As I began writing Sunday afternoon about the hugely anticipated Atlanta Braves-New York Mets series that starts Monday night at Truist Park, my 15-year-old daughter Ella Beth said, "This is all you need to write: Dansby Swanson is really cute. Period. End of story."
And while I'm guessing she's not the only teenage fan throughout Braves Country who feels that way about Atlanta's shortstop, her father is looking at this a little differently as the top two teams in the National League East battle to see which one may reach next week's All-Star break on top of the division standings, given that the Mets' lead is down to 1 1/2 games after Sunday's action.
By the way, that's 1 1/2 games from a Mets lead of at least 10 games less than two months ago. Not that this is necessarily a Mets collapse. Instead, this is one of the most extended runs of excellence in Braves history, Atlanta now on 29-8 rampage that included a 14-game winning streak last month and is the best record in the majors since June 1.
Such efforts have placed five Atlanta players on the NL All-Star roster: starting pitcher Max Fried and starting outfielder Ronald Acuña Jr., plus Swanson and catchers William Contreras and Travis d'Arnaud as reserves for the July 19 game at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles.
Moreover, Contreras will be joining his brother Willson Contreras of the Chicago Cubs in representing the NL, the first brothers to make an All-Star roster in the same season since Roberto Alomar and Sandy Alomar Jr. in 1998, and the first time two brothers have started since the Alomars in 1992. Willson will start at catcher, with William starting at designated hitter due to the Philadelphia Phillies' Ryan Harper being inactive because of a hand injury.
"We were just two kids dreaming of making it to the big leagues and now making it to the All-Star game," Willson told the Associated Press. "It's a dream. There are a lot of brothers that would love to do the same. Being able to play with my brother rather than against each other will be the best time of our lives."
Amazingly, the guy who may be having the best run for the Braves - third baseman Austin Riley - didn't make the roster despite swatting his 23rd home run of the season on Sunday against the Washington Nationals, then hitting the walk-off single in the bottom of the 12th inning of a 4-3 win to complete a three-game series sweep.
Nor is Riley merely swinging for the fences. He's batting .282 with a team-high 56 RBIs. Maybe he shouldn't be a starter - hey, at least he made the roster, unlike former Braves star and current Dodgers first baseman Freddie Freeman - but he seemed a fair pick to make it as a reserve.
Still, the battle between the Braves and Mets figures to come down to pitching, and none of the scheduled matchups should top Monday's, what with New York starting Max Scherzer and Atlanta countering with Fried. After that comes David Peterson versus Braves rookie Spencer Strider on Tuesday, with Chris Bassitt versus Atlanta veteran Charlie Morton on Wednesday. Runs will be a premium throughout and good defense essential.
Let the Braves win their fifth straight series by the time the Metropolitans exit the Big Peach, and Atlanta just might own the NL East lead at the All-Star break.
But as nice as that would be - and even more so if the Braves could win the division for the fifth straight season - it's where they're positioning themselves for the postseason and a chance to repeat as World Series champions that is becoming most impressive.
Under .500 in late May, Atlanta now stands 17 games over .500 (52-35) after winning eight of its past 10 games, which also now gives the Braves the third-best record in the NL, trailing only the West-leading Dodgers and the Mets.
Even if this ultimately falls short of winning the division, it should leave Atlanta with the best record of the three NL wild-card teams, which would give the Braves home-field advantage for a best-of-three wild-card series.
Not that the Braves are conceding anything at the moment.
"I've said from the beginning that its not a sprint, it's a marathon," Riley said. "Early on, things weren't going our way. Now we're playing the ball we want to and we're right where we want to be. If we continue to do that, I like our chances."
And to make those chances even better, Atlanta picked up former star player Robinson Canó from the San Diego Padres on Sunday to add another left-handed hitter to the lineup. To sweeten the deal for the Braves, who paid cash to San Diego for Canó, who's currently in the minors, the Mets will be paying all but the minimum portion of the 39-year-old second baseman's $24 million salary after releasing him earlier this season.
Exactly when Canó arrives isn't yet certain, but as always, Atlanta skipper Brian Snitker is more than certain of his approach for the Mets and beyond.
"It's hard to win a major league game against anybody," he told the media Sunday. "We've got to keep doing what we're doing."
And since June 1, no one in the major leagues is doing it better than the Braves.