MIAMI -- All of the Nationals' offense in Thursday's series finale against the Marlins came on one swing of the bat -- a Ryan Zimmerman home run -- and that's all Max Scherzer needed. The All-Star right-hander tossed seven strong innings and allowed just three singles on 109 pitches as Washington downed Miami, 1-0, at Marlins Park to take the three-game series. Nats closer Jonathan Papelbon, acquired in a deal with the Phillies on Tuesday, earned the save in his first outing with Washington.
The win was a bounce-back effort for Scherzer (11-8, 2.22 ERA), who allowed five runs to Pittsburgh last Friday. The righty struck out six and stranded the tying run on second in each of his final two innings, posting his sixth scoreless start of the season.
"I don't know if there was anything different," Nationals manager Matt Williams said of Scherzer. "He was aggressive. His fastball command was pretty good today -- both in and out when he needed it. He pitched well."
Zimmerman, in his third game since returning from the disabled list, launched the deciding home run -- his sixth of the season -- in the second inning off Marlins starter Dan Haren (7-7, 3.42 ERA). It was the 21st homer surrendered this season by Haren, who took the loss despite working six innings of four-hit ball.
"I thought Haren did what Haren has always done," Marlins manager Dan Jennings said. "He pitched a heck of a ballgame and gave us a chance."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Scherzer dominates: Scherzer regrouped from his subpar effort to lower his ERA to 2.22. The righty coaxed inning-ending double plays out of Jeff Mathis and Christian Yelich in the fifth and sixth, respectively. More >
Haren strong in defeat: Haren entered with a 2.83 ERA in 10 home starts this season, and he was effective at Marlins Park once again. The righty threw 102 pitches in posting his seventh quality start in a span of 10 outings.
"I made a few mistakes, but [Zimmerman's homer] was one of the worst ones I made on the day," Haren said. "That's a really good lineup, so you can't get away with all of them. Scherzer was obviously on his game -- he's a great pitcher and was just better today." More >
Zim comes through: Zimmerman's homer came on a 2-2 pitch and was lined over the left-field fence. The ball was projected by Statcast™ to land 408 feet from home plate, and he wasn't immediately sure if he had hit it out.
"You never know here -- the place is huge," Zimmerman said. "I hit the ball well, but you have to hit it really well to hit a home run."
It was the first baseman's first home run since May 19, when he hit a game-winning homer against the Yankees.
"Just hitting the ball well and getting good at-bats is the key," Zimmerman said. "I'm not trying to hit home runs or anything like that. I'm just grinding out at-bats and getting my timing back. Everything feels good."
Double plays kill rallies:Derek Dietrich led off the bottom of the fifth with a walk, but after Adeiny Hechavarria hit into a fielder's-choice groundout, Mathis hit into a 5-4-3 double play. The Marlins opened the sixth with a Cole Gillespie walk, but after Dee Gordon put down a sacrifice bunt and Ichiro Suzuki walked, Yelich grounded into a 4-6-3 double play.
"We knew it was going to be a low-scoring game, so you hope that when you get those opportunities, you can take that," Jennings said. "Unfortunately, it didn't turn into runs for us."
"From what people were saying, I didn't even think I would be eligible to hit at that point." -- Miami's Michael Morse, on pinch-hitting in the ninth inning despite trade speculation swirling over the past two days. He struck out to end the game, and the trade was finalized shortly thereafter.
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
In three starts this season coming off outings in which he has allowed five runs, Scherzer is 3-0 and has surrendered just three runs in 22 2/3 innings.
UPON FURTHER REVIEW
In the seventh inning, Miguel Rojas advanced to second on a wild pitch by Scherzer and was called safe by second-base umpire Jeff Kellogg, even as shortstop Ian Desmond tagged Rojas, whom Williams thought was off the bag. Williams challenged the call, and, after 2 minutes and 41 seconds, the crew ruled that the play would stand.
WHAT'S NEXT Nationals: A battle of the top two squads in the National League East will begin at Citi Field on Friday night at 7:10 p.m. ET, when first-place Washington will start left-hander Gio Gonzalez against Mets righty Matt Harvey. In his last start, against the Pirates, Gonzalez surrendered three runs (one earned) on five hits in five-plus innings. It was the fifth straight start in which the southpaw has allowed two earned runs or fewer.
Marlins:David Phelps (4-7, 3.86 ERA) will take the mound as the Marlins host the Padres in the opener of a three-game set on Friday at 7:10 p.m. ET. Phelps faced San Diego his last time out, on Saturday, and allowed two runs in six innings, taking the loss.
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the Time. He also can be found on Twitter @WashingNats. Steve Wilaj is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.