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The Nationals finished no more than two games over .500 in any of the season’s first three months, and in a July that featured six straight losses out of the All-Star break, they were 11-16.

When they began to play the way they knew they could, in the middle of August and September, their record reflected it. From Aug. 9 through the end of the season, the Nationals went 32-16 and pulled themselves from, at one time, being six games below .500 to an 86-76 finish. In that stretch, they shaved the wild card deficit to as small as four games, but no closer.

Ultimately he settled for knowing that the organization, adrift in 2011 when he arrived, is poised to be a contender for a long time upon his exit. His goal, he says, is always to leave a place better than it was when he got to it. The fact that the Nationals will have their pick of the litter to replace him should speak to that.

“The managerial role as a whole is kind of an enigma,” said right-hander Tyler Clippard. “You don’t really know … what he’s doing well to have his guys succeed under him. But I know, just from being around this team and this organization and playing under Davey, that he was uncanny in showing confidence in his guys. And it never wavered.”

The Nationals couldn’t give the manager the send-off they’d all hoped for with a championship parade through the District in early November, but, as the well-worn saying goes, that’s baseball.

“I feel melancholy, because this is a great group of guys,” Johnson said Sunday morning. “I love the organization and I’m finishing up in the city that made me love big-league baseball, the old Senators. I feel very fortunate. My life has come full circle.

“It’s the end of my big-league journey. Period. I know that.”