WASHINGTON – Ian Desmond took two games off for the birth of his son and returned with a gift for his Washington Nationals teammates.
Desmond homered and tripled in his first game back from paternity leave to lead Washington past the New York Mets 4-3 Thursday night.
"Watching the games the last two days, it seemed like the team needed a little spark," Desmond said. "I came in here today hoping to be able to do that, and I did."
Desmond's home run in the fifth was his third of the season. He had missed the Nationals' past two games after his wife, Chelsey, gave birth Tuesday to the couple's first son, Grayson Wesley Desmond.
"I just thought he was very loose tonight," Washington manager Jim Riggleman said. "Fatherhood exceeds anything that we do out here anyway. I know it's a special time in his life and I'm very happy for him."
Desmond said even on Tuesday night he tried to watch his teammates, although it meant trying to watch the game broadcast on his phone in one hand while he held his new son with the other.
He saw the Nationals drop the first two in the series to New York, part of a three-game losing streak. Washington had lost six of seven before holding off the Mets behind Desmond's offense and eight strong innings from starter Livan Hernandez (3-2).
Hernandez allowed three runs, two earned, and seven hits with five strikeouts and a walk. He also got his first hit of the season and drove in a run with a sacrifice bunt.
"If I was a young pitcher, and I wanted to learn how to pitch, that's the guy I'd watch," Mets manager Terry Collins said. "It's all about location, it's all about changing speeds. It's all about keeping everybody off guard. He does a great job doing it."
The loss ended New York's six-game winning streak, the team's longest run since winning eight straight last June. Ike Davis had a single, a double and drove in a run for the Mets, extending his hitting streak to 10 games.
Chris Capuano (2-2) allowed four runs and 10 hits in 5 2-3 innings, striking out two without a walk.
Hernandez was pitching the day after his name surfaced at the trial of a convicted drug dealer in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
"Whatever came out, and if people (don't) say the truth, it's OK," Hernandez said. "Something came out and I can do nothing about it."
All the runs came in the middle innings, with both teams scoring in three straight innings. While the Mets could only manage a single run at a time, the Nationals were able to get a pair in the fourth.
The game was tied 1-all when Desmond tripled and scored on Jerry Hairston's single. Hairston advanced to third on Ivan Rodriguez's single, and Hernandez then perfectly placed a bunt in front of the plate. Mets catcher Josh Thole fielded the ball but his dive back to the plate was too late to get Hairston, who scored to give the Nationals a 3-1 lead.
Davis led off the fifth with a single. The Mets loaded the bases on Thole's single and an error by Rodriguez, who fumbled Capuano's sacrifice bunt. Center fielder Rick Ankiel made a tough catch on Jose Reyes' sacrifice fly, but New York couldn't add another run as Hernandez struck out Daniel Murphy.
Desmond's solo homer stretched the Nationals' lead to 4-2 in the fifth.
"The big daddy was coming today," Hernandez said. "He came back today relaxed, and you saw him today. He was unbelievable."
The Nationals scored the game's first run in the third when Jayson Werth hit a flyball that right fielder Carlos Beltran appeared to misjudge. The ball sailed over his head, bounced off the warning track and into the Nationals' bullpen for a run-scoring ground-rule double.
The late lead — along with the performances by Desmond and Hernandez — held up when Drew Storen closed out the ninth for his fourth save in four chances.
"There's a lot of things to feel good about this game," Storen said. "I want to do well, but in the end I don't want to waste their efforts. That's what it comes down to, because that's a great game by both of them."
NOTES: Washington optioned OF Roger Bernadina to Triple-A Syracuse before the game. ... Former Nationals team president Stan Kasten was on the field during batting practice. ... Mets C Ronny Paulino (anemia) is expected to return from the disabled list Friday.