MIAMI — Max Scherzer scattered three hits over seven innings, Jonathan Papelbon got his first save for Washington with a perfect ninth inning and the Nationals beat the Miami Marlins 1-0 on Thursday.
Backed by Ryan Zimmerman's second-inning homer off Dan Haren, Scherzer (11-8) struck out six and lowered his ERA to 2.22.
Former closer Drew Storen pitched a perfect eighth, striking out two in his new setup role.
Papelbon, acquired Tuesday from Philadelphia, retired Ichiro Suzuki on a comebacker, got Christian Yelich to line out and struck out pinch-hitter Michael Morse for his 18th save in 18 chances this season.
Zimmerman led off the second with a homer to left off Haren (7-7), who gave up four hits in six innings and lowered his ERA to 3.42.
Zimmerman, who returned to the lineup this week after missing 49 games with plantar fasciitis in his left foot, had two hits for Washington, as did Michael A. Taylor.
Yelich had two hits for Miami, which dropped two of three to the NL East leaders.
The Nationals head to New York to take on the Mets in a weekend series pitting the top two teams in the NL East.
Scherzer — who walked a season-high three, matching the total issued in his last eight starts combined entering Thursday — lost three-ball counts to pinch-hitter Cole Gillespie and Suzuki in the sixth, marking just the second time this season he walked two batters in the same inning.
That brought Yelich up with one out. Yelich was 2 for 2 to that point, while the rest of the Marlins were 0 for 14. But Scherzer figured out a way to solve Yelich this time, inducing an inning-ending 4-6-3 double play.
Nationals: RHP Stephen Strasburg (left oblique strain) gave up four hits and three earned runs in four innings Wednesday night when Triple-A Syracuse lost to Buffalo 8-5. Strasburg threw 64 pitches, 44 for strikes. He hasn't pitched in the majors since July 4.
Marlins: C Jeff Mathis got the start for the 12:10 p.m. game, with J.T. Realmuto having been behind the plate in each of the first two night games of the series. Mathis has been in 16 games this season, 10 of them being day games. Realmuto entered as a pinch-hitter in the eighth.
The Nationals are 6-4 against the Mets this season. They'll meet six more times after this weekend.
Nationals: LHP Gio Gonzalez (8-4, 3.83) gets the start Friday night when Washington opens a big weekend series in New York against the Mets and RHP Matt Harvey (9-7, 3.16). Gonzalez is 4-0 with a 1.45 ERA in his last five starts, and 6-1 in his career on the road against the Mets.
Marlins: RHP David Phelps (4-7, 3.86) is a possible starter Friday in the opener of a series against San Diego at Marlins Park; the team hasn't announced its rotation for the weekend. The Marlins have given Phelps a total of four runs of support in his last six outings. RHP Ian Kennedy (6-9, 4.58) is the scheduled starter for the Padres.