“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.”

Zimmerman on his go-ahead homer

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.

Jackson's strong start

“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.

Do-it-all Stammen excels against former team

Chacin fans Zimmerman, side

“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.

Doolittle notches the save

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 >

Nationals turn two to end 5th

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.”

Chacin ends threat in 3rd

“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

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.

Watch every out-of-market regular-season game live on MLB.TV.

Nathan Ruiz is a reporter for MLB.com based in San Diego and covered the Nationals on Thursday.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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