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Nats 5, Toronto 3

After tonight's game, Manny Acta was strolling down the lower-level tunnel at Nationals Park, having just finished his press conference. A grinning Stan Kasten pulled him aside. Acta, with this four-game winning streak under his belt, was smiling, too. Just as they talked, I caught Acta's eye. He looked over and said, as if detecting my thoughts, "I'm not getting fired."

The Save Manny campaign continued tonight with another extra inning victory. The Nats, mind you, were a team that entered Wednesday having won only four of their 22 previous games. Now they've won four in a row.

This one ended with a Willie Harris two-run walk off homer in the 12th against Toronto reliever Scott Richmond. That cemented Harris as tonight's star, but he had contributed -- a lot -- even before ripping a full-count pitch into the home bullpen. There was a fifth inning diving catch in center. There was the bottom-of-the-fifth ground-rule double. And then there was the subsequent stolen base, which positioned Harris to score on a Wil Nieves sac fly.

(Harris got an incredible jump on that steal, nearly reaching third base by the time rookie pitcher Brett Cecil's pitch crossed home plate. I asked Harris if that was the pay-off of some advanced scouting, and he mentioned how it went down: In the first inning, with Cristian Guzman on second, Harris noticed that Cecil was just a "one-looker to the plate." In other words, he basically ignored baserunners on second. So Harris found himself on second and just tried to take advantage. Especially given the situation -- catcher up, pitcher on deck -- that aggressiveness made perfect sense.)

A few other notes...

* Another game, another stellar starting pitching performance. Ross Detwiler tonight went 7+, allowing just two earned runs. He left with the lead, which the bullpen promptly surrendered, but Detwiler said after this one, "it's a win for the team, so you can't go wrong with that."

* Nick Johnson tied a franchise record tonight by reaching base in 10 consecutive plate appearances. (The streak was snapped in his fourth PA tonight.) Anyway, Johnson ties Rusty Staub's franchise mark from 1969.

* Nats' starters have a 2.99 ERA in June.

By Chico Harlan  |  June 20, 2009; 11:53 PM ET
 
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Comments

(Harris got an incredible jump on that steal, nearly reaching third base by the time rookie pitcher Brett Cecil's pitch crossed home plate. I asked Harris if that was the pay-off of some advanced scouting, and he mentioned how it went down: In the first inning, with Cristian Guzman on second, Harris noticed that Cecil was just a "one-looker to the plate." In other words, he basically ignored baserunners on second. So Harris found himself on second and just tried to take advantage. Especially given the situation -- catcher up, pitcher on deck -- that aggressiveness made perfect sense.)

Do you think Harris can teach this to Dukes?

Posted by: jdschulz50 | June 21, 2009 12:05 AM | Report abuse

Maybe, but Dukes needs more work on when NOT to run than when he should.

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | June 21, 2009 12:08 AM | Report abuse

That said, the play at third wasn't that bad, as much as I hate seeing them make the last out at third. They had the Jays on the defensive ropes--they'd misplayed both Nick's double and EJ's--force them to make the throws. If they don't, and he scores, now you're probably in the pitchers' head for good.

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | June 21, 2009 12:11 AM | Report abuse

EJ is evidently my new abbreviation for Elijah Dukes.

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | June 21, 2009 12:13 AM | Report abuse

Just a guess, but when Olson comes back, what are the chances they send Bergmann down and keep one of the kids in the long role?

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | June 21, 2009 12:15 AM | Report abuse

I believe Bergmann is already gone.

Posted by: BGinVA | June 21, 2009 12:23 AM | Report abuse

Any reason why Harris shouldn't be the team's regular starting center fielder for the rest of this season?

Posted by: Juan-John | June 21, 2009 12:25 AM | Report abuse

Sec3: Bergmann is already down, I think.

Posted by: NickfromGermantown | June 21, 2009 12:26 AM | Report abuse

Manny Acta is back from the dead.

Posted by: Wittan | June 21, 2009 12:32 AM | Report abuse

I've always love Harris' gameplay, a true gamer, especially since that incredible catch he made against the Mets, which I believe made it into BT's top 10 (if not 5) web gems of the year. I can see no reason to not make him the de facto CF at this point.

As for the return of Olsen, does it need to happen (i.e. his being called back to the majors)? There's so much of a good groove going on with our current kids (they definitely seem to be feeding off of eachother), I'd be hesitant to disrupt it in any way. I guess I'm kind of worried about the psychological ramifications of sending one of them either back down or into the bullpen as the odd man out. If it does have to happen, then Sec3, I do like your idea of keeping them in as a LR as necessary.

Posted by: HotNats | June 21, 2009 12:33 AM | Report abuse

Correction on Olsen's return "to the majors," I know he's already up here, my bad. (Danged beer!)

Posted by: HotNats | June 21, 2009 12:34 AM | Report abuse

(Correction: I will never dang beer)

Posted by: HotNats | June 21, 2009 12:40 AM | Report abuse

was at the game tonight. wow! what a win!

I feel bad for Kearns, but I decided tonight that he's not a pinch hitter, he's a pinch outer. =(

Posted by: NatsNut | June 21, 2009 12:42 AM | Report abuse

Definitely jealous, NN, you caught a beauty, both weather-wise and Nats-wise!

Posted by: HotNats | June 21, 2009 12:45 AM | Report abuse

Was also at the game... had a great time. Willie Harris is the man!

Posted by: Imjustlikemusiq | June 21, 2009 12:53 AM | Report abuse

Keep Olsen in AAA. The kids are doing well. Stammen has been hot and cold (thinking specifically about his rough outing against the Mets), but let's keep this rotation together while it's working.

It's fun to watch these young guys get after it.

Go Nats!

Posted by: usmc53 | June 21, 2009 1:06 AM | Report abuse

So I'm watching the replay of this eve's game, and was very interested in seeing Dukes' baserunning gaffe again, as I originally thought maybe Listach signaled him to go for 3rd. Upon further review, it looked like Listach got in his face a bit for it. Hopefully Dukes learned a little bit on that one. Actually, hopefully he learned a lot.

Posted by: HotNats | June 21, 2009 1:10 AM | Report abuse

Willie Harris has made some of the most amazing game-saving catches, I'd be the first to admit. But, again, I have to submit that he can't be the regular CF on a winning team: .250 with occasional pop and good defense does not a regular major league CF make. (But I do hope he stays around)

Posted by: nats24 | June 21, 2009 1:13 AM | Report abuse

So here's the latest scoop on Olsen, according to http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/players/profile?playerId=6332:

-----------------------------------------
News: Olsen (shoulder) will not be activated off the DL until he can throw five innings in a rehab game, the Nationals' official site reports.
Spin: Olsen has made two starts for Triple-A Syracuse, the first going three innings and the second lasting 3.2. He has a 5:4 BB:K ratio in those starts, which reaffirms acting general manager Mike Rizzo's observation that Olsen can not find the strike zone. "The ball came out of his hand good and the velocity was good. He was just [all over the place in the strike zone]," he said.
-----------------------------------------

Sounds like that's a pretty damn good reason not to mess with what we've got going right now, I figure...

(Good to hear from you usmc, hope all is well!)

Posted by: HotNats | June 21, 2009 1:16 AM | Report abuse

Long time lurker, first time poster on here. Tonight's was the first game I've attended this year and we definitely picked a good one. Unfortunately, I took a break to go get food with the bottom's of the orders coming up in the fifth, and missed both Willie's catch and the double. I did get back in time to see his swipe of third and the sac fly that got him home.

Was bummed about the blown lead and Detwiler not getting the win after his performance tonight, but the extra innings were tense and it was great to see them come out on top with walk-offs two nights in a row. Lots of zeros on our part of the scoreboard between the sixth and the twelfth, but the bullpen kept them in it after failing to hold in the eighth.

Great night for a game and fun time at the ball park. Notice they seem to do better against the non-NLEast teams that they don't see as often, hope they can continue this trend when they get back into division games.

Posted by: My3Cents | June 21, 2009 1:20 AM | Report abuse

Fair enough, nats24, his average ain't great (in fact, in terms of the current MLB outfielders' BA this season, it's pretty much EXACTLY average). But I vote to keep him in, as to paraphrase a previous poster on a previous post, I don't have a sphincter-clenching moment whenever a ball's hit out there when he's in the game. I'll gladly take the lower offensive production for the added security in knowing that whatever gets hit into center, there's a damn good chance that Willie's gonna be gunning full-out for it.

Posted by: HotNats | June 21, 2009 1:35 AM | Report abuse

HN, that's absolutely right. The ball gets hit ANYWHERE in the outfield and my first thought is "no worries. willie will get it."

It makes a huge difference in my confidence as a fan, imagine what it does for the pitchers?

Posted by: NatsNut | June 21, 2009 1:40 AM | Report abuse

I'd never question Willie's hustle, and the quote from Chico about the steal indicates that he clearly knows (as a good player should) what the situation is at any point. A valuable guy -- no doubt about it. I hope it rubs off on some others.

Posted by: nats24 | June 21, 2009 1:46 AM | Report abuse

"I hope it rubs off on some others."

Absolutely agreed, nats42, one of those "behind the numbers" intangibles that helps the rest of the team.

Posted by: HotNats | June 21, 2009 1:54 AM | Report abuse

ooops, sorry, meant nats24

Posted by: HotNats | June 21, 2009 1:55 AM | Report abuse

The hustle and effort is contagious! The pitchers are pitching and fielders are fielding. Even some clutch hitting tonight (last night)! I hope everyone on the team gets the fever!

Posted by: NickfromGermantown | June 21, 2009 1:59 AM | Report abuse

anyone who hates on willie harris is also hating on america, apple pie, baby jesus, and puppies.

Posted by: MrMadison | June 21, 2009 2:37 AM | Report abuse

and optimus prime.

Posted by: MrMadison | June 21, 2009 2:41 AM | Report abuse

am i only imagining a relation between st. claire's firing and our pitching improvement? particularly starters?

Posted by: MrMadison | June 21, 2009 2:46 AM | Report abuse

Unfortunately, like all things MLB, there are rules about how long Olsen can be kept on a rehab assignment. After that he has to be brought up or DFA'd. I don't think he has any options left.

Posted by: natsguy | June 21, 2009 3:04 AM | Report abuse

Platoon Willie in CF? Dunn-Willie-Willingham against righties, with Dukes spelling JW at times, Dunn-Dukes-JW against lefties. No accident that they're winning with better OF defense.
Geezer

Posted by: utec | June 21, 2009 6:51 AM | Report abuse

GO NATS! 5 game win streak!

Posted by: rachel216 | June 21, 2009 7:14 AM | Report abuse

That was good, MrMad (and true).

---

anyone who hates on willie harris is also hating on america, apple pie, baby jesus, and puppies.

Posted by: MrMadison | June 21, 2009 2:37 AM

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | June 21, 2009 7:14 AM | Report abuse

Nats could have about 10 more wins if it weren't for the 8 extra inning losses (before the two wins) and all the blown saves... that is what's so frustrating.. could easily be about 30-36...

Posted by: rachel216 | June 21, 2009 7:29 AM | Report abuse

Nobody cares about "team" records from Montreal. BRING BACK THE NATIONALS / SENATORS WASHINGTON, DC FRANCHISE RECORDS FOR PETE'S SAKE! LET THE FRENCH HAVE YUPPI AND THE EXPOS! THE LERNERS ARE WORTHLESS!

Posted by: mjwies11 | June 21, 2009 8:26 AM | Report abuse

Willie Harris is a player, the kid from Cairo,Ga. epitomizes hustle and is fundamentally sound and has confidence in his ability when the Braves released him almost two years ago the beat writer for the Braves and the fans took the Braves management to task and fans down here in the A-T-L have never let them forget it especially since their fair haired boy Jeff Francouer has tanked.The fact that Harris batted almost .400 against his former team last year only rubbed salt in the wound. I like the "Kid from Cairo" he plays the game the right way and even more than that he play the game smart if only all the Nats played that way we might be on to something.

Posted by: dargregmag | June 21, 2009 8:26 AM | Report abuse

Welcome to long time lurker first time poster my3cents (and any others I may have missed in the comments).

Interesting quote from Acta (on his demeanor) in the OP today:

"I'm that guy that, if you cut him off on the road, I'm not going to flip you off. ...I know every profanity in three languages. I just don't have to do it during the middle of the game."

So, I know there's English and Spanish. I'm curious as to what is Acta's third language?

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | June 21, 2009 8:55 AM | Report abuse

Just a guess, but the third language is probably Creole.

Posted by: Catcher50 | June 21, 2009 9:03 AM | Report abuse

So, I know there's English and Spanish. I'm curious as to what is Acta's third language?
Posted by: natsfan1a1
-----------------------
Portugese, maybe?

Posted by: BinM | June 21, 2009 9:08 AM | Report abuse

Bill Madden of the NY Daily News weighs in on l'affaire Acta. Says with all the team's other problems, why sack the manager?

http://www.nydailynews.com/sports/columnists/madden/index.html

Posted by: leetee1955 | June 21, 2009 9:09 AM | Report abuse

Thanks, catcher50. That would make sense.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | June 21, 2009 9:29 AM | Report abuse

Thanks for the link, leetee. I also enjoyed the item about Yankees fans trying to storm the luxurious "Alamo" behind the plate during the rain delay.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | June 21, 2009 9:33 AM | Report abuse

Washington Examiner has a story about the Lerners today that doesn't say much that we don't already know here. But they have an interesting take from Ted Leonsis:

"“It’s always darkest before it gets light,” said Ted Leonsis, the former AOL executive and owner of the NHL’s Washington Capitals, where Mark Lerner is a minority owner.

Leonsis knows better than anyone the position the Lerners are in. After all, he took years of abuse after deciding to rebuild the Caps in 2003. Stars were traded for prospects and draft picks, and the club endured three awful seasons sandwiched around the NHL lockout of 2004. At times like those, the owner always becomes the biggest punching bag.

“'When you own a sports team and you articulate a plan, everyone wants you to change the plan or has a better idea,' Leonsis said. 'And at that point in time they are all more right than wrong. But if you have a plan you have to stick with it. ... Just make sure you execute [and] don’t be random. Don’t make a move thinking that you’re going to please somebody.'”

http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/sports/Striking-out-Ted-Lerner-and-the-Nationals.html

The Caps' record in the years in question:

2008-09: 50 - 24
2007-08: 43 - 31
2006-07: 28 - 40
2005-06: 29 - 41
2004-05: Lockout
2003-04: 23 - 46 - 10

BTW, I've always liked Willie Harris because apart from hitting ability, he reminds me of Pete Rose - makes up for his lack of natural gifts with nonstop hustle and always having his head in the game. I understand Manny's saying he's an asset wherever he plays, but I can't think of a position where his value to the team is greater than in center, and if I were managing (yeah, right), he'd be starting there every day until I thought I had someone better to replace him there. Which the Nats certainly do not have right now.

Posted by: gilbertbp | June 21, 2009 9:34 AM | Report abuse

Hey gang...happy fathers day....could there be glimmers of hope here for our part of the gang on the field? Maybe like some extended boot camp, the shared humiliations and hard times are FINALLY gonna produce a bunch that plays with the grit this game demands. Kinda like the '05 team. Speaking of which, anyone else remember F.Robby saying he'd "quit" if we got rid of Jamie Carroll? Which Bowden promptly did? Who is still playing this game well in Cleveland and is mentioned as a possible valuable trade addition for a contender? Hmmmmmm,,,,hello Will Harris.I dunno, I realize we still have plenty of holes to fill for any real future success but-MAN-it's nice to see Major League Baseball played here by our MLB team.Hey-I'm the guy who said 84 wins before the season started, and lets not forget it's only 4 games. But something FJB said about Mannys' presence in person....well, you can't put "it" in words but maybe-just maybe-we've turned that mythical corner and we got the start of something here...Go Nats!

Posted by: zendo | June 21, 2009 9:46 AM | Report abuse

I'm still mad and them for getting rid of Jamey Carroll, zendo, and I love Willie.

In other news, the validation key for All-Star voting interface on the MLB site is working again (it's been out of commission off and on recently). Sadly, you can only write in one candidate for league ballot, or I'd vote Harris for every position on both teams. ;-)

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | June 21, 2009 9:53 AM | Report abuse

Yea 1a1...he's a BALLPLAYER! howza 'bout havin' HIM mentor Elijah? Dimitri Young!Time to go visit Pops, gang,,,looking forward to all the posts to come.Go Nats!!!!

Posted by: zendo | June 21, 2009 9:58 AM | Report abuse

Hey, Brue? JayBee? You guys still there? Hello?

C'mon guys. How about a "fire Manny" for old times? Huh?

*crickets chirping*

Gee, I hope they're OK.

Posted by: TomServo | June 21, 2009 10:03 AM | Report abuse

Perhaps we should send out a search party, TomS.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | June 21, 2009 10:10 AM | Report abuse

Willie Harris once brought a man back from the dead.

Posted by: Section506 | June 21, 2009 10:12 AM | Report abuse

HeY! It's the old original 506! Go Nats....now I REALLY gotta go pick up boy and go see Pops!

Posted by: zendo | June 21, 2009 10:14 AM | Report abuse

"Hey, Brue? JayBee? You guys still there? Hello?

C'mon guys. How about a "fire Manny" for old times? Huh?

*crickets chirping*

Gee, I hope they're OK."

Should have fired him over a month ago, probably can't fire him right now from a PR standpoint. I suppose if he weathered skippering this crew to 30 games under .500 by mid-June he could weather anything. He has shown resilience in his massive failures. At least have to give him that.

Posted by: RickFelt | June 21, 2009 10:22 AM | Report abuse

Hey, Brue? JayBee? You guys still there? Hello?

C'mon guys. How about a "fire Manny" for old times? Huh?

*crickets chirping*

Gee, I hope they're OK.

Posted by: TomServo | June 21, 2009 10:03 AM
________________________________________________________________

TomServo,

Now, I know that your post was good clean fun, However...

A team wins 4 in a row and everything is OK?

You are aware that this team is still 20-46 and currently 9 games away from 4 teams with 29 losses?

I truly hope this team gets on a roll and finishes well going into the offseason and saves Manny's job. What true fan wouldn't?

The rub with that is, that the cheap owners and president will probably see that as a sign that the team has turned the corner and won't spend much money on the ML roster in the offseason. That decision would continue to stunt the growth of this franchise.

Even bad baseball teams get on a roll and have a little hot streak, that is the nature of a 162 game season.

So, I wouldn't be so quick to start calling out people on the NJ just because we won 4 in a row. JayB and Brue serve their purpose here very well, and IMO are not people who don't know what the hell they are talking about. Just because they are not blind, excuse making, cheerleaders does not make them fools.

Posted by: Section505203 | June 21, 2009 10:25 AM | Report abuse

"Hey, Brue? JayBee? You guys still there? Hello?

C'mon guys. How about a "fire Manny" for old times? Huh?

*crickets chirping*

Gee, I hope they're OK."

Posted by: TomServo | June 21, 2009 10:03 AM


Huh? The Nats still have the worst record in MLB, by 9 games. If anything, the fact that the Nats are talented enough to put together a nice little string of games, as they are, further supports the fact that Manny is not the right manager for this team.

The team was sleepwalking through the first 60 games of this season. In response, Manny's "defenders" talked about how we can't hold Manny responsible for the team's bad play, because he didn't have the horses. But the team recently has been showing that they *do* have the ability to at least play competitive baseball. And they have been showing that they *can* play better defense when the right players are on the field. That's what some of us have been saying all season.

Sleepwalking through the first 60 games at an historically-bad pace, and the bad lineup decisions, are on Manny. The team has shown it has the talent to play competitive ball, it's the manager who has been holding them back.

Also, just because the team won last night, that doesn't mean that Manny isn't continuing to make horrible tactical decisions--such as bringing in Hanrahan last night with a runner on in the 8th.

Posted by: CoverageisLacking | June 21, 2009 10:28 AM | Report abuse

I think maybe put Olson on a rehab assignment but, he is a great way to relieve one of the younger arms that is not going to last all season.

Not only is it bad for the kids to have to pitch their longest season under pressure but, it also puts them in a position where, if they start to tire, this could undo the good work they've done building confidence. A tired pitcher might be tempted to slightly change their delivery to compensate for tired muscles and this could have a long term effect on, what at the moment, seems like it could potentially be the makings of a solid rotation.

Willie Harris looks like being a good fit for a center field right now. Good solid defense, minimal errors and pitchers have to think to get him out.

Posted by: soundbloke | June 21, 2009 10:32 AM | Report abuse

Nobody disputes where the team is in the rankings, guys, and I don't think that TomS implied that anybody was a fool. My impression was that the tweak spoke more to the idea of taking pleasure in the team's fortunes during a winning streak in addition to railing during the times of loss.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | June 21, 2009 10:36 AM | Report abuse

In other news, it occurs to me that if the two fake umps are there again today (please, G*d, no), maybe they will lend us their brooms as props...

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | June 21, 2009 10:40 AM | Report abuse

la,

Maybe my use of the word "fools" was a little over the top, because TomS never implied that.

However, I just find it a little bush league to start calling people out, even in a playful fashion, because Our team has won 4 in a row to get them to just 20-46.

Am I enjoying the 4 game win streak? Hell yeah!

Do I see the big picture of how bad this organization has been run for us to be at the awful position of 20-46? Hell yeah!

Posted by: Section505203 | June 21, 2009 10:45 AM | Report abuse

This is worth repeating.

Amazing.

-----

Nats' starters have a 2.99 ERA in June.

Posted by: JohninMpls | June 21, 2009 10:50 AM | Report abuse

No disagreement here on the Nats woes, sec505.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | June 21, 2009 10:52 AM | Report abuse

Servo - You just had to poke the bear with the stick, did'nt you? Now both 505 & CiL are up, and grumpy. Yeesh, I was hoping for a nice quiet weekend, drinking kool-aid & reading upbeat comments.

Posted by: BinM | June 21, 2009 10:53 AM | Report abuse

I'm not grumpy dammit!

How could I be, It's Fathers Day, I got some nice gifts this morning from my wife and kids. What's not to like?

I have no hard feelings toward TomS, I like to drink a glass of Kool Aid from time to time myself.

Just trying to keep the big picture in perspective here.

Posted by: Section505203 | June 21, 2009 11:01 AM | Report abuse

Ditto, 505. Happy Father's Day to all the dads here. Go Nats!

Posted by: CoverageisLacking | June 21, 2009 11:04 AM | Report abuse

JiM: the 2.99ERA over the last three weeks is marvelous. Just as amazing (in my book) is that the current SP rotation has respectable numbers for the season - 51 starts, 12-14W-L, 1.42WHIP, .255BAA, and a 4.42ERA.
The team has the worst record in MLB, but there are still parts of it you can't help but like & be proud of.

Posted by: BinM | June 21, 2009 11:06 AM | Report abuse

New post - Today's Line Up.

Posted by: bigmook | June 21, 2009 11:10 AM | Report abuse

505, CiL: Glad you're both having a pleasant Fathers' day. The reply to Servo had no malice, you two just happened to rise to his bait - just some snark between regulars.

Posted by: BinM | June 21, 2009 11:16 AM | Report abuse

Gentleman: Happy Father's Day to all, as a father of five (3girls2 boys) all of them gone except baby girl(almost 17) i am going to sit back and enjoy the game today and watch Shairon Martis aka smoke and mirrors try to put one over on the Blue Jays today. I am going to refrain from the

Posted by: dargregmag | June 21, 2009 12:51 PM | Report abuse

I, however, am sleepy (and some would probably say dopey as well).

Happy father's day to all the dads here!

---

I'm not grumpy dammit!

How could I be, It's Fathers Day, I got some nice gifts this morning from my wife and kids. What's not to like?

I have no hard feelings toward TomS, I like to drink a glass of Kool Aid from time to time myself.

Just trying to keep the big picture in perspective here.

Posted by: Section505203 | June 21, 2009 11:01

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | June 21, 2009 12:53 PM | Report abuse

Sorry about that shortened post as i was saying i am going to refrain from my ususal bashing of Manny and enjoy this modest winning streak, again Happy Fathers Day to all enjoy the day.

Posted by: dargregmag | June 21, 2009 12:54 PM | Report abuse

Hope that you enjoy the day as well, dargregmag.

Also, there are a couple of new posts up.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | June 21, 2009 12:58 PM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
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