SAN DIEGO -- Ryan Zimmerman's opposite-field homer broke an eighth-inning tie Thursday night, sending the Nationals to a 2-1, series-opening victory over the Padres at Petco Park.With two outs and the bases empty in the eighth, Padres reliever Kirby Yates grooved a 1-1 fastball that Zimmerman crushed 414 feet, per
SAN DIEGO -- Ryan Zimmerman's opposite-field homer broke an eighth-inning tie Thursday night, sending the Nationals to a 2-1, series-opening victory over the Padres at Petco Park.
With two outs and the bases empty in the eighth, Padres reliever Kirby Yates grooved a 1-1 fastball that Zimmerman crushed 414 feet, per Statcast™, onto the home-run deck in right field. His 29th home run made a winner out of Edwin Jackson against his former club, and it moved the Nationals 14 games above the second-place Marlins in the National League East.
"We just weren't having very good at-bats, I guess. It's going to happen every now and then," said Zimmerman, whose homer was Washington's first hit since the third. "Got to grind those out, and those are games that, when you win them, I don't want to say you shouldn't have won it, but we kind of stole one."
Jackson, who spent the second half of the 2016 season with the Padres, pitched seven strong innings, scattering eight hits and allowing only one run. San Diego's only damage against Jackson came in the third, when Jose Pirela plated Manuel Margot with a single. Pirela and Margot had two hits apiece, while Jackson lowered his ERA with Washington to 2.92 over six starts.
"At the end of the day, it's about trusting your stuff, trusting what you have and letting the defense work behind you," Jackson said.
Padres right-hander Jhoulys Chacin labored through five-plus innings, limiting the Nationals to one run, despite allowing four walks, three hits and a pair of hit batters.
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"It was a battle from the first inning," Chacin said. "I need to throw more strikes. You can't walk three or four guys every outing and get your pitch count up like I've been doing the past two games. Trying to pitch deep into games, that's hard to do."
Nationals closer Sean Doolittle worked a perfect ninth for his 13th save. He had a bit of a scare when Austin Hedges hit a rocket toward the Western Metal Building in left field. But it quickly hooked foul, and Hedges struck out two pitches later before Hector Sanchez popped out to end the game.
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Twin killing: Margot and Carlos Asuaje strung together consecutive hits in the fifth, bringing a red-hot Pirela to the plate with the go-ahead run on second base. But Pirela hit a sharp chopper to shortstop Wilmer Difo for an inning-ending double play. The Padres put men in scoring position in each of the next two frames, but couldn't convert either opportunity.
"He was dealing," Nationals manager Dusty Baker said of Jackson. "Spread out some hits, got a big double play when he needed it. He was very efficient in his pitch count tonight, most efficient he's been since he's been here." More >
Minimal damage: The Nats loaded the bases in the third with one out, but they scored just one run, on an Adam Lind sacrifice fly. After Anthony Rendon was hit by a pitch, Matt Wieters grounded out, leaving the bags full. The Nats stranded seven runners in the first three innings, as Chacin worked a trio of masterful escape acts.
"It was a heck of a battle," Padres manager Andy Green said. "It's tough to hold that team to one run when you're throwing like that. We were fortunate. [Chacin] gave us an opportunity to win this baseball game. We didn't take advantage of that."
"It's outstanding to see him. I told him that when I first came over here. It's good to see everything that he put up with, the few years that he was hurt, it's good to see him be able to give back to the city like I know he wants to." -- Jackson, on Zimmerman
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It was Jackson's first win in 16 career games (11 starts) against the Padres. The Braves are now the only team that Jackson has never beat.
Nationals:Max Scherzer continues his push toward another National League Cy Young Award in the series' second game at 10:10 p.m. ET on Friday. Scherzer has gone seven innings and allowed two runs in each of his past two starts.
Padres:Luis Perdomo has gone at least six innings in each of his last five starts, but too often he's been hurt by a big inning. He allowed five runs to the Dodgers on Sunday -- all in the fourth. Perdomo takes the hill Friday at 7:10 p.m. PT against the Nationals.
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AJ Cassavell covers the Padres for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @ajcassavell.
Nathan Ruiz is a reporter for MLB.com based in San Diego and covered the Nationals on Thursday.