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Posts Tagged ‘Baltimore Ravens’

Papi picked up his seventh Edgar Martinez Outstanding DH Award.  And that’s pretty much it.  When Ben lays low, he really lays low.

In other news, the Bruins picked up big wins against the Sabres, Predators, Sens, and Jets but lost to the Sens and Isles.  The Pats beat the Ravens, 41-7, in that landslide win I was hoping for! And we continued that with a strong showing against the Bills, beating them 34-20.

Sports Illustrated Photo

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It’s the middle of March.  The roster is thinning down, and the team’s performance is moving up.  As Opening Day nears, the pitchers especially are the players to watch.  Wins and losses means nothing in Spring Training, when regulars routinely don’t complete games, but a game is a game, and you can watch a pitcher’s motion and see how comfortable he is with certain pitches and certain situations.  Also pay attention to defense and injury in the field.  These things won’t necessarily predict our performance this year, but at least we’ll be able to tell how ready this year’s team is to face the music when the season starts.  Honestly, I have to say, it looks pretty good.

Nava is surely going to win a spot on the bench now that he’s proven himself at first, where he’s seen playing time this spring.  Drew has been out with a concussion that he sustained after getting hit by a pitch.  Papi started running the bases a bit but, due to soreness in his right foot derived from his Achilles injury, he’s had to take it easy as well.  While he’s sat out, Farrell’s been rotating the DH spot.  Unfortunately, he may very well start the season on the disabled list.  So will Breslow, due to problems with his left shoulder, and Morales, due to problems with his lower back.  Napoli actually saw action in consecutive days and managed to survive, which was a very good sign.  Aceves returned to camp after Team Mexico was eliminated from the World Baseball Classic.  Fortunately, he wasn’t injured in the significant brawl that broke out between Team Mexico and Team Canada when the former got upset because the latter bunted with the game practically won already.  Team Mexico didn’t know about the Classic’s tiebreakers, which use run differential, and thought it was bad form.  So several Canadian players ganged up on Aceves and dragged him to the ground.  Like I said, we’re pretty lucky he wasn’t injured.  Victorino will also be heading back to camp now that Team USA is out.  Steven Wright, the knuckleballer who may not be, since he’s having some trouble getting a handle on the pitch, got cut along with Deven Marrero, Drake Britton, Justin Henry, Alex Hassan, Mark Hamilton, Jeremy Hazelbaker, Juan Carlos Linares, Pedro Beato, Rubby De La Rosa, Allen Webster, Christian Velazquez, Daniel Butler, and Alex Wilson.  Ryan Westmoreland, once considered one of our best farmboys, is retiring.  We traded cash to Baltimore for Mike Flacco, who plays first base.  Yes, he’s the brother of Joe Flacco.  Yaz made his annual visit to camp, making the rounds with current Sox and former teammates.

Now let’s talk action.  We beat the Rays on March 4, 5-1.  Doubront made his debut and tossed 1.2 shutout innings including a hit, two walks, and two K’s.  Carpenter also tossed a shutout frame to end the game.  Iglesias went two for two with two doubles; Salty also had a double to his credit, and Overbay tripled.  We were back in action Wednesday opposite the Pirates, who beat us, 9-3.  On the bright side, Lester looked especially sharp; he hurled four comforting and relief-inspiring innings, during which he allowed one hit on two runs while walking three and striking out three.  I wasn’t a fan of the three walks, but it’s more important that he slowly but steadily lengthens his starts without also augmenting his run total.  Wright took the loss and gave up five runs on five hits; Tazawa pitched a shutout inning to end it.  Ciriaco went two for four, and Gomes and Salty both doubled.  We beat the Twins on Thursday, 12-5.  For the first three innings, it was all Buchholz, who dominated with a shutout performance and issued two hits, no walks, and four K’s.  Hanrahan delivered a deflating fail of a third of an inning, during which he gave up four runs on four hits, but Bard pitched a shutout inning.  Meanwhile, Pedroia and Napoli each collected two hits; Pedroia doubled and Napoli smacked a home run that seemed like he could really get used to the power again.  The Twins bested us the next day, though, with a shutout performance.  Dempster took the loss and gave up the game’s only two runs.  We lost to the O’s on Saturday, 5-2.  Doubront gave up two runs on four hits over three innings with a walk and five strikeouts; Hanrahan and Bailey both delivered shutout frames.  Salty had himself two hits, and Overbay doubled.

We beat the Rays on Sunday, 6-2.  Lackey worked three and two-thirds inning and gave up two runs on four hits, one of them a homer, while walking two and striking out two.  It doesn’t seem like much, but that start was better than most of the ones we’ve seen from him in recent memory; granted, it doesn’t take much from him at this point to constitute a good sign, but you have to start rebuilding somewhere.  Overbay went two for three, and Ross had himself a three-run jack.  The Marlins beat us on Monday, 8-7; Lester delivered five beautiful innings, giving up one run on three hits while walking none and striking out four.  Carpenter took the blown save and the loss, giving up two runs on two hits en route to recording the game’s last two outs.  Salty doubled, and Middlebrooks homered for the first time since getting injured! He looked mighty comfortable doing it, too.  Like he could do it again.  Repeatedly.  We beat the Jays on Tuesday, 5-3.  Buchholz kept up his strong performance with four shutout innings during which he issued one K and gave up three hits.  Bailey turned in a shutout inning of his own.  Nava, Napoli, and Sweeney each had two hits; Napoli, Sweeney, and Middlebrooks each hit doubles.

We had Wednesday off and bested the Twins on Thursday, 7-3.  Dempster picked up the win with four innings of one-run, three-hit ball; Bard pitched a shutout inning.  Ellsbury went two for three with a double; Iglesias smacked a double as well.  Friday’s game against Baltimore ended in a tie at three after ten; Mortensen started and tossed three shutout innings of two-hit ball, and no one had a multihit game.  We crushed Tampa Bay on Saturday, 9-2.  Aceves pitched four and one-third innings during which he gave up three runs, two earned, on six hits with one walk and five K’s.  Iglesias and Gomez both had two hits; Iglesias tripled, and Gomez doubled.  We beat Tampa Bay again yesterday, 5-1, on the shoulders of a literally perfect performance by Lester.  Six innings.  No runs.  No hits.  No walks.  Six K’s, or an average of one per inning.  Even Hanrahan got in the spirit and delivered a shutout inning.  It was only Spring Training, but it was a glorious indication of things to come.  Expect him to start on Opening Day for sure.  Middlebrooks went two for three, and Gomes was perfect at the plate; both doubled.

In other news, the Bruins lost to the Caps in sudden death but then beat the Leafs, Flyers, and Sens.  We lost to the Penguins and then beat the Panthers and Caps before losing to the Penguins again.

Boston Herald Staff/Christopher Evans

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This week was momentous.  This time of year usually is.  Because this week, my friends, we celebrated Truck Day! On Tuesday, all of our equipment rolled out for the long drive down to Fort Myers.  Spring Training has officially unofficially started! Man, it’s been a long winter.  It still is a long winter.  And we have a long way to go, but we’re getting there.  It’s February already, and since Truck Day has come and gone, Pitcher and Catchers is our next milestone, followed of course by the officially official start of Spring Training and then the season! We’re well on our way.  It may be freezing outside, and there may be snow in the air or on the ground, but we know that in Florida there is baseball to be played.  I can almost taste it, especially since Farrell is already talking about lineups; expect Ellsbury to bat first this year.

Pedro Martinez is back in Boston, in the front office this time; he’s a special assistant to Ben, and he’s basically going to advise the pitching staff.  Kalish had successful surgery on his right shoulder, but we re-signed Sweeney just in case.  We signed Lyle Overbay to a minor-league deal.  Terry Francona won the Judge Emil Fuchs Award, presented by the Boston Baseball Writers, for his service to the game.

Gary Tuck, our bullpen coach, decided to retire and has been replaced by Dana Levangie.  Remember him? Levangie was our bullpen coach for eight years, the last of which was 2004.  After that, he was an advance scout.  And now he’s back where he started.  Tuck was going to be the last man standing from last year’s staff, and he surely was a fantastic bullpen coach.  He expected nothing but the best from pitchers and catchers; he made our staff great, and he will be sorely missed.  Levangie has big shoes to fill, but seems like the logical choice.

Congratulations to the Red Sox and the Jimmy Fund, who celebrate sixty years of partnership this season.  This will be the inauguration of a suite available all season long for Jimmy Fund patients and their families.  A Jimmy Fund Chorus will also perform at the park.  This is one of those occasions when you feel really proud to support this organization.

Okay.  There’s something else that needs to be said, and I’m only going to say it once and then be done with it, because it’s that excruciating.  Kevin Youkilis is now a Yankee.  Like his predecessor, Johnny Damon, he has enlisted in the Evil Empire.  He has committed himself to the aiding and abetting of New York’s success.  Baseball is a complicated business these days; it’s a rare and happy find to discover a player whose sentimental connection with a particular team is strong.  In Boston, we’ve had a long tradition of such sentimental connections, and we still expect that from our players; we give them everything we’ve got, and we like to see the same in return.  So when one of our own, a homegrown farm boy no less, goes to the dark side, it’s extremely difficult to accept.  It was difficult to accept Damon doing it, and it’s no less difficult now.  We salute Youk and everything he has done for this team and this city.  He was a potent combination of hitting and fielding, volatility and versatility.  He had his good moments, and he had his bad moments, but he has left a legacy here of a stellar player.  I already made the tribute when he left, and we all know how awesome he was.  All I’m saying now is that it hurts.  It hurts, and it’s devastating, and we have to go through that pain all over again of seeing one of our own turn away from us.  That’s all I’m saying.

In other news, the Ravens won the Super Bowl, 34-31.  What a game.  It looked like the 49ers didn’t have a chance for most of it, and then it looked like the Ravens would be hard-pressed to keep them down after the power went out.  But alas, they pulled through.  At least now we get to say that it took a Super Bowl champion to defeat us this year.  The Bruins, for their part, have been doing quite well.  Since the shortened season’s first game, the Bruins have beaten the Jets by a score of 2-1, the Isles by a score of 4-2, the Canes by a score of 5-3, the Devils by a score of 2-1, the Leafs by a score of one-zip, and the Habs by a narrow yet satisfying score of 2-1.  We lost to the Rangers, 4-3, in sudden death and to the Sabres by the brutal score of 7-4.

Boston Globe Staff

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The wait is finally over; Mike Napoli is officially ours, but for a lot less, in terms of both time and money.  The original deal was three years worth thirty-nine million dollars.  The new deal is one year worth five million plus incentives to thirteen million.  The problem, as I and probably anyone else suspected, was physical.  During a physical, our doctors noticed something with his hip that caused some concern.  Though a catcher by trade, he’ll be our first baseman.  That’s certainly a better fit for his hip anyway.  So now we can stop wondering and get on with the rest of our baseball lives.

As usual, we avoided arbitration with quite a few guys.  Salty signed a one-year contract with no guarantee.  Ellsbury signed a one-year deal worth nine million dollars, which is an extra-criminal steal.  He’ll be a free agent after this year, so this is probably the last time in his career that he’ll earn less than ten million dollars per year, and even that’s low.  Breslow signed a multi-year deal.

Vicente Padilla has signed a one-year deal to pitch in Japan.  Lastly, Terry Francona, who now manages the Cleveland Indians, will have a memoir coming out tomorrow about his time with us.  It’s called “Francona: The Red Sox Years” and was co-written with Dan Shaughnessy.  An excerpt published earlier painted a less-than-rosy picture of Francona’s relationship with the brass, which he now says is a misrepresentation of his book overall.  Oh, the drama.

In other news, our Super Bowl drought continues.  The Pats beat the Texans in the division playoff, 41-28, but lost the conference championship to the Ravens last night, 28-13.  So that’s it.  Our season is over.  Yet another example of the fact that our offense, outstanding as it is, was a bad match against Baltimore’s defense, and our defense a bad match against Baltimore’s offense.  It was agonizing to watch and painful to recall.  On the bright side, the Bruins have come to the rescue! We beat the Rangers, 3-1, on Saturday in the first game of the shortened season.

The Joy of Sox

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Winning a close game in late innings is nice.  Winning a close game, period, is nicer.  But just plain winning at all is the nicest.  Especially against the Orioles with the way they’ve been playing this year.  By the way, let’s take a moment to ruminate on how strange and bizarre that really is.  I think I speak for everyone when I say that if you said during Spring Training that the Orioles would be in the elite of the AL East, it would have been absolutely impossible to believe.

And here we are sitting on top of one of the division’s best teams, for one game at least.  The whole thing was a pitcher’s duel right to the end.  Doubront, for his part, was absolutely stellar.  This was one of his best starts of the season.  He pitched seven innings, gave up one run on four hits, walked two, and struck out a career-high eleven batters. His command and control were phenomenal.  The end of the season is almost here, but he didn’t show it at all.  He looked like an old pro.  He went one-two-three in the first and fourth, and he issued one of his walks in the second and the other in the third.  He allowed his one run in the fifth and was actually fortunate to limit the damage; he opened the inning by allowing a single followed by a double and then an RBI single.  But he finished the inning strong with three straight outs.  He went one-two-three in the sixth and gave up a single in the seventh.

So the only inning during which the O’s had more than one runner on base on Doubront’s watch was the fifth when they scored.  And of his strikeouts, five were swinging, five were called, and one came on a foul tip.  His fastball, changeup, and curveball were the best I’ve ever seen them from him and were absolutely on fire; they were moving when they were supposed to and not when they weren’t.  He was a master.  In short, he was absolutely fantastic.

Tazawa took the ball in the eighth and sent down his three batters.  Bailey came in for the ninth and got into, and then fortunately out of, trouble.  He induced a groundout to start the inning but then gave up a single and a double before issuing an intentional walk, which loaded the bases.  But the inning ended up ending without incident thanks to a force out and a strikeout.

Meanwhile, we actually had scored first, so Baltimore’s run actually tied the game.  We had two on in the first, one on in the second, and none on in the third.  But Ross singled to lead off the fourth, Loney walked, Salty flied out, and Valencia grounded into a force out which scored Ross.  Loney was out at second, Valencia ended up reaching first on a throwing error, and Nava singled after that, but the inning ended with Iglesias flying out.

We went down in order in the fifth and we had one on in the sixth and seventh.  We scored our winning run and the last run of the game in the eighth.  Pedroia and Ross hit back-to-back doubles to lead it off, and that was that.  Literally, because the inning ended with three straight flyouts.

Unfortunately, Doubront wasn’t in line for the win, so Tazawa got it, and Bailey picked up the save.  The final score, obviously, was 2-1.  And it was sweet.

Last but not least, Fenway Park opened after the game for a special and well-deserved tribute to Johnny Pesky.  Sox greats through the ages gathered to celebrate the man, the myth, and the legend.  Pesky was a great man, and there was a lot to celebrate.  And I have to think that Pesky would really have enjoyed Ross’s catch in the first of a ball that looked very much like a Pesky-esque home run for the Orioles.  The catch looked so unlikely, and yet Ross did it right at the Pesky Pole.  I think Pesky would really, really have enjoyed that.

In other news, the Pats dropped an exasperatingly close one to the Ravens, losing by the brutal score of 31-30.

Boston Globe Staff/Yoon S. Byun

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We celebrated another anniversary this week, also epic, also on a Wednesday.  Six years ago this past Wednesday, we won Game Four of the 2004 World Series.  We swept the Cardinals right out of St. Louis, broke the Curse of the Bambino, vindicated one Nation under Sox, and ushered in a new era of dominance by Boston baseball.  The ALCS victory was the greatest comeback in sports history, but the World Series was the greatest win in sports history, period.  Never gets tired, never gets old, and never gets forgotten.  I still get chills when I think about Foulke to Mientkiewicz.

Meanwhile, we have a problem.  It’s a huge problem.  Congratulations to John Farrell, the new manager of the Toronto Blue Jays.  He’ll be missed.  He’ll be sorely missed.  That’s our problem.  Let’s temporarily forget about the fact that Jays pitching is known to give us trouble in September.  More importantly and urgently, we now need a new pitching coach.  Let’s not kid ourselves; Farrell was awesome.  He was great.  He was one of the best pitching coaches you could possibly have asked for.  He knew the staff inside-out, and he’d worked previously with V-Mart.

We’re looking inside and outside.  So far, we’ve interviewed former A’s pitching coach Curt Young.  We’re going to interview Ralph Truel, our minor league pitching coordinator, and Major League advance scout Mike Cather this week.  We also might be looking at Brewers pitching coach Rick Peterson, who worked with Tito when he was in Oakland.  At this point, whether the guy comes from the outside or the inside is not the issue.  The guy just has to be good.  Only two of our starters are home-grown, so it’s not like Truel would have that much of an edge over the other three.  The guy also has to be hired as soon as possible so he can start, because he’s got a lot of work to do.

The front office will also be busy, and not just because the stove is about to get hot.  A new agreement between the players’ union and the owners has shortened the free agent exclusivity period from fifteen to five days after the conclusion of the World Series.  That moves up the deadline for teams to offer arbitration by about a week, and so has the deadline for players to accept.  The tender deadline has moved up by at least a week.  I have faith that Theo is totally on top of his game.  I’m just saying that, with our own, we’re going to have to act fast.  Five days.  That’s, like, no time at all.  So we need to get moving.  We’re also going to have to be very shrewd in managing our payroll so it doesn’t get out of hand.

Congratulations to Wakefield, who won the 2010 Roberto Clemente Award for his community service.  He does it all, from local hospitals to the Jimmy Fund to Wakefield’s Warriors, where he invites children from the Franciscan Hospital and the Jimmy Fund to Tuesday home games to meet him and watch batting practice.  If you ask me, he’s been due for a long time now.  This was his eighth nomination.  But, ultimately, he gets exactly what he deserves.  Nobody deserves that award more than he does because, not only does he do a lot in the community, he does all of it quietly and without any thought about recognition for it.

Peter Gammons is convinced it’s going to be Carl Crawford, not Jayson Werth.  Papi wants an extension rather than just an option pick-up; no surprise there.

Good news: ticket prices will basically stay the same for 2011.  Bad news: it doesn’t matter much since most of us don’t purchase our tickets at face value anyway.

Other news: we shut out the Leafs on Thursday, two-zip.  Thomas made twenty saves.  Then we shut out the Sens yesterday, four-zip.  Krejci had a goal and an assist, and Thomas made twenty-nine saves.  Love it.  And the Pats beat the Chargers with the same final score we used to beat the Ravens: 23-20.  It was close, but it was still a win.  We’ve got the Vikings today.

AP Photo

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On Wednesday, we celebrated the sixth anniversary of the day we won Game Seven of the 2004 ALCS.  The day we hand-delivered a world of hurt to the New York Yankees.  The day we crafted a homemade mountain of win.  And the last day that we would believe and keep the faith in vain.  That day marked the greatest comeback in sports history and the beginning of a journey that would take us right to the first Rolling Rally in almost a century.  That, ladies and gentlemen, was an unbelievably miraculous day.  It’ll never get tired, it’ll never get old, and it’ll always remind us where we came from and how we got to where we are today.  The gift is in the struggle.  The struggle was long.  But now the struggle is over, and we are awesome.

Part of where we come from is Fenway Park.  The team just wouldn’t be the same without it.  Thankfully, our ownership group recognizes this scientifically verifiable fact and is committed to taking care of it.  As usual, the brass unveiled renovation plans, which include three new high-definition video screens, concrete repair, waterproofing, concession and merchandise improvement, and something most definitely worth debating.  They’re considering widening the bullpens in order to make relievers more comfortable.  Right now, they’re pretty cramped, but the new plans would add workout facilities, bathrooms, and just some space and room to move around.  But there’s a tradeoff.  While widening the bullpens by six feet would bring them within Major League Baseball regulations, they’d bring the right field fence in by six to nine feet.  So, yes, wider bullpens might make a reliever more competitive and effective if he’s comfortable while warming, but the same thing goes for the visitor’s relievers, plus the fact that a closer right field wall may mean more ground-rule doubles and, worse, home runs.

When I said that this point was worth debating, that was an understatement of substantial proportions.  This is not a good change to make.  First of all, in terms of the reliever’s competitiveness, it makes absolutely no difference: either things stay as they are, or things change and the reliever becomes more competitive to a degree just sufficient enough to deal with the dimensions change.  Either way, it’s the same result.  But it’s more than that.  This is Fenway Park, America’s most beloved ballpark and the oldest in the country.  You can’t just tinker with Fenway Park’s dimensions.  You just can’t.  Part of our ridiculously massive home field advantage is the insanity that is the dimensions of the outfield: you have this small sliver of territory in left, you have the dreaded triangle behind a huge yard in center, and you have an obscenely large plane in right.  Diminishing that extremity makes Fenway more similar to other parks, which diminishes our home field advantage, not to mention the fact that the dimensions haven’t been changed since 1940 when Tom Yawkey moved the bullpens to the outfield in the first place, and he did that because Ted Williams was jacking balls out of the park left and right.  He didn’t do it because he thought that maybe, possibly, perhaps a reliever might or might not be more competitive just enough to offset the other dimensions change that such a move would cause.  Ted Williams was Ted Williams, and sure, nowadays we deal with opponents hitting home runs into the bullpens too, but Ted Williams was so potent that the tradeoff was worth it.  I don’t think it is in this case.

If something is not broken, there is absolutely no need to fix it.  And in no conceivable sense is Fenway Park broken.  The interior of the bullpen, as in the people who use it, does indeed need work.  And that’s one of the hardest jobs a general manager has to face.  Fixing the bullpen is always a challenge.  The way you fix it one year is in no way the same as the way you’ll fix it next year.  Your needs change every year.  The market changes every year.  As Theo himself said, basically you want a group of guys who can hold down spots.  You want a lefty specialist, a long man, a setup man, and a closer.  And you want a few others to fill it out.  We have a closer.  We have a setup man.  But the other spots aren’t so well-defined.  Okajima isn’t as reliable as he used to be.  Delcarmen and Ramirez are gone.  Doubront is a starter by trade, and Bowden and Richardson weren’t all that great.  So a really good acquisition this winter would be Scott Downs, but we’d probably have to give up a first-round draft pick.  So there’s no way to predict who Theo is going to get, how much he’s going to pay, how many years he’s going to give, and the list goes on.  We’ll just have to wait and see.  One thing’s for sure: Theo is firmly committed to improving the bullpen, so we can look forward to some sort of change come next year.  Theo always keeps the bullpen in mind – indeed, his first signature move was wrenching Alan Embree from the Padres in 2002 and, in light of what I opened this post with, we all know how epically glad we are for that – so whatever he does will be a step in the right direction.  (The obvious exception being Eric Gagne, but if that’s the worst mistake he’s going to make, I’ll live with it.)

Congratulations to the sizeable chunk of the team that was nominated for MLB.com’s This Year In Baseball Awards.  Tito is in line for best manager, while Beltre is in line for top hitter.  Lester and Buchholz are both in line for top starting pitcher.  Paps is in line for best closer.  Bard is in line for top setup man.  The game we played against Texas on April 20, the one where Cameron and Ellsbury were both placed on the DL so McDonald was randomly called up an hour before the first pitch and proceeded to tie the game with a pinch-hit homer in the eighth and win it with a walkoff single off the Monster in the ninth, is in line for most memorable game of the season.  And Nava’s grand slam is in line for best moment of the season.  All those nominations right there just go to show you what kind of team we were and what we could have done had we stayed healthy.  I’m just saying.

Speaking of just saying, the Yankees were eliminated by the Rangers.  Let me say that again: the New York Yankees are out of the playoffs.  One more time: the Evil Empire plays no more in October.  In the same week that we celebrated the above anniversary.  Coincidence? I think not.  Order has now been restored to the universe.

In other news, the Bruins played three games this week.  We started off by beating the Caps, 3-1.  We continued by beating the Caps, 4-1, in our home opener.  Timmy Thomas made thirty-eight saves.  Too bad we had to end it with a close 3-2 loss to the Rangers.  But I have to say, I like what I’m seeing.  The team is young but very talented and capable.  What we are seeing right now is greatness in the making, and I have full confidence that the black and gold will be a force this year.  The Pats played a fantastic game against the Ravens last Sunday.  We won, 23-20, in overtime thanks to a barely fair field goal.  But a win is a win, and we will most certainly take that one.

Celebrate Boston

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