New York Mets starting pitcher Jonathon Niese throws during the second inning of a baseball game against the Washington Nationals, Sunday, Sept. 14, 2014, in New York. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
New York Mets second baseman Wilmer Flores, left, loses the ball while trying to tag Washington Nationals' Danny Espinosa during the ninth inning of the baseball game at Citi Field, Sunday, Sept. 14, 2014 in New York. A run scored on the error and the Nationals defeated the Mets 3-0. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
New York Mets' Matt den Dekker, right, reaches first base as Washington Nationals' Adam LaRoche, left, and Drew Storen collide while trying to field the ball during the ninth inning of a baseball game Sunday, Sept. 14, 2014, in New York. The Nationals defeated the Mets 3-0. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
NEW YORK — The Washington Nationals have dominated the Mets for the past few seasons, particularly in New York.
Still, manager Terry Collins thinks his young club is catching up to the NL East leaders.
The Nationals won with Jordan Zimmermann on the mound for his ninth straight start, getting a two-run homer from Wilson Ramos in the seventh inning of a 3-0 victory Sunday that eliminated the Mets from the division race with 12 games to go.
"I do not think we are that far away," Collins said. "You get (Matt) Harvey back, our bullpen is coming along with the young guys back there — obviously we have to get a healthy Vic Black and a healthy Bobby Parnell. But our bullpen will be deep and our young players will have another year under their belt."
For now, the numbers don't look good. The Mets lost nine of 10 to Washington at Citi Field this year — the win Friday snapped a 12-game home losing streak to the Nationals. They are 1-14 against the Nats since June 29 of last season, being outscored 93-30.
This time, Zimmermann (11-5) allowed six hits and a walk in outpitching Jonathon Niese for 6 2-3 innings, helping Washington reduce its magic number to four for winning a second division title in three years.
Drew Storen gave up two hits in the ninth but got Juan Lagares to fly out, finishing the eight-hitter for his fifth save.
The Mets won eight of 10 before losing three of four to Washington, falling 14-games back in the division.
Ramos followed Bryce Harper's third sacrifice bunt of the year with a soaring drive beyond the 390-foot mark in right-center for his 10th homer.
The Nationals have outhomered the Mets 25-7 this season with three games left, Sept 23-25 in Washington.
"Their pitching is obviously really good, there is not a hole in there line up and they play good defense," Niese said. "All around they are a good team."
The Mets had plenty of chances against the stingy Zimmermann, going 0 for 8 with runners in scoring position. Their best opportunity came in the fourth, when they loaded the bases with one out. But Ruben Tejada lined out to the shortstop and Niese fouled out to third base on the ninth pitch of the at-bat.
"It was a question of making pitches when he needed to," Nationals manager Matt Williams said. "That's the sign of a veteran pitcher that knows what he is doing out there."
Niese (8-11) struck out the side after that grueling trip to the plate and fanned seven overall. Slowed by shoulder problems in the second half, the left-hander gave up two runs and six hits in seven innings.
Nationals: Nationals 3B-OF Ryan Zimmerman (right hamstring) was scheduled to fly to the team's complex in Viera, Florida, after the game. He will work out Monday and play in an instructional league game the next day.
Mets: Mets reliever Vic Black will have his right shoulder examined by a doctor. Collins said Black has been complaining of having an achy feeling in the shoulder for a few days. The velocity on Black's fastball has been down a few mph. "We are concerned about it," Collins said. "This guy lives and dies with power stuff."
Nationals: Stephen Strasburg (11-11) starts the series opener at Atlanta, which is in second place in the NL East. Strasburg's ERA against the Braves is 7.17, his worst against any division opponent.
Mets: Jacob deGrom (8-6) has not allowed an earned run in 22 innings. He faces a Miami lineup without slugger Giancarlo Stanton, who was hit in the face by a pitch this week. Jarred Cosart is 4-2 with a 1.93 ERA since being acquired by the Marlins at the July 31 trade deadline.
Zimmermann hit two batters to up the total hit batsmen in the four-game series to nine, one shy of the record set last year in a series between Pittsburgh and Cincinnati, according to STATS. The right-hander nailed Eric Young Jr. and Lucas Duda. The Mets hit four batters, the Nationals five.