Critical thoughts about the Astros

The writer of these posts is definitely a normal human being with a normal human being’s level of ego (or more). I believe my thoughts about the Astros are as critical or more than anyone else. Just ask me.

So, what am I thinking about today after the Astros followed up brilliant play for the first five games after the All Star break with another stinker against the Oakland A’s?

  • You could see this coming. The Astros geared up to take care of business against the Yankees, who had the best record in baseball, and the Mariners, who were flying high with a 14-game winning streak. Those five games were before amped up crowds of an average of 40,000 per game. They then go to the funereal depths of Oakland Coliseum with an announced crowd of 4,105 (with 3000 of them disguised as empty seats) and play with the urgency of a team on vacation. Hopefully, they will jack things up in the next few games.
  • Fifth wheel (sixth or seventh wheel?) Jake Odorizzi continues to separate himself from the rest of the pitching rotation, not in a good way. On Monday night, he pushed hard to stay on the mound while fidgeting around with a blister between every pitch and getting knocked all over the place in a 7-5 loss to the A’s. I’m not sure why everyone at home could tell he was uncomfortable and not pitching effectively while the coaching staff let him pitch the team into a 6-0 hole before finally pulling him. This came on top of a fairly effective outing where he derailed himself with a terrible fielding play that ended up with a bit of a meltdown. They can’t trade him after his blister problem, but can they afford to use him in games that matter down the stretch or in the playoffs?
  • The hardest part of predicting the Astros’ potential moves heading into the trading deadline …..

Rating the Astros’ needs heading into the trade deadline | CHIPALATTA

…..revolve around what the Front Office knows about the various injured players. If Michael Brantley is coming back soon and fully recovered, that affects how they will rotate players through the outfield spot and DH spot, which affects the log jam that might occur with a Josh Bell trade. Will Yordan Alvarez be dealing with this hand issue the rest of the season? Should he be spending more time at DH? Is Lance McCullers Jr. going to return as a starter, or will they put him in a Cristian Javier 2021 role? Is Jason Castro through? If so, does that change what they do to fill the “other” catcher spot?

  • As a friend of the blog, Dave B (Uncleknuckle) pointed out in the last post set of comments – Chas McCormick has been hitting much better the last month with more consistent playing time. Glad to see Jose Siri not taking those at bats. The same thing has happened with Aledmys Diaz, who is hitting near .300 in July with an OPS over .900. Now, when/if Brantley returns, the question will be how that will affect the beneficiaries of his absence (along with the absence of Yordan Alvarez).
  • Another blog friend, Steven, has been emphasizing some critical points relative to the trade deadline. If the Astros are picking up a two-month rental, they don’t need to risk the whole career of a Hunter Brown or Joe Perez, for instance. Now, if they have a well-thought-of prospect who is blocked or doesn’t intend to use a 40-man roster spot-on, that might be someone they want to risk. This is a touchy issue. Can a Josh Bell or Willson Contreras make enough of a difference to justify giving up some good prospects for them for only two months plus the playoffs? Well, if the one or two games they help you win put the team in the World Series or beyond, the answer might be yes. Of course, a trade deadline trade makes no difference or worse. It’s the kind of decision that forces James Click to earn his salary.
  • The latest Jeremy Pena / Carlos Correa comparison chart….
    • Correa – .280 BA/ .351 OBP/ .807 OPS with 41 runs / 12 hrs/ 34 RBIs ~ $35 MM per year
    • Pena – .265 BA/ .310 OBP/ .777 OPS with 42 runs / 15 HRs / 37 RBIs – $700 K per year
    • Pretty darned even, Correa with a slight edge on his slash numbers, but not a $34 MM+ difference
  • Kyle Tucker has been slumping in July. A part of me wants to blame it on the fact that there is rarely a reason to throw him hittable stuff with Yuli Gurriel hitting behind him. Of course, that is no different than what happened in June when he was hitting so well with the aforementioned Gurriel hitting behind him. Maybe it is just a regular baseball slump, and he will get it rolling again soon. Perhaps he needs batting gloves. Maybe batting gloves don’t matter if you are swinging at the wrong pitches and trying to pull too many of them.

What thoughts do you have here as the season rolls to the end of its fourth month?

56 comments on “Critical thoughts about the Astros

  1. Every time Correa/Pena comes up I just smile.

    Another win for the good guys.

    Just point on emphasis Dan – I am comparing Bells at bats to what we will already get from Yuli, yes, he will be slightly more productive in a two month period, but not enough to leverage good prospects. IF we were playing Goodrum at 1B right now because of an injury to Yuli, that changes the metrics, as well – it is a 12 game lead. Point in reference – last 28 days one has hit .269 with 2 HR and 8 RBI, the other has hit .282 with 2 HR and 5 RBI. Does it matter which is which?

    Is Brown the prospect everyone is hitching their horse too? Better kick the tires.

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    • Steven –
      I’m always hesitant to talk too much about prospects as I do not spend enough time researching them / don’t watch video / don’t go to games.

      So, I’m stuck looking at stats. The only thing I don’t like when looking at Hunter Brown’s stats is his 4 walks/ 9 IP rate. His home run rate is very good, his K rate very good, his ERA very good.

      So, when looking at Hunter Brown and telling us to kick the tires -what do you see that is not obvious? Is he facing inferior hitters? Does he have AAAA type stuff – looks good in AAA but won’t translate? Is Jake Odorizzi his mentor?

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      • Brown does what every scout loves – he strikes out dudes.

        Brown does what every scout hates – he walks a lot of dudes.

        If I were another team, I would ask for Whitley first. But why? He is a year older. He has already been suspended once. He stays injured.

        Because he has better stuff. Neither one may make it, they both might.

        I tell you what though, I don’t want to watch either one make an all star team in 2025 so that we had 2 months of Josh Bell in 2022.

        I also don’t want to keep Asher Wojalphabets either over someone that could have an impactful AB or two in a WS nailbiter with the Dodgers.

        Oh the gambles they take. Good luck Mr. Click.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Sorry – just add – I haven’t seen any rumors connecting the Astros to Contreras, but that is the perfect example of getting a guy who you trust infinitely more than the current catcher in an at bat in the 7th inning of a close game in the playoffs. And THAT is when you have to look at Brown or Perez or any of the top prospects and say one of you might have to go.

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  3. Pena has had some big moments late in games and been everything we could have asked for thus far. In fairness to our offseason conversations and a player I did not want to sign, I’ll point out that Trevor Story turned it around after a very slow start and except for a poor batting average has fairly impressive numbers as a 2B in Boston. His 2.1 WAR there make the signing look less bad. Correa, on the other hand, has played a few less games than Pena and has been better offensively in every category except for stolen bases. Defensively he’s committed fewer errors as well, but somehow Pena is sporting a 3.4 WAR to Correa’s 2.4 at this point. It will be interesting to see how this looks at the end of the year, but factoring in salaries it’s hard to have any regrets on that decision if your are Click and Crane.

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  4. This AAA lineup just ain’t getting it. If our pitching falters we could be in for a big losing streak. Other than that everything’s just wonderful.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Glad to have turned in early and missed the sleeper in Oakland last night. Another bad inning by our starter. Darn those free passes. I also noticed that their pen held our lineup hitless over the last four innings. Might have been the worst 9 we’ve put out there all season.

    I came across something else this morning. Bregman is hitting .183 with a .575 OPS against lefties in the season. Historically he crushes southpaws. Has his brain been rewired? Or maybe all those those lefties figured out what to throw him after 6 plus seasons?

    Either way, for the next few days we’ll be going back and forth about who we might get as a rental (or ideally a guy we can work a longer term deal with) and who we might have to give away. With quite a few question marks on this club offensively, I remain hopeful that Click gets at least one significant bat to give our Astros a boost.

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    • That’s interesting that Bregman has struggled with lefties this year. What alarms me is the lack of pop. I wonder how much of it is intentionally not giving him what he wants to hit knowing there was a left handed hitter coming up next? Looking at the stats, 140 of 145 PA were against lefty starters. You would think with the Manfred rules in place requiring relievers to face multiple hitters he would be the beneficiary, but apparently teams aren’t using their lefties against his portion of the lineup.

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  6. One thing for sure is McCormick and Meyers ain’t our answer to the outfield spots. 0 for 7 with 5 K’s, pathetic! Garcia lost it for one inning and it cost us. Montas kept throwing the sinker that was never a strike but our guys just kept swinging at it. Bregman is a becoming a huge disappointment. We can’t expect our pitching staff to put up zeros every time that take the mound. We’re 2nd in team ERA but 18th in hitting. We need a “shot in the arm”!

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  7. I didn’t watch to the end but it was another disappointing game against Oakland (we’ve now lost 4 of our last 5 against the bad A’s). Seattle won again and has pulled back within 11 – doesn’t sound like that close, but they do play us 4 games after today’s finale with Oakland.
    I flinched when I saw Chas leading off. Here is someone with a .269 on base percentage against righties. Now against leftys he has a .444OBP
    When Bregman isn’t hitting it leaves a big hole in the middle of the lineup.
    Garcia was very good except for that one portion of that one inning when he lost it and lost the game.
    Guys – knock the snot out of this team today, get on the plane and do the same to the M’s. Need some fire….

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  8. Looking at today’s lineup… I truly believe Baker puts the names into a cap and draws them out to set the lineup. If he had set lineups for the win, in the last two games, we would be ahead of the Yankees (spit) for the best in the league. It’s times like this, regarding him, that I long for the season to be over.

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      • Sarge, I was worried because I haven’t seen anything from you for a while. I actually had hoped you were just on a great vacation to somewhere nice.

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      • OP, I have been moving to a new home. The old one belongs to the wife and she lived there for 22 years. PLENTY of knick knack stuff ya know. She does not anyone touching it but us and her in particular. So, we are going through it with fine tooth combs. Plus, it is a two story place and I am at 70 and she has passed it. Additionally, the two places are an hour apart.

        The new place is in a senior living community near Brookshire, single family and single story homes. Gated community, must be 55+ just to own and live here.

        Then, I have added DD GO as a search engine and it blocks my signin. This particular time I am on Goog..

        After we sell her place, we will take a vacation to somewhere nice…

        Thanks for caring ol’ friend!

        Liked by 2 people

  9. Well two things I have seen today have me intrigued –

    The Astros, according to sources, are willing to deal a starting pitcher to upgrade the offense. Urquidy’s name was mentioned but the writer pointed out that Garcia and/or Javier would bring a better return.

    Thoughts – bad idea for a rental. I don’t believe Click will be that stupid. Now if you told me Click is a surprise entrant into the Soto sweepstakes, and has something like Urquidy/Brown/Perez/Leon and two lower level guys on a Soto deal, I would be in, because Soto would be here 2 more seasons after this one. But I don’t think that will be enough. But if Urquidy is in any deal for a person that is a free agent at the end of this year, Click is dumber Lou Gorman. Well, maybe not that bad, but bad.

    Another interesting idea thrown about – Garrett Cooper. Not a rental. At least this season and next. Career .281 hitter. Didn’t get to the majors until he was 26, and didn’t stick until he was 28. Isn’t a splashy move, which is good, it won’t cost us an arm and a leg. Can play 1B and RF (probably LF as well, since, well, anyone can play LF).

    Thoughts – I’m in as long as the price isn’t a top 10 prospect. Seems unlikely since Miami knows SOMEONE has to play for them, he is cheap, and they have control for another year and a half.

    The stories and clickbait are abound. So far this trade season, the moves have not been.

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    • Yeah I’m not up for moving cheap, controllable and good starting pitching for a 2 month rental, Steven. Now if they believe they are re-signing Verlander, maybe I would be more accepting of it.
      That Soto thing would be awfully tempting with the 2 extra years tied to it. That is a lot of talent (in an area of need) for not that much monetary commitment.
      If you don’t think that Josh Bell is bringing you much differential improvement Garrett Cooper would be half that or less (obviously costing you much less).

      Liked by 1 person

      • Cooper is different from Bell – presumably a Bell move is to replace Yuli, a Cooper move just changes the parameters of the lineup in that he can be at 1B replacing Yuli 2 times this week, but he can also spend a day in LF, a day in RF (with Tucker in CF) and a day available as a PH. And you said the key words – costs you much less. He takes at bats from McCormick, Dubon, and Yuli and gives Dusty one more tool.

        Like I’ve said before – if Washington gave me as GM 48 hours negotiating window with Bell I would tell Urquidy hey man last time you pitched in Washington it was special, go make a career out of it. If not, Washington is getting nobody anybody cares about. We don’t need Bell to win this division, that is practically a done deal. Will he help us in the playoffs? Absolutely. But we can’t go Larry Andersen upside down on this either.

        We once rented Randy Johnson for 2 months. We still didn’t win the WS. And the guy we gave up went on to 6 winning seasons in Seattle winning 85 games and making 2 all star appearances. The hitter we gave up in that deal ended up a 3 time all star and a career .285 hitter in 14 years.

        No rental should come with a price we remember unless there is a chance to turn that into a more fruitful relationship. I’m not into short term dating.

        Liked by 1 person

  10. I’m trying not to dwell on what the trade deadline might bring between now and August 2. Most of what we’re reading is dookie speculation invented by part time “writers” that don’t know anything more than we do. I expect a deal or two will get done and a few of us will be pissed off, a few of us pleased. I’m thinking we might lose someone at the big club level that I like, but that’s the way it goes sometimes. We’ll know soon.

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  11. Good thing the A’s aren’t going to be in the playoffs. They own is like we own the Yankeees

    But they are doing us a favor. We know not to plan for a long run in the 2022 playoffs.

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  12. It’s a shame, they gave back all the good gained over the weekend. And if nothing else, the bats Click might be negotiating for just got more expensive. We’ll see how resilient our guys are this time.

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  13. We might get left holding the proverbial empty bag. Contreras? Mancini? Bell? Reynolds? We definitely need a bat or two more than anything. Obviously the Yankees didn’t give a thought about playing Toronto w/o Benintendi.

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  14. Benintendi cost the Yankees three lower level prospects including a big lefty at the A+ level who was a first round pick in 2019 and strikes a lot of people out and then a tall righty 4th round pick in 2020 also playing A+ ball. Help does not come cheap these days.

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    • Was this an overreaction by Cashman in a rage after losing to the Mets again last night? When we were talking about certain players only representing modest improvements over the players we already have I think there is an even thinner margin in NY. Do they dislike Aaron Hicks that much? I’d rather give Matt Carpenter more at bats than give them to Benintendi…and I was advocating for the Astros to trade for him a few weeks ago. Regardless, they are one of the few teams who can likely acquire a player without negotiating an extension/signing and feel they are still in the driver’s seat during free agency.

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      • Well with Stanton back on the IL and the fact that Gallo may be headed out the door (either by trade or more likely by release) they have or will have more ABs to hand around.

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      • I’m sure if Gallo isn’t released then he’ll be traded. Don’t see how or why the Yankees would hang onto him.

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    • I don’t know about a rage – he has been there a long time, seen 3 losses in a row before, but after that sweep and the 2-5 performance against the good guys he probably has beat writers in NY writing daily articles about not beating the good teams.

      More than likely Benintendi was a quick move to fix Gallo. What will probably save Gallo’s spot on the roster is Stanton. When Stanton returns, Gallo may be released. He has spent parts of 6 seasons in the minors so I doubt he has an option left. The Yankees may keep him on the roster the rest of the year but leave him off the playoff roster. Undoubtedly he is a guy who can’t wait to get out.

      The Yankees are built to crush people in the regular season. Their offense can get on a roll and really punish pitchers that are having sub-optimal days and kill middle of the pack relievers. They struggle against teams like the Mets and Astros with pitching depth and quality rotations. They are the proverbial “run up the score” built team who struggles to scratch out runs against hard throwing pitchers. If they hold us off and keep the best record they may not make it out of the first round against the WC winner – funny enough they are better match up for Minnesota than the other AL East team that survives the Purge.

      The Yankees have a .606 winning percentage in one runs games, considerably lower than their season percentage. They have been in 25 games decided by 5 runs or more, and won 21 of them. They are 21-4 in blowouts. They won’t get that in the playoffs.

      That’s the reason for Benintendi. He helps balance the lineup and gives them a guy that can put something in play against Justin Verlander or Christian Javier in the playoffs.

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  15. This giving a player a day off is giving me a headache. It seems that every time we do that it takes the player 2 -3 days to get back into the groove. I’d rather replace them in the later innings (assuming we have a lead or getting blown out (%$#@!). Dusty is famous for resting players who were previously hot as a firecracker and we know how that has worked out. I know we have injuries but the line ups that he sends out there have no consistency. Maybe he’s experimenting but if it ain’t broke don’t fix it.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. What we learned from the A’s series [part 1]:
    1. Korey Lee is a talented young man, and may be a major league quality backstop one day. But he is not anywhere close to that now; we desperately need to pick up a veteran catcher before the deadline, and let Castro or someone take Korey to extended spring training to personally tutor him.
    2. Chaz McCormick teases, but never fulfills. He needs to go the way of Jose Siri -and the sooner the better. Siri will never stick anywhere, but someone will pick Chaz up, and he will torment us a la Robbie Grossman, Ramon Laureano, and Tony Kemp. He’s one of those guys that won’t hit worth a flip for us, but will hit with a vengeance for someone against us;
    3. We have to assume that Michael Brantley is not coming back -this year or ever. We have to find the best long-term left field prospect we can find on the market OR go ahead and bite the bullet to make space on the 40 man for E. Valdez, C. Julks, or P. Leon. If the choice is for the latter, we probably can write off the World Series in 2022.
    4. We are not going to run off with the West – because we can play bad baseball with the worst of them.
    5. Other teams can walk or hit our guys and not worry about us scoring. We see runners on base and turn into mush. We, on the other hand, can’t walk or hit anyone ever, because virtually every time we do those guys score – usually aided by a wild pitch, a passed ball, and/or an infield error.

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    • Mr. Bill, on the flipside, we were 14-13 in August and 15-12 in September last year. Then we went to the 6th game of the World Series without a rotation. Let’s see if our GM does anything interesting over the next 6 days.

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      • With the team as presently configured, 15-12 in September looks next-to-impossible, 14-13 in August looks like a pipe dream, and the World Series looks like something Altuve and Alvarez will watch with their families on TV.

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      • Geez Louise Mr. Bill – as presently configured the team has gone –
        April 11-10
        May 21-8
        June 16-9
        July 16-8
        So, yes I think there is a 75% chance they won’t play as poorly as 15-12 and 14-13 in those two months – assuming they don’t play as uninspired as they have against the A’s.

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  17. Lessons learned from the A’s series [part II]
    6. This year, for every run Bregman drives in, he will kill two rallies with GIDPs and/or wild, flailing, 3-pitch strikeouts;
    7. Yuli is going to have good games every so often. But his days of being an offensive force are over. He is now a defensive star, but an offensive liability;
    8. When Garcia loses his command, he falls apart at the seams;
    9. When this team gets behind, it just lays down and quits. We beat the Yankees because we get ahead early and never trail.
    10. Phil Maton is not likely to pitch for us in the playoffs this year.
    11. Frenchy Dubon is unlike Jose Siri in every way except one – he, like Siri, just can’t hit major league pitching, and the more at bats they get, the worse they perform.

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    • This is great fodder for further conversation Mr. Bill, however I have just come out of the ocean and am now enjoying a cold refreshment. But I promise to respond at length later.

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      • I see three basic differences between our situation earlier in the year, when we were able to have a good record despite poor offensive performance and Jekyll/Hyde from Odorizzi and Urqidy. Then we had Michael Brantley; now we have a gaping black hole (unless Yordan plays left, in which case DH becomes the black hole). Also, then we had stunningly good relief work; now we get trash from Maton almost every outing and both Neris and Montero every other outing. Third, the good teams are ‘trading up’ now, and are going to be way better than they were early in the year. The bad teams will be worse, but that won’t help us because we always play down to the level of a poor competition.

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      • Mr. Bill, certainly good points and I feel your frustration, but now back on the porch, I might wait until late August 2 before I reply in depth, although I will fully agree to number 11. Frenchy is a nice lad though.

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    • Bregman is on pace for 20 HR and 80 RBI, far cries from what we hoped for sure. Its his struggles with Gurriels struggles that make McCormick, Dubon, Siri, and Maldonado’s name in the lineup card make you cringe.

      Garcia is always great until “that moment.” I hope McCullers comes back with a fury and insists starting in the playoffs. If we are starting JV-LMJ-Framber in the first three we will be better for it. Garcia is that guy that will breeze through the first 2 innings then in the 3rd just give up 4 before he is pulled. Framber isn’t really much different in the playoffs so far, but he will definitely get some starts this year to see if he can change that.

      This team is on its way to 105 win pace. They have a .692 winning percentage in 1 run games. They have been blown out (a loss by 5 runs or more) 11 times, the most among contenders. There are good things, there are bad things. It has warts. But it has had the Yankees number again, and has faired well against teams they will likely see. I do believe they will continue around the same pace and win 95+ games, but it won’t always be what we want it to be. 5 of the 9 spots in the batting order continue extremely inconsistent, and in some cases nonexistent, offense. The bullpen doesn’t really have shutdown stuff for the 5-7th innings in a playoff scenario. There are problems.

      There are problems with every team though. I like our chances to manage our problems better.

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  18. The Yanks have added Benintendi to their line up, and that could be huge. He is one of the best pure hitters in the league, and absolutely murders our heavily right handed pitching. They had one gaping hole; they filled it with a guy that plays Smart, makes pitchers work, and steps up his game with runners on base. All we can hope for is that he’ll catch pinstripe fever and forget how to play real baseball like most left-handed hitters who go to the Bronx do.

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  19. Ryan Clifford ranked #92 in the draft but fell to 11th round because he was committed to Vandy – but Astros sign him along with 7 other picks today

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  20. Good win guys! Urquidy pitched well, just had that one inning where he couldn’t throw strikes. Glad to see the offense pick up the pace. Bregman could be getting back into form and Yuli with a SB that helped to make the difference.

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