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A massive change remains unlikely. Acta often has said “this is who we are,” dashing thoughts of a roster overhaul.

As for the job statuses of Acta and Bowden, Kasten quashed any idle speculation about changes on that level: “I think they both have done very well, and they’re both absolutely big parts of our future.”

Acta held a rare team meeting before Wednesday night’s game against the Los Angeles Angels and gave his players a 35-minute pep talk. The Nationals proceeded to win 5-4 on Jesus Flores’ ninth-inning RBI single. And though it’s hard to believe one team meeting is going to turn an entire team’s fortunes around, there was a different vibe inside the clubhouse afterward.

“It’s not fun to be a last-place team,” Lo Duca said. “We’ve got the worst record in the National League. And we need to do something about it.”

Whether they finish 2008 last or not, the Nationals’ ultimate goal hasn’t changed. Upon taking control of the organization two years ago, Kasten cautioned fans the rebuilding process would take time. There was no quick fix. And despite his team’s monumental struggles this season, that philosophy remains intact.

“Let’s face it. We should have had a better record right now than we’ve had,” Kasten said. “But there’s nothing that’s happened this year which is a kink to us long term. We don’t have a big $75 million contract that has backfired. We don’t have a $125 million pitcher that has backfired. We’ve avoided those kind of mistakes.

“That was so important for us to do. Because we don’t want to be a team that rebuilds every year. We want to get it right this most important first time so that we can be good for the long haul. I don’t think that we have made any long-term mistakes. We’ve avoided those. And that’s what’s most important to getting long-term success.”