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If anyone knew the position Johnson was in this offseason, it’s Manuel, who was used to being atop the NL East after five consecutive division titles. But if anyone could commiserate with the Nationals’ feelings of emptiness immediately after the season ended, it, too, was Manuel.

With that in mind, he wasn’t ready to concede just yet.

“A couple of years ago, we won 102 games, and we got eliminated,” he said. “What does that tell you? That tells you that anything can happen once you get into the playoffs. But at the same time, if you play right and things are going your way and [you’re playing] the kind of baseball that I talk about playing, I think you’ve always got a chance.”