"I felt great on the field," Desmond said. "The ball was just crystal clear. Everything was just so clear. I felt good."
The first of Desmond's hits came in the fourth inning. With the score tied at 2 and Philadelphia right-hander Joe Blanton on the mound, Desmond doubled to right-center to drive in Elijah Dukes.
It appeared that the Nationals put the game out of reach in the fifth inning off Blanton. Desmond highlighted the scoring with a three-run homer, becoming the first Nationals rookie since Brandon Watson in 2005 to go deep in his first Major League game.
"It was a hanging curveball down the middle," Blanton said. "It's not a tough pitch to hit. You hang one down the middle, that's kind of what happens."
After the home run, Desmond had to be coaxed into taking a curtain call. He wasn't sure if the fans wanted one.
"I never had anything like that happen before," he said. "I didn't know if the fans were being serious, so I didn't want to look like a dummy. "[Coach] Tim Foli just told me to step on the first step of the dugout. The other guys were saying, 'Hey, they want you, they want you.' "
Watching Desmond play his first game was former Expos scout Russ Bove, who signed Desmond to his first professional contract in 2004. From his seat in the back of the press box, Bove acted like a proud father watching his son play.
"I've signed a ton of guys, but I've been saying this forever: He is my favorite guy I've ever signed, because he is such a great kid," said Bove, who now works for the Mets. "There was no question that he was going to sign. He was not holding out for money. He was easy to sign, and he wanted to play."
Desmond garnered some attention during the 2005 exhibition season, impressing the Nationals with his dazzling plays and .300-plus batting average. Jose Cardenal, the special advisor to then-general manager Jim Bowden, went so far as to compare Desmond with Derek Jeter.
But Desmond regressed after that spring because of a left hand injury and problems with the bat.
Asked if he thought it would take this long reach the big leagues, Desmond said, "When he was sending me down [in 2005], Frank Robinson told me, 'By the time you are 22, 23 years old, you are going to be in the [big leagues], kid. Just keep on going.' And I kept my head up. I figured I was going to make it sometime."
He made it all right, by having the best debut in Nationals/Expos history, establishing a franchise record with four RBIs in his first Major League game. The previous record was held by infielder Coco Laboy against the Mets on April 8, 1969.
"It was a tremendous performance," interim manager Jim Riggleman said. "There is no way I can explain how great a ballgame he had. He is a talented guy. We saw him exhibit that in a lot of ways. ... He didn't have the jitters. He was taking pitches. He looked like he was ready to go."
Right-hander Livan Hernandez, the beneficiary of the run support, won his first game as a member of the Nationals this season. He pitched 7 1/3 innings and gave up two runs on six hits.
It was Hernandez's first win for Washington since Aug. 1, 2006.
"It feels very good," Hernandez said. "I was looking for the first win. I was trying to throw the ball well."
The Phillies made it a game in the top of the ninth inning, when Matt Stairs hit a grand slam off right-hander Zack Segovia.
Enter Mike MacDougal, who didn't fare any better. After Jimmy Rollins singled, Shane Victorino drove him in with a double. It took Ron Villone to get out of the jam by inducing Ryan Howard to hit into a game-inning double play.
"We had a lot of great performances tonight. We certainly didn't want it to be like that in the end, but that's the Phillies. That's the lineup they have," Riggleman said.
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.