As scripts go, Ian Desmond couldn't have written the one for this week of his life much better.
From the depths of despair five days ago, when a dejected Desmond sat in front of his locker in Pittsburgh and sighed – unable to come up with the words that would make his two latest fielding errors go away, Desmond returned to the team Thursday from paternity leave after the birth of his first child and hit the game-winning home run in the Nationals' 4-3 victory over the Mets.
The homer, which was a laser solo shot into the visitors bullpen at Nationals Park, came one inning after he tripled to start a two-run rally in the fourth. The shortstop was 2-for-4, raising his average 15 points to .220 and helping Livan Hernandez to his third win of the year.
"He's the big daddy," Hernandez said. "He's very happy. He came back relaxed and you see him today, he's unbelievable."
It was just the second time in Desmond's career that he's tripled and homered in the same game. The other time was in October 2009 during his 21-game September call up.
"I'm really proud of him," said Nationals manager Jim Riggleman. "He's a great competitor and he's gone through some tough times here in April, but he's had some big games for us too and tonight was a real good ballgame... Fatherhood exceeds anything that we do out here anyway, but I know it's a special time in his life and I'm just really happy for him."
Desmond bounced around the' dugout, field and clubhouse before the game with a smile, accepting congratulations and well-wishes from everyone in his path. He and his wife, Chelsey, welcomed their son, Grayson Wesley, on Tuesday – a night Desmond said he spent with his son on one arm and the Nationals' game streaming on his cell phone in the other.
He watched his teammates suffer through a gut-wrenching loss Wednesday night, and returned with the desire to ignite his team and its offense, and to help stop their latest skid.
"Watching the games the last two days, it just 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 and it felt really good.
"We've got to start (getting hot). We're starting to lose ground (in the NL East). We're better than what we've been playing, and we don't want to lose that ground."
The Nationals (11-13) didn't make things easy on themselves – never having more than a two-run cushion and generally forcing Hernandez to work with a one-run lead. But it was not an issue for Hernandez, who was as sharp as he's been all season, going eight innings and allowing two earned runs off seven hits and one walk.
He struck out five, added a single and an RBI on a sacrifice bunt in the fourth inning – when he displayed solid boxing-out skills to delay his trot to first base and hold Mets catcher Josh Thole back from reaching the ball in time to get Jerry Hairston Jr. running home from third.
And Hernandez, who was given a warm reception by the fans each time he came to bat, did it all one day after news surfaced that the pitcher was the target of a federal money laundering probe in connection with a convicted drug kingpin in Puerto Rico.
"I'm going to let you know one day," Hernandez said after the game when asked about the investigation. "Whatever came out and whatever people (don't) say the truth, it's OK. I can't do nothing when something comes out and I can't do nothing. The fans are always there. These are great fans in baseball. They support the team and they know we play hard, and that's it. I can't control nothing else."
Just as he couldn't control what happened when he left the game after a 1-2-3 eight inning and turned things over to Drew Storen for the save.
Less than 24 hours after a bullpen meltdown reached its apex in the ninth inning, Storen kept his composure when Thole singled and pinch runner Chin-lung Hu stole second base with two outs. Instead of getting rattled, Storen worked former National Willie Harris to a 3-2 count and threw a nasty slider to get Harris swinging and end the game – earning dual fist pumps from both Storen and catcher Ivan Rodriguez.
"There's a lot of things to feel good about this game," Storen said after his fourth save. "Ian putting the effort that he had and Livo too. I got out there and, yeah, I want to do well, but really, in the end, I don't want to waste their effort, and that's kind of what it comes down to. That's a great game by both of them, and those are two huge performances to really pick up the two tough ones that we started with.
"I think that's something that we need to ride the coattails of that momentum."
© Copyright 2015 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.