Ramos, Zimmermann fuel Nats' win over Mets

With Atlanta's loss, Washington's magic number is down to four

Ramos, Zimmermann fuel Nats' win over Mets

NEW YORK -- Wilson Ramos' two-run homer proved to be the difference on Sunday afternoon, as the Nationals blanked the Mets, 3-0, at Citi Field.

Combined with Atlanta's loss, Washington shaved its magic number to four games to win the National League East title. The Braves were pounded by the Rangers, 10-3, in Arlington to fall 10 1/2 games behind the Nats.

For Ramos, winning the division would mean a lot to him. When the Nationals won their last division title in 2012, Ramos missed most of that season after tearing his right medial meniscus while chasing a ball. Ramos remembers being on the bench that year while rehabbing the knee.

"For me, this is a very important year," Ramos said. "I remember in 2012, I was on the bench for the playoffs. It's totally different this year. I want to help the team to make the playoffs. That's the reason I'm working hard, I want to play this year in the postseason and not be on the bench."

The game remained scoreless until the seventh inning. With Jonathon Niese on the mound, Ian Desmond beat the pitcher to first for an infield single. After Bryce Harper sacrificed Desmond to second, Ramos clobbered a 1-1 pitch over the right-field wall to give Washington a two-run lead. It was Ramos' 10th homer of the season.

"I was looking for one pitch to try to hit the ball well," Ramos said. "I tried to put a good swing on the ball. In that at-bat, I was concentrating just put a good swing on the ball."

Nationals right-hander Jordan Zimmermann pitched 6 2/3 scoreless innings to win his 12th game of the season. He also struck out five batters in the contest.

The Mets had Zimmermann on the ropes during three different innings. In the second, after Wilmer Flores tripled with one out, Curtis Granderson flied out to Harper in left and Anthony Recker struck out to end the threat.

An inning later, New York had the bases loaded, but Ruben Tejada lined out to Desmond at shortstop, while Niese popped up to third baseman Anthony Rendon to end the inning.

"It's just a sign of a veteran pitcher that knows what he is doing out there," manager Matt Williams said about Zimmermann.

In the fifth, the Mets had runners on first and second with two outs, but Granderson flied out to Harper.

"For a few innings, I had my hands full. I was able to make the pitch when I needed to. I got that popup to Bryce to where he could throw him out. The guy didn't score," Zimmermann said. "I had the bases loaded with Niese. He gave me a little bit of a battle, and I was able to get him to pop up. So I made the pitch when I had to get out of those jams."

Washington added an insurance run in the ninth, as Desmond scored after an error by Flores. The Nationals improved their record to 85-63, the best mark in the NL.

The Nationals have a chance to win the division title sometime during the upcoming week in Atlanta. Most of the players want to get it over with and get ready for the postseason.

"It would be nice to clinch it up and get all the regulars a day off. Guys have been playing a lot here. It will give everybody a day just to relax. The sooner the better," Jayson Werth said. "Things are kind of clicking on all cylinders. We are playing well, we have good energy, we have good life to us. Guys have really come into their own and are performing the way they can. It makes for fun baseball -- especially this time of the year."

Zimmermann joined the Nationals in 2009, when they were the worst team in baseball. Now, he's close to helping Washington get its second division title in three years.

"We're in good shape going to Atlanta. We're still taking it one day at a time. Hopefully, we can celebrate down there," Zimmermann said. "As long as we do it, I don't care where it is. It would be that much more special if we did it down there. Hopefully, we win two out of three and we see what happens."

Mets manager Terry Collins came away impressed by how the Nationals were able to build their solid team.

"They have some of their kids, they were patient with them, got them to the big leagues," Collins said. "You know, even with [Ryan] Zimmerman not being here, Rendon has stepped up and really, really picked up the slack. They got a lot of big pieces for you. They're tough throughout the lineup. They've got power. You look at the shortstop [Desmond]. [He has] 22 homers. The first baseman [Adam LaRoche] has 24 homers. The third baseman [Rendon has] 20 homers. They've got a good team. They're deep on the bench, they're deep in the bullpen. They've done a nice job."

Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the time He can also be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.