blown out of the ballpark.

Down 5-1 after the first two innings and things looking bleak, the Twins started showing some more stability in the field, and a little life at the plate, when Corey Koskie made up for his contributions to the errors with a two-run home run in the top of the third inning.

“Everything fell back into place,” Gardenhire said. “Right then, I think our guys said, ‘Hey, we got a shot here. Keep playing boys.’ I thought it was huge.”

“It was frustrating and we were mad about [the mistakes],” said Radke, who allowed one earned run on eight hits and a walk while getting three strikeouts over five innings. “But we certainly weren’t ready to quit. We’ve been down before. We knew we could come back. Corey’s home run really got us going.”

Koskie came up big again later in the game when he drove in the go-ahead, and eventual winning run, in the top of the sixth. It was the tail end of a three-run inning in which the Oakland bullpen unraveled almost as much as the Twins’ defense had earlier in the game. After Mienkiewicz knocked out starter Tim Hudson with a solo home run, the Oakland pen allowed three consecutive hits, including a Jacque Jones double that tied the score.

AJ Pierzynski added an insurance run with an RBI triple in the seventh.

Meanwhile, the Twins bullpen, a strength all season, came through with scoreless efforts by Johan Santana (1.2 IP 1 H), JC Romero (1.1 IP 1 H), and Eddie Guardado (1.0 IP 1 H).

A’s 3B Eric Chavez may have summed up the afternoon best:

“The Twins played horrible and fantastic all in the same game,” Chavez said. “And they’re only going to play better from here on out.”

Two of the top game WPA belonged to the Twins bullpen.

1, AJ Pierzynski 0.30
2. Johan Santana 0.14
3. JC Romero 0.13

Ted Lilly didn’t even pitch a full inning but he was the goat according to WPA, just edging out Twins’ starter Radke, who allowed all five runs though only one was earned.

1. Ted Lilly -0.24
2. Brad Radke -0.23


The Franchise 2002 (Pitchers)

July 31, 2014

SP Rick Reed 2.8 WAR
Almost a decade after the fact, Rick Reed told Anthony McCarron from the New York Daily News that  the day he was traded to the Twins the day baseball died for him.

“I wish I could’ve ended my career in New York,” Reed says. “When I was traded, I was tore up. I can say it now that I’m not playing. That’s how much we loved New York. Did I compete when I went to Minnesota? Absolutely. But there’s no place like New York.”

The numbers in 2002 certainly indicate this was not Tom Herr all over again. At the age of 37, Reed was the team’s healthiest, and therefore most consistent, starting pitcher.

SP Eric Milton 1.2 WAR
Eric Milton was not having a great season, though he seemed to be heading in the right direction when he heard his knee pop during warm ups for an early August game. It turned out he needed surgery. A month later, in the first start back, Ron Gardenhire pulled Milton with no outs in the fourth inning, starting an exchange with the manager that may have hastened the pitcher’s exit from Minnesota.

After being removed, Milton was visibly upset and was seen throwing his glove in the dugout. He had just been activated from the disabled list, but challenged Gardenhire’s rationale.

“I think that’s a bogus statement,” was among Milton’s comments on Monday. “If he thinks or the pitching coach thinks I can’t field a bunt without getting hurt, I shouldn’t be out there in the first place.”

Gardenhire said Milton never spoke to him personally about the situation.

“I haven’t talked to Milton at all,” Gardenhire said. “He didn’t point his emotions toward me. If he had done that, he would have come into this room. When he’s going out there and talking to you guys (the media), he’s not coming in here and talking to me.

“If somebody has something to say, they should come say it to me, really, if they have a problem or something they don’t like. That was a wrong way to go about his business as far as I’m concerned.”

Milton struggled in his next few starts, but pitched very well in his two playoff starts. The knee continued to be a problem, however, and Milton required another surgery in March of 2003. Though the expected return was two months, he ended up only making three starts late in the 2003 season. He was traded to the Phillies in the next offseason for Carlos Silva, Nick Punto, and Bobby Korecky.

SP Kyle Lohse 2.3 WAR
Lohse came into his own as a regular in the Twins rotation in 2002. It was a bit of a quiet emergence with Radke, Reed, Milton, Mays and later Santana also in the rotation.

SP Brad Radke 0.6 WAR
With all of the talk of contraction during the offseason, it would have been understandable if Brad Radke had exercised the escape clause in his contract to become a free agent. He stuck it out through the uncertainty, however, and stayed with the Twins. Radke’s workload was dramatically reduced in 2002 due to a few stints on the disabled list with a strained groin, though he credited the extra rest with keeping him stronger for the playoff run, in which the Radke made three very strong starts.

SP Joe Mays 0.1 WAR
After pitching ineffectively in his first three starts, Mays lost the rest of the first half of the season to an elbow injury. When he returned in late July he showed some flashes of his 2001 performance and some indication of regression. The highlights of the season were a shutout against Pedro Martinez and the Red Sox in August, and his mastery of the Angels in Game 1 of the ALCS.

SP Johan Santana 2.6 WAR
When Johan Santana joined the major league team on May 31 it was to fill in for the starting rotation through all of the injuries. He pitched extremely well while rarely being allowed to go deep into games. When the starting rotation became mostly healthy in September, Santana worked out of the bullpen.

CL Eddie Guardado 2.0 WAR
In addition to installing Jones as the everyday lead of hitter, Gardenhire also handed the job of closer to veteran Eddie Guardado. “Every Day Eddie” responded by having a career year, including a league leading 45 saves. What is interesting about Guardado, however, is that even with his gaudy numbers he was only the third most valuable reliever on the 2002 team. It says more about the role of closer than the talent of the players involved.

RP LaTroy Hawkins 2.3 WAR
Hawkins bounced back from a terrible season and a failed attempt at closing games to become one of the most dominant right-handed set up men in the league. One of the biggest changes was his walk rate: he went from walking 6.8 men per 9 IP in 2001 to walking just 1.7 men per 9 IP. His strikeout rate improved as well, and opponents batted just .217/.253/.307/.560 off of him. It was a dramatic turnaround for a guy who entered spring training with some uncertainty as to whether he would even make the team.

RP JC Romero 3.5 WAR
Romero was largely an ineffective starting pitcher in his first two seasons with the Twins, but his performance as a LOOGY in 2002 was dominant. While he was prone to walking batters (4.0 per 9 IP), when opponents did get hits off of him in 2002 it was usually just singles – he allowed a .289 slugging percentage. All-in-all, Romero was worth more WAR than any other Twins pitcher in 2002 even though he pitched in a very specialized role. Taken in combination with Hawkins, the Twins had the best 1-2 bullpen punch in baseball.

RP Tony Fiore 1.9 WAR
The Twins acquired Tony Fiore in mid-season 2001 when the Devil Rays released him. He pitched four games in 2001, but did not pitch full time until 2002. Fiore was the team’s long reliever (and occasional spot starter) who was famous for the palm ball, and for winning games. In 2002 he pitched very well, but relied on pitching in the right place at the right time to earn a 10-3 rccord out of the bullpen.

RP Michael Jackson 1.2 WAR
Jackson had been the closer for the Cleveland Indians in the late 90’s, but he was 37 years old when he signed as a free agent with the Twins for the 2002 season. It turned out he had one more good season in him, and was a welcome addition to a very good Twins bullpen in 2002.


The Franchise 2002 (Position Players)

July 29, 2014

C AJ Pierzynski 2.3 WAR
While Pierzynski continued to be a consistent performer for the Twins in his second full season, his reputation for talking during games started to become more and more public. A “jackass” is the term Oakland closer Billy Koch used to describe Pierzysnki. Gardenhire appreciated the edge that the team gained from Pierzynski’s antics:

“Actually, it’s entertaining for me to watch guys get mad at him,” he said. “Then I know it’s taking away from their game.”

1B Doug Mientkiewicz 1.5 WAR
After flirting with .400 at the start of the 2001 season, Mientkiewicz’ batting average hovered around the .240 mark much of the season, causing a lot of concern from fans and from the player himself. The standard line in reports was that he still was a strong defender but he was struggling at the plate. Occasionally his .365 on-base percentage was mentioned, but it was still an undervalued skill at the time. Overall, his production was down, but 2002 was not as disappointing of a season for Mientkiewicz as it seemed at the time to many.

2B Luis Rivas -0.2 WAR
Rivas’ play did not improve. Though the Twins gave a returning Jay Canizaro some time at second base, there was never a time when Rivas’ job seemed to be in jeopardy.

SS Cristian Guzman 1.4 WAR
Whether it was due to lingering injuries or just natural regression, Guzman took a giant step back from his All-Star performance in 2001. Perhaps due to the fact that he flashed some brilliance a season before, Guzman seemed to get more pressure from management and fans to improve than his double play partner.

3B Corey Koskie 4.0 WAR
Another year, another really good season from Corey Koskie. At age 29, however, he was starting to show signs of breaking down. 2002 began a steady decline of appearances and an increase in disabled list visits.

LF Jacque Jones 5.4 WAR
One of Ron Gardenhire’s first moves as manager was to make Jacque Jones the every day lead off hitter despite his struggles against left-handed pitching. Jones responded with a monster season, his best in the major leagues. Though he improved against lefties, he still had a fairly drastic split (.590 vs. .952 OPS) and would have been better utilized with a right-handed platoon partner.

CF Torii Hunter 3.5 WAR
On a July 17th game at Cleveland, Torri Hunter took a Danys Baez pitch in the ribs. In response, he picked up the baseball and fired back at the Cleveland pitcher. Hunter was tossed from the game and served a three-game suspension later in the season. This came less than two weeks after Hunter became the hero of the famous Bud Selig All-Star tie game when he leaped over the fence to  take a home run away from Barry Bonds. Hunter had his best year so far at the plate, and won his second consecutive Gold Glove, cementing himself as the standout player of the young team.

RF Bobby Kielty 2.7 WAR
RF Dustan Mohr 2.2 WAR
RF Michael Cuddyer 0.8 WAR
While Gardenhire did not want to platoon in left field, right field was a different story. When the team dealt Brian Buchanan early in the season, it left a right-field by committee situation. As it settled for the bulk of the season, Dustan Mohr played against left-handed pitching and Bobby Kielty played against right-handed pitching. That all changed late in the season when Michael Cuddyer was called up and earned the starting job for the playoffs by impressing Ron Gardenhire with his play in September.

DH David Ortiz 1.3 WAR
While David Ortiz produced with a career year and was reportedly the most popular Twin in the clubhouse, he was still considered a frustration to management. Some of it was due to injuries, but the history of the Twins and David Ortiz seemed to have been a rocky one from the start in the mid-90’s, when the team reportedly tried to teach him to shorten his stroke and punch balls up the middle or hit them the other way. Ortiz was very critical of this approach after he was gone, and the results on the field once he moved on seem to suggest he might have been right. In any case, rather than offering the DH arbitration, the Twins decided to release him in December of 2002. He went on, of course, to have a Hall of Fame career with the Boston Red Sox, but it is easy to forget that every other team passed on Ortiz when the Twins let him go.

UT Denny Hocking 0.1 WAR
Hocking’s 2002 may best be remembered as the time when he made the last out of the ALDS only to sustain an injury in the celebration that caused him to miss the ALCS.


The Franchise 2002 (Part 1)

July 24, 2014

2002 Minnesota Twins

Manager: Ron Gardenhire 1st season (1st with Minnesota 94-67)
94 W 67 L 768 RS 712 RA 1st AL Central 13.5 GA (Chicago 81-81)
4.77 RPG (AL = 4.81) 4.12 ERA (AL = 4.46)
.703 DER (4th AL)

All Stars (3) Eddie Guardado, Torii Hunter, AJ Pierzynski

Franchise (1901-2002) 7510-8227-111; 31-35 Post Season; 19-21 WS
Washington (1901-1960) 4214-4864-104; 8-11 WS
Minnesota (1961-2002) 3296-3363-7; 23-24 Post Season; 11-10 WS

Although contraction had run into some significant legal walls, particularly in Minnesota, there was still some buzz that it might be on the table as the 2002 season opened.

While Selig’s plan loomed over the Twins like a storm cloud, it wasn’t enough to dampen the spirits of Twins fans who finally got  a taste of a winning team in 2001. The Twins only figured to be better in 2002, and that’s exactly what happened.

It is difficult to envision a small market team with more promise than this version of the Twins. Perhaps the biggest testament to this team is the career successes of its individual players, most of which occurred after the 2002 season. The roster had future stars (Hunter, Ortiz, Santana), and a load of future All-Stars and players who would play key roles on championship teams (sadly, with other teams). Additionally, the team had both Justin Morneau and Joe Mauer playing in the minor leagues at the time.

In some ways they lived up to the promise of 2002, bringing winning baseball to Minnesota for the bulk of the decade. Still, those Twins teams were never the best in the American League (maybe in 2006…) and they benefited a great deal from playing in a weak Central Division. In 2002, however, the playoff failures had not happened yet and it was a great time to be a Twins fan.


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