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The stuff, the ability, the pure talent were there from the start. The numbers, Johnson knew, would come.

“I remember when Davey said that, I didn’t think it was that much of a stretch,” said outfielder Jayson Werth.

“That’s no knock on those guys in Philadelphia. But … we’ve kind of lived up to all that. It wasn’t an outlandish statement. It wasn’t anything. It was an honest statement. I agreed with it then; I agree with it now.”

What’s happened since is that where the Nationals have thrived, the Phillies have struggled. The Nationals have won 49 of the 70 games started by Stasburg, Gonzalez or Zimmermann and 20 of the 40 started by Jackson or Detwiler. The Phillies, who lost Halladay for several months to a lat injury, have lost 30 of the 59 games started by Halladay, Lee or Hamels.

“I never thought it was a bad statement for him to come out and say to begin with,” Espinosa said. “When he said it, people were like, ‘Oh, that’s kind of a bold statement.’ It wasn’t a bold statement at all. It’s the truth — 100 percent the truth. If you put [Strasburg, Gonzalez and Zimmermann] in the free-agent market, I think they’d get paid the same way [Halladay, Hamels and Lee] have been rewarded. Those guys are great pitchers. But if you compare, numberswise, I don’t think was a bold statement at all.”

What’s happened since is that the Nationals have rapidly ascended to baseball’s elite, and their starting staff has led the way. No one is laughing at them, their manager or his statements.

“You’ve got your hands full when you’re facing this pitching staff,” said Giants manager Bruce Bochy, no stranger to powerhouse pitching staffs. “Last year, we talked about how good this staff could be. I think they’re as good as any rotation in baseball. I think Davey was right.”