July 20, 2005

Nationals primed for World Series, says Bowden

By Steve Ginsburg

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Jim Bowden narrows his eyes, grits
his teeth just a little and refuses to concede that the magic
that highlighted the first half of the Washington Nationals'
fairytale season might slowly be fading.

In fact, the brash general manager is as confident as ever.

"With no more player moves, we can win the World Series,"
he said. "I didn't say the division. I said the World Series."

That is brash talk for the architect of a team that appears
to have lost the combination of skill and luck that ushered the
Nationals to the top of the National League East standings.

"We're just going through a little slump right now, a
little funk," said third baseman Vinny Castilla. "We just have
to keep going out there. There's a lot of baseball left."

Washington has lost nine of its last 13 games but still
clings to a 1 1/2-game lead in the East. Perennial division
winner Atlanta, however, is clearly in the rear-view mirror.

"We're going through a spell and hopefully we can find our
mojo and see if we can get it going," said outfielder Brad
Wilkerson. "We need to get our confidence back. We'll get it.
It's just a matter of time."

The Nationals are 54-40 but are one of the worst hitting
teams in the National League. They have become specialists
winning the close games, going 24-11 in games decided by one

But the team has hit a wall lately, losing consecutive
series to the Mets, Phillies and Brewers before splitting their
first two games with cellar-dwelling Colorado Rockies.


It is a bad sign that the Nationals are 2-5 in one-run
games during the stretch.

The losses have some people in the city thinking the bubble
has burst, that the club is ready to revert to its losing ways.
Last season, splitting home games between Montreal and Puerto
Rico, the moribund franchise was 67-95.

But since moving to Washington, the club is not only
winning, they have captured the hearts of the city's fans,
averaging more than 30,000 a game at aging RFK Stadium.

Bowden said it is too early to write the Nationals'

"All I heard was the burial of the Yankees for three
months," he said. "You wake up and they're on the door of first
place. Where's the burial now?

"You can't worry about how a team is portrayed when they're
going through a slump because we know in the history of the
game you're going to have ups and downs.

"They key is not to get too down when you're down and not
too high when you're up. When you go through bad streaks, the
fans, the media are always going to get on you, saying the
wheels have fallen off.

"I'll take our position right now."


Washington is 31-2 when scoring five or more runs. The
problem is, they have scored at least five only twice in the
last 13 games.

"We're still upbeat," said manager Frank Robinson. "We're
just going through a little rut right now. All teams go through
it and we'll come out of this.

"We're just not putting enough runs on the board to win our
kind of ball games, the ones we were winning before."

Bowden remains convinced the Nationals are primed for the
Fall Classic.

"We haven't even started yet," he said. "This is an
appetizer. We're getting ready for dessert. In October."