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“We proved our worth,” Johnson said, his face somber. “We just need to let this be a lesson and learn from it. Have more resolve. Come back and carry it a lot farther.”

They’ll have to first figure out how to get over it, a reality several players were unsure how to process in the immediate aftermath. The Philadelphia Phillies and the New York Yankees lead a list of teams that failed in their first trips to the postseason or after prolonged absences. Both won the World Series the following season. The Nationals took solace in that history.

“It’s life,” Desmond said. “You run into some trials and tribulations. You endure, and you build character. We’re fortunate to have the majority of the team returning. Our bond is only going to get stronger, and we’re only going to get better.”

“This will hurt for a couple days, and then I think we’ll all have a chance to kind of look back and see what we did,” Zimmerman said. “I think we should all be very proud of what we did this year.”