NEW YORK -- Boosted by the play of some blossoming youngsters, the Washington Nationals walked out of Citi Field with a series sweep and a new spot in the standings.
No wonder they're feeling pretty good about the future.
"I think you're seeing signs that we're starting to learn how to win," Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo said. "I think we're seeing a little maturation of how to play on the road and how to prepare on the road."
Desmond drove in three late runs from his leadoff spot and Ryan Zimmerman had two RBIs for the Nationals, who won their fifth straight overall and moved past the Mets into third place in the NL East.
The franchise has not finished third or higher since 2002, when it played in Montreal and ended the season in second place.
"We feel that we're going in the right direction," Rizzo said. "Our young players are getting opportunities and we're progressing. So I think it kind of shows not only our fan base, but the organization itself that we are improving. We've got some good young players and their talents in the minor leagues are starting to translate to the big leagues."
Making his third major league start, Milone (1-0) allowed one run and three hits in 5 2/3 innings. He became the second consecutive Nationals rookie starter to notch his first career victory, following Brad Peacock's 2-0 win Wednesday night.
"It feels great. It feels exactly how I wanted it to when I was a little kid," said Milone, who took three souvenir balls and a shaving-cream pie in the face from teammate John Lannan. "Hopefully, there's more games like this to come."
Wilson Ramos added three hits and three runs as Washington polished off its first road sweep of the season without even throwing prized prospect Stephen Strasburg. It was the Nationals' second four-game sweep since moving from Montreal to Washington for the 2005 season -- the other one came in Atlanta to end 2009.
"I've said it before: I think our minor league staff, as far as coaches, managers and player development, they're doing a great job of developing ballplayers," Desmond said. "They're not really out there looking for phenoms or whatever it may be. They're trying to put guys that know how to play the game from head to toe. That's the kind of guys we've got and I think the more guys that come up, the more we'll win."
After fighting through some critical injuries to stay competitive most of the season, the Mets are stumbling to the finish in September. It's an all-too-familiar refrain, even for the contending teams they fielded a few years ago.
New York has lost six straight, one shy of its longest skid this season, and finished 1-8 on the penultimate homestand of the season. The sluggish Mets (71-79) managed five runs in the four-game series and were outscored 48-26 on the homestand.
Moments after the latest loss, manager Terry Collins said he was "disgusted" with how his team has been playing and took the blame for the poor performance.
"The perception I have right now: We folded it up. And I won't stand for that," he said. "You want to see me be intense? You guys are going to see it. I don't play that game."
Third baseman David Wright committed his sixth error in six games and eighth in the last 10 before a sparse crowd of 22,205 on a dreary afternoon.
Chris Schwinden (0-2) tossed five solid innings in his second big league start but received little support on offense or defense. Struggling to drive in runners, New York has dropped eight of nine since pulling within a game of .500 and is closing in on a third straight losing season.
"Our fans should be upset. I don't blame them a bit," Collins said. "No energy, none at all, on the field. This is not the way we played all year long."
Both rookie starters remained in the game following a 40-minute rain delay in the bottom of the second.
With the bases loaded in the seventh, Todd Coffey retired Wright on an inning-ending flyout to preserve a 3-1 lead. Wright slammed his helmet in frustration.
Washington added three runs in the rainy eighth, including an RBI single by Desmond and a run-scoring double by Zimmerman.
Desmond added a two-run double in a four-run ninth against Manny Acosta.
"We definitely play with some energy here. Everybody comes ready to play, ready to win," Coffey said. "We're looking to set a precedent for next year."
Strasburg makes his third major league start since Tommy John surgery on Saturday night against Florida. He was pulled after three innings in his most recent outing Sunday against Houston. "I had a short leash the first two. I'm going to have a little longer leash the third time out," manager Davey Johnson said. "As far as a specific pitch count, I'm not even going there. But I'll just go with what I see and what I think he's capable of doing without a whole lot of stress." ... Peacock will get another start next week, Johnson said. ... Mets SS Jose Reyes, leading the NL in hitting, was rested. He will play all three games in Atlanta this weekend, Collins said. ... The Nationals won the season series for the first time, 10-8.