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Posts Tagged ‘Carl Crawford’

Not much has happened since our slog of a season ended, but what did happen should be surprising to anybody.

Our first order of business was dismissing Bobby Valentine, which we did last Thursday.  This is something that was entirely predictable, appropriate, and correct.  We all know that he shouldn’t even have been hired in the first place.  It was awful.  He just wasn’t a good fit for our clubhouse, and the whole situation with him at the helm was completely dysfunctional.  There’s no need to go into specifics, but suffice it to say that there is a certain degree of professionalism that I think players and fans alike expect from a manager and that Bobby Valentine’s conception of that degree differed from ours.  Anyway, look for John Farrell and Tim Bogar to be on the brass’s radar.  Other possibilities include Torey Lovullo, former Pawtucket manager and current Jays first base coach; Joe McEwing, Other Sox bench coach; Tim Wallach, Dodgers third base coach; Brad Ausmus; and last but not least, our very own Jason Varitek.  Onward and forward!

Our blockbuster deal with the Dodgers is finally done.  For Nick Punto, Josh Beckett, Carl Crawford, and Adrian Gonzalez, we took on Rubby De La Rosa and Jerry Sands in addition to previously acquired James Loney, Ivan De Jesus, and Allen Webster.

Pedroia was nominated for the Hank Aaron Award.

In other news, the Pats beat the Broncos, 31-21, last week.

Boston Globe Staff/Aram Boghosian

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Well, it’s been to the headlines and back by now, and anyone familiar with how baseball works would know that there was no chance in the world that this was going to stay quiet until the formalities were taken care of.  So let’s talk about it.

We just sent most of our core to the Dodgers, in keeping with their doubling as the Los Angeles Blue Sox.  And when I say that it was most of our core, I mean that literally.  Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett, Carl Crawford, and Nick Punto.  They all involved waivers.  All but one of those were starters for us, and Punto did see more than his fair share of playing time as a utility man off the bench.  In return, we will receive four prospects (right-hander Allen Webster, infielder Ryan De Jesus, and two more to be named), a first baseman (Jason Loney), and financial flexibility.  There is no question about the fact that this is one of the largest waiver deals ever and certainly the largest in recent baseball history.

Obviously this is a huge deal, both literally and figuratively.  Beckett has obviously struggled this year, as have Crawford and Gonzalez and Punto, although much less than Beckett.  So if Ben wanted to make some sort of wave by getting rid of somebody big, he could have just gotten rid of Beckett and have been done with it.  That would have been the obvious action, if there were one at all.  But to ship out all four of these guys, especially Gonzalez? Was that really necessary? Regardless of who these prospects might be and what this flexibility might look like, is this really the best thing for our future? Or is it a short-term quick fix to show the Nation that the brass is at least doing something and that this really was a bridge year? Furthermore, does this mean that the brass has sided with Bobby V. rather than the players regarding the issue of his managerial style, or does this have nothing to do with that at all because it’s based strictly on performance, or lack thereof? But if it does have to do with that, how certain are the brass that the solution indeed involved the players rather than the manager and coaches?

Punto finishes his lone season with us, which wasn’t even a whole season, with a batting average of .200, an on-base percentage of .301, and a slugging percentage of .272.  He has had 125 at-bats in sixty-five games; he has twenty-five hits to his credit as well as ten RBIs and fourteen runs.  He has walked nineteen times and stolen five bases.  He has played every infield position this year and has made only two errors.

Crawford departs after having played almost two season here.  Last season was better in terms of playing time, while this season was better in terms of performance.  He finishes this season with us with a batting average of .282, an on-base percentage of .306, and a slugging percentage of .479.  He has had 117 at-bats in thirty-one games; he has thirty-three hits to his credit as well as nineteen RBIs and twenty-three runs.  He has walked three times and stolen five bases.  He has made only one error in the field.

Gonzalez also departs after having played almost two seasons here, but it feels like so much more because he has so easily become a fixture on this team.  He historically has been known for his great leadership and team presence, both in the clubhouse and on the field.  He always seemed to be really enthusiastic about playing here, and he usually let his production do the talking.  And it talked a lot.  His average last year was a cool .338, and it was hard to imagine him not getting up there and whacking some ball for extra bases every time.  He certainly did struggle at the beginning of the season but has since started to bounce back quite nicely.  His average is now at .300, and he has an on-base percentage of .343 and slugging percentage of .469.  He’s had 484 at-bats in 123 games; he has 145 hits to his credit as well as eighty-six RBIs and sixty-three runs.  He has walked thirty-one times and stolen no bases, but that’s alright because his job, unlike Crawford’s, is not even partially to steal bases.  His job is to hit for extra bases, and that he can do.  He hasn’t hit any triples, but he’s hit thirty-seven doubles and fifteen home runs.  And in addition to first base he has also played right field this year because he’s a team player, and when the team needed him, he didn’t ask questions; he just slid right in there, and he did an impressive job at that.  He made four errors this year, two in right and two at first.

Beckett, of course, is the most storied of the four.  He’s certainly been here the longest, so he’s given us more memories, some good and some bad but all unique.  He came here in 2006 and had a subpar season.  In 2007 he went twenty and seven, and everyone but those in the position to award the Cy Young knew that he was the one who deserved it, regardless of the fact that he was a huge reason why we won the World Series that year.  His start in Game One was phenomenal.  It was a real gem.  He retired nine batters, including his first four, and gave up only one run.  2008 was another mediocre year, but 2009 saw him largely back to his old self, finishing the season with a record of seventeen and six.  2010 was an abysmal year, and of course last year was decent; his record was thirteen and seven, so he won almost twice as many games as he lost.  And then we have this year.  This year he’s five and eleven with a 5.23 ERA and a 1.33 WHIP.  He’s pitched 127.1 innings and given up seventy-four earned runs on 131 hits, sixteen of which were home runs; incidentally, he’s only allowed one unearned run.  He has given up thirty-eight walks as well.  So, in the grand scheme of things, it’s not like every single season he’s been here except for this one has been an unabashed success.  Far from it.  But when he’s been successful, he’s been really, really, really successful.  And of course there’s his personality.  Rumor had it that he was partly if not completely responsible for the deterioration of our clubhouse and has been widely associated with the instigation of beer-drinking and whatnot within it.  As I said at the time when all of this was news, none of us were actually there, and we can’t know what really went on.  All we know is that, despite his mile-wide competitive streak and work ethic, Beckett has not been performing well at all on the mound.

On the eve of the departures of these players, we salute their commitment to this team and the accomplishments that they achieved during their stay here.  In the spirit of the tribute, therefore, Punto, Crawford, and of course Gonzalez as well as Beckett, we’ll miss you and we salute you.  Now, as far as the implications of the deal and what it all means, there are things I said and there are things I didn’t necessarily overtly say.  But in reality I said a lot.  Ultimately, our task now is to see what we end up doing during our offseason.

We lost to the Royals in extras last night, but it really wasn’t Cook’s fault.  Cook, for his part, did an extremely admirable job, especially when you consider the fact that he made this start on three days’ rest.  He gave up three runs on seven hits while walking one and striking out none over six innings.  He gave up all three runs in the first thanks to a double that brought in two and then a single that brought in one.  He then cruised for the remainder of his outing.  Meanwhile, our hitters put us on top.  The Royals may have scored three runs, but we answered with four in the second.  Gomez hit a solo shot, the first homer of his Major League career, and then Salty and Lavarnway hit back-to-back singles to set the table for Aviles, who went yard on the first pitch he saw, sending the ball out toward the Monster.  And the third inning only served to solidify the fact that we were in control.  Pedroia doubled, Ellsbury walked, and Ross singled to load the bases; thanks to a single by Gomez as well as a Royals error, we scored another two runs plus a third thanks to a sac fly by Salty.  We just kept piling it on in the fourth; Ciriaco walked, and Ellsbury singled two outs later.  Ross and Gomez added their consecutive singles to Ellsbury’s to go back-to-back-to-back and plate two more runs.

So by the time Cook’s appearance came to an end, we were leading, 9-3.  And I have to say, I was feeling pretty comfortable with how I expected this game to turn out.  I mean, we just scored nine runs, and we did it with everything: long ball, small ball; you name it, we did it.  And we had a six-run lead to boot.  But I should have expected that no lead would possibly have been safe.

Because then the seventh inning happened, and the seventh inning was when our entire relief corps ruined it completely, imploded totally, and embodied the epitome of an epic fail.  First, it was Miller, who allowed a groundout, a single, a strikeout, two consecutive walks, and an RBI single that scored two.  Then Melancon came on and gave up an RBI double and an RBI single.  Then Breslow came on and gave up a triple that scored two and then managed to finish the inning with an intentional walk followed by a groundout.

Breslow pitched the eighth, Bailey pitched the ninth, Padilla pitched the tenth, and Tazawa pitched the eleventh and most of the twelfth.  He gave up a walk, a double, and finally the single that scored the winning run.  Mortensen replaced him after that and ended the inning.  And we threatened a bit in the eighth, when Ellsbury got himself to third with two out, and in the tenth, when Ciriaco was thrown out at home.  But we didn’t score since the fourth, so we allowed our lead to be completely squandered and lost, 10-9, even though we outhit them, 20-14.

And as an added reflection of the badness of our entire situation, Aceves reportedly slammed the door on his way into Bobby V.’s office after Friday’s game and has been suspended for three games for conduct detrimental to the team.

AP Photo

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If there’s one thing I loathe with every fiber of my baseball-watching being, it’s losing to the Yankees.  Why can’t we just beat them? Seriously, how awesome would that be? We should just beat them.  Like, every time.  It’s one thing to lose in every single way to every single team on every other single day, but it’s quite another to do all that and lose to the Yankees also.

This game was just terrible.  It just didn’t go well.  It could have gone well, but naturally it didn’t.  At one point things looked so good, and at the next point things got pretty bad.

Morales turned in five and one-third abysmal innings and took the resultant loss.  He gave up five runs on six hits with one walk and three strikeouts.  Part of the reason why he was so mediocre was that he made a lot of mistakes.  And a too-high number of those mistakes turned into home runs.  There were four of them.  He gave up solo shots with with one out in the first and again with one out in the seventh.  He also gave up two consecutive solo shots with one out in the second and a solo shot with two out in the fifth.  The only non-homer run he gave up scored in the sixth, when he allowed two straight singles, one of which scored on another single, which was actually given up by Mortensen, so it was an inherited runner.

The solo shot that Mortensen gave up with one out in the seventh clearly was not an inherited runner; that was all him and his own fault.  And then Andrew Bailey, who we haven’t heard from basically since he was acquired and who still does indeed pitch for us, handled the last two outs of the eighth.

So while the Yankees were getting busy throughout the game, we made a dent in the final score during one inning and one inning only.  Granted, it was a decent dent.  It was nothing to be ashamed of.  And it was a good run total.  But Morales was not having a good night, and it wasn’t enough.  Surely a starting pitcher should be able to lock down a win with four runs’ worth of backing.  The key word there being “should,” because as we of all people know, all too often that is a far cry from reality.

It was our third inning of glory, however limited and short-lived it was.  Aviles singled, Podsednik reached on an error, Aviles scored on a force out by Ciriaco, Ellsbury walked, Crawford provided an easy out, and then Pedroia just let one rip.  He was in a hurry, too.  It was the second pitch of the at-bat; the first one was in the dirt, and the second one was most certainly not.  It was a fastball clocked at ninety-two miles per hour, and Pedroia let loose with that total-body swing that he just throws his whole self into and he powered that ball straight out to left field.  At the time it gave us a much-needed one-run lead.  Which was promptly erased.  To his credit, he did almost vault another one out of the park in the eighth, but somehow it was hauled in for an out.  We just can’t catch a break at all.

And then we went back to doing nothing and going down in order most of the time.  So the final score was 6-4.  And we lost to the Yankees, which is obviously devastating, horrible, painful, and humiliating every time.  At least the deficit wasn’t too large, so we lost with dignity.  But what bothered me was that we couldn’t spread out our scoring. We put ourselves on the board once and only once during the entire game and that was all we could manage, when all I really want to do is just clean the field with them.

The Boston Herald

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There’s nothing like digging deep to remind you that you can indeed get the job done.  And as with every situation this season that’s worthy of celebration and happiness, there is always a grim reminder of the fact that it shouldn’t be celebratory because it should be ordinary; this is the kind of win that we should be able to pull off in our sleep.  And as with every grim reminder of the fact that it shouldn’t be celebratory because it should be ordinary, there is always another grim reminder of the fact that the reason why it’s celebratory is because it’s so rare these days.

Buchholz was the first to dig deep.  He allowed two runs on a double in the first and one run on a solo shot to lead off the second, and that was it.  He was lights-out for the rest of the game, which he almost pitched to completion.  Aceves ended up coming out for the ninth, during which he retired the side and got the save.  But Buchholz was in absolute top form when he was on the mound.  He owned the Orioles when he was out there.  He had their number all the way through and didn’t let them gain an inch after that second inning.  He just kept his head down and did it, and in so doing he set an example that should be followed immediately.

My favorite inning was by far the sixth.  He retired the side.  With strikeouts.  On a total of nine pitches.  That means that every single pitch he threw that inning was a strike.  Curveball, curveball, cutter, four-seam, cutter, four-seam, four-seam, cutter, splitter.  One, two, three.  No chance, no chance, no chance.  It was ridiculously awesome.  There was absolutely nothing the Orioles could do against him.  As the game went on, he kept getting better, and they just couldn’t figure him out.

So he ended up walking three and striking out a grand total of seven and throwing 107 pitches, seventy-two of which were strikes.  He allowed a total of eight hits, four of which were for extra bases, three of which were doubles, the fourth being the solo shot.

But Buchholz would never have gotten the win if the hitters hadn’t also dug deep.  We did everything the Orioles hitters weren’t doing: wearing out the starter, being patient at the plate, getting deep into counts, and making him throw a lot of pitches.  We scored our first run in the second, when Punto walked and scored on a single by Podsednik, who’s back in Boston.  At the time that simply reduced our deficit to one; it didn’t tie the game or put us ahead.  In fact, after Buchholz allowed the solo shot, our deficit was back up to two runs.  So we needed more.

And that’s exactly what we got in the fifth inning.  Ellsbury provided an out to start it off, but then Crawford singled, Pedroia doubled, Crawford scored on a wild pitch, and Pedroia scored on a sac fly by Gonzalez.  We put the finishing touches that would become the game’s final score in the sixth.  Podsednik doubled, Ellsbury walked and was out at second on a force out by Crawford, Podsednik scored on a single by Pedroia, Crawford scored on a single by Gonzalez, and Pedroia scored on a single by Ross.

So the game ended with us on top, 6-3.  Gonzalez and Podsednik both went two for four, Crawford and Pedroia went two for five, and Ross went three for five.  Most importantly, it was a team effort.  We won because the team dug deep.  If only the team always digging deep were enough.

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So, how many times have we seen this? It’s a classic story.

Pitcher makes bid for no-no.  Pitcher gets halfway through game with no-no.  Opposing team takes solace in the fact that, if they can manage to scrape together just one hit, pitcher will implode completely after losing bid.  Pitcher gives up first hit.  Pitcher does indeed implode completely after losing bid.  Team on receiving end of win ends up losing.

And I know that story because that’s the exact same story I root for every time I even think we might actually be the victims of a no-no or some such outcome.  Fortunately, in that situation it comes through for us almost every time, and certainly in recent memory.  But when your pitcher is the one making the bid and then losing it and imploding, suddenly the story means something very different.  It means a regular old loss instead of a loss that at least represents the recovery of your dignity.

When Cook was in business, Cook was in business.  His bid lasted for five innings, and he actually had a perfect game going through the fourth, when he gave up his first of three walks.  He gave up his second walk an inning later.  He had the Orioles wound around his finger and did with them as he pleased.  They all stepped up, and he sent them down in every way you could possibly send a batter down.  He mowed through that lineup like it was a lawn in need of some serious grooming.  And he did it precisely and efficiently to boot.

And then came the sixth, and it was like he completely transformed right in front of our eyes.  Actually, scratch that; he did transform right in front of our eyes.  From a good pitcher to a bad pitcher.  He gave up five runs, but he’s lucky he didn’t give up much, much more.  After securing the inning’s first out, Cook gave up his third and final walk, his first hit of the night in the form of a single, and then his second in the form of an RBI single.  His next hitter ended up reaching on a force attempt; Cook made a throwing error, and that brought in another run.  Then Cook gave up a double that scored one.

And that was when he was replaced by Miller, who began his workload with a fielder’s choice out at home that also resulted in a baserunner.  That was it for Miller, and Tazawa came in and gave up a double that scored two followed by a single, which was when he was replaced by Breslow, who finished the inning and pitched the seventh as well.  Mortensen pitched the eighth.

As far as the offense is concerned, we were busy matching the Orioles pitch for pitch, which in this case means not hitting anything for the first half of the game or so.  We scored our first run in the fifth; with one out, we hit back-to-back singles and scored one run on a double by Ellsbury and the other on a sac fly by Crawford.  So at the time, we were up by two.  Then the sixth inning happened.  And then we scored our last run in the seventh, when Punto reached on a fielding error, advanced to third on a deflected hit by Ellsbury, and scored on a sac fly by Crawford.  That was all we could muster.

So the final score was 5-3.  We could really have used the galvanizing effects that a no-no always brings with it.  If you thought things weren’t bad already, they’re really starting to get bad now.  Gonzalez and Bobby V. were both ejected in the eighth because Gonzalez argued that he was quick-pitched.  And you could just tell that they and the rest of the team are tired, frustrated, and wanting so badly to just win but for some reason not being able to do it consistently.

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Let me start off by saying something truly painful, something that I had been hoping not to have to say.  I speak for all of Red Sox Nation when I convey my condolences to the Pesky family.  Johnny Pesky passed away on Monday after a long and fruitful life filled with family, friends, and the fraternity of this team, whose uniform he was able to wear for sixty-one years.  He saw this team at its best and its worst.  He was a Teammate as well as a recipient of a 2004 World Series ring.  He played in Boston in an era of the game that saw its greatest players of all time; he was part of a team that came just short of glory in 1946, an experience that would become all too well known in this city until the dawn of a new millennium.  To his credit, he has a career batting average of .307, an on-base percentage of .394, a slugging percentage of .386, 594 double plays, a fielding percentage of .966, an All-Star distinction, a truly diverse set of roles within the organization, a place in our club’s Hall of Fame, a proud record of military service to this country, a retired number, a foul pole at America’s most beloved ballpark, a reputation for being one of the classiest men to play the game, more than six decades of service to this organization, and the love, devotion, and loyalty of a Nation.  Because he had nothing but love, devotion, and loyalty for this team and for us.  Nobody loved this organization more than he did.  He lived and breathed it for his whole life.  As a Nation, we participated in a moment of silence yesterday, and together we grieve for this loss but know that his spirit will live on; in a way, the fact that the season continues, game after game, is a tribute to that and to him and his dedication to baseball.  He touched the lives of many with his playing ability and his outstanding character.  Words can not express what he has meant to this organization, to this team, and to us as fans.  We miss you, Johnny Pesky.  And we salute you.

We lost again yesterday.  It was a complete and total mess.  The Orioles basically walked all over us.  Beckett allowed six runs on six hits while walking two and striking out two over five and one-third innings.  He gave up a solo shot to lead off the third, another one to lead off the fifth, and then a veritable mess of runs before and after he was pulled in the sixth.  He allowed a single, somehow got the inning’s first out, issued a walk, allowed both runners to advance on a wild pitch, and then gave up two RBI singles.  Melancon came on in relief after that and gave up a three-run home run, which allowed his two inherited runners to score.  He ended up pitching the rest of the game without incident, but that home run was really the beginning of the end for us last night.  Our prospects to win this game were promising for a grand total of five and a half innings.  We scored our one and only run in the fourth: Ross doubled to lead it off, moved to second on a groundout by Lavarnway, and scored on a single by Crawford.  That was it.  At the time, it tied the game at one.  Even when Beckett gave up his second solo shot of the night, we were still only down by one.  It was the one bad inning that reared its ugly head and deprived us of the win.  I would say our greatest opportunities to make more of a dent came in the third, fifth, and sixth.  In the third, we had two on with two out and Gonzalez flied out to end the inning.  Pedroia tripled with two out in the fifth, and it was again Gonzalez who ended the inning, this time with a groundout.  We had two on with two out again in the sixth, and it amounted to nothing.  We had the bases loaded thanks to a single, a double, and a walk in the seventh with only one out, and it amounted to nothing.  So the final score was 7-1, even though we out-hit them, 11-7.

Boston Globe Staff

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Alright.  That’s the way to play.  We jumped out early and never looked back, and I mean never looked back.  Even in the fifth, which was our hugely colossal inning at the plate, the game had already essentially been blown open.  It was just amazing to watch.  We were so dominant that we looked like a completely different team than the one that loses in every way, on every day of the week, with every hitter, behind every pitcher, and by every final score that you could possibly imagine.  That team didn’t show up to the field yesterday.  Yesterday we were different.  In a good way.  We need to see much more of that.

In a rare occurrence, both the hitters and the pitchers deserve the spotlight, but I’ll start with the hitters first since they began the game for us because we were away.  Ellsbury grounded out, which should not at all have been an indication to the Indians of how yesterday’s game was about to go down.  Crawford doubled after that and scored on a double by Pedroia, who scored on a home run by Gonzalez, which he smashed to right field like it was the easiest and most natural thing in the world, like he gets up there and does it in every single at-bat, like it was no big deal and anyone who isn’t doing it has something wrong with him.

Lester began his start by giving up two straight singles, one of which turned into a run one out later on a sac fly.  But we got it back and more in the second, when Aviles and Ellsbury both singled and scored on a double by Crawford.  Neither team scored from the bottom of the second through the bottom of the third.  Aviles led off the fourth by getting hit, and then he scored on a single by Shoppach.  That was when the Indians thought that, maybe if they made a pitching change, their fate for yesterday’s game, which I assume they had begun to sense, would change.

It most certainly did not.  Lester went one-two-three in the bottom of the fourth, and then we scored eight runs in the fifth.  You read right.  That’s eight runs in the fifth inning alone.  We scored more runs in that inning than we often have scored throughout whole games this year.  We scored more runs in that inning than we often have scored throughout several games this year during particularly bad stretches.  And just like that we scored eight runs.  Like it was the easiest and most natural thing in the world, like we get up there and do this in every game, like it was no big deal and any team that isn’t doing it has something wrong with it.

Pedroia singled, Gonzalez walked, Pedroia scored on a single by Ross, Gonzalez scored on a single by Salty, Aviles walked, Ross scored on a sac fly by Danny Valencia, Shoppach struck out for the first out of the inning by which point we had already scored three runs, Salty and Aviles both scored on a double by Ellsbury, Ellsbury scored on a double by Crawford, the Indians made a pitching change that made absolutely no difference, Pedroia walked, Crawford and Pedroia both scored on a double by Gonzalez, Ross walked, Gonzalez and Ross both moved up a base thanks to a passed ball, and then the inning ended when Salty flied out.

Neither team scored for the rest of the game.  It was like we were sated and they were stunned and had absolutely no idea what to do and couldn’t make any sort of move whatsoever.  Lester, for his part, was brilliant.  He pitched six innings and gave up just the one run on three hits while walking two and striking out a grand total of twelve! No pitcher in our uniform has struck out that many since the last time Lester struck out twelve, and that was back in 2010.  I’m telling you, it’s so good to see that double-digit number in his K column again.  That’s been way too rare a sight this season.  Eight of the strikeouts were swinging, and four were called.  You better believe that his cut fastball was as nasty as I’ve ever seen it and was playing tricks on the hitters all afternoon long.  It was glorious.  It was vintage Lester and reminded me of all the goodness to which we unfortunately haven’t been privy this season.

Tazawa pitched the seventh, Mortensen pitched the eighth, and Aceves pitched the ninth.  Lester picked up the win.

All told, we put up sixteen hits.  Half of those were for extra bases.  Five members of our starting nine had multi-hit performances, and only one went hitless: Valencia, who still brought in a run with a sac fly.  Ellsbury went two for five, Pedroia and Gonzalez went two for three, Crawford went three for four with three doubles, and Aviles had a perfect day at the plate with a three-for-three performance.

The final score? 14-1.  They had nothing on us all day long.

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