Mind the gap: Mets far from catching Nats

NEW YORK -- One team is headed to the playoffs. The other is headed to a sixth straight sub-.500 finish.

One hits home runs at will, and can make Citi Field look small. The other keeps talking about moving the fences in.

The New York Mets can tell us every day for a year that they're "very, very close," as manager Terry Collins claimed again on Sunday.

But until the Mets find a way to at least narrow the gap between themselves and the Washington Nationals, who is going to believe them?

Right now, the gap is big enough that the Mets were eliminated from the National League East race with two full weeks to go after Sunday's 3-0 loss to the Nats. The gap is big enough that the Mets are 3-13 against the Nationals this season (including 1-9 at Citi Field).

They've been outscored 84-43, and out-homered 25-7.

For all the Mets' insistence that they're a young team that will get better, the Nationals are actually just as young and already better. For all the Mets' hope that Matt Harvey's return from Tommy John surgery will help -- remember, Harvey already declared that he's going to beat the Nats on Opening Day -- it's probably worth noting that the Mets' lost three of Harvey's four starts against Washington in 2013.

So, Terry, how about that gap?

"They've got a good team," Collins said. "They've done a nice job. I don't think we're that far away."

Pressed on it later, Collins added, "They're going to be in good shape. They are young, and they're going to have another year under their belts, too. But we've made a lot of changes here, and I agree exactly with what [general manager Sandy Alderson] said three months ago. We're very, very close."

Maybe Collins feels he has to say that, but good luck convincing anyone who has watched the games between the two teams this season.

Sunday's game was typical. The Mets had some baserunners against Jordan Zimmermann and the Washington bullpen, but they went 1 for 10 with runners in scoring position, and the one hit was Matt den Dekker's infield single in the ninth.

The Nationals made the plays that mattered, and the Mets didn't. Jonathon Niese pitched well, but he was late covering first base on Ian Desmond's leadoff ground ball in the seventh, and made a mistake on a pitch that Wilson Ramos hit for a two-run home run. Wilmer Flores made a nice play on a line drive in the fourth inning, but dropped the ball on a rundown play in the ninth inning to allow Washington's final run to score.

"Obviously, [Washington's] pitching is really good, there's not a hole in their lineup, and they play good defense," Niese said. "They do everything well. I think we're coming around. We're a really young team. We've just got to get that experience."

For now, the Mets are most experienced at losing to the Nationals.

No matter what they want you to think, it's very hard to make an argument that the gap is even close.

Black to have MRI: It doesn't sound like Vic Black will be pitching anytime soon. Black saw a team doctor Sunday, and while he was told that the problems with his shoulder appear to be caused simply by fatigue, the team wants him to have an MRI exam Monday.

"He was encouraged, but he just wants to make sure," Black said.

Eveland headed home: Reliever Dana Eveland is done for the season. Eveland has a sore left elbow, and the Mets told him to head home and begin a rehabilitation program.