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The Braves are a half-game back of the Mets entering Thursday, a day after they had identical 85-51 records following a long climb by Atlanta, who was 10.5 games behind New York in the NL East on June 1. 

It's a stunning turnaround, even from the defending World Series champions. Courtesy of @SlangsOnSports Twitter via the Elias Sports Bureau, the Mets are just the eighth team in the Division Era (since 1969) to lose a 10-plus-game division lead.

So how did this happen?

For the record, it's mostly about what the Braves have done, not what the Mets haven't. New York still has a 53-34 record since June 1, sixth-best in the MLB.

Rookies: Michael Harris II was called up on May 28 and Spencer Strider joined the rotation on May 30. They've fueled a red-hot Braves team that has the best record in baseball (63-24) since June 1. The rookies have been two of the best players on the Braves, and two of the best rookies in baseball, while bringing plenty of personality and production.

Money Mike has flashed power and speed (15 HR and 16 SB in 90 games) along with Gold Glove defense. It adds up to a historic rookie pace. His WAR per 162 games this year is 7.8. The last three rookies to reach that mark were Aaron Judge, Mike Trout and Ichiro Suzuki.

Strider is averaging 13.7 strikeouts per nine innings pitched, all while rocking his trademark mustache. That would be the second-highest rate by any pitcher (not just rookie) in MLB history, with at least 100 IP, behind Gerrit Cole (13.8) in 2019. The electric rookie who regularly hits triple digits on the radar gun, set the Braves' nine-inning record with 16 strikeouts last week.

They are poised to be the second pair of teammates in the last 30 seasons to finish 1-2 in Rookie of the Year voting, along with Craig Kimbrel and Freddie Freeman in 2011, also for the Braves. They are also on pace to become the first rookie teammates with 4+ WAR each since 1999, when Freddy Garcia and John Halama did it for the Mariners.

Deep Lineup: The Braves lead the majors in scoring (5.5 runs per game) since June 1 while the Mets rank 17th. Atlanta's offense has game-changing power from top to bottom in the lineup, thanks to the depth from Harris II, fellow 21-year-old Vaughn Grissom, and others. The Braves are known as a home run hitting team, and the Mets are not, but this is still hard to believe. Over that span, Atlanta's 7-8-9 hitters have more HR (50) than the heart of the Mets lineup, 3-4-5 (39). 

Deadline Deals: Neither team made a big splash at the deadline, although the Mets made several under-the-radar acquisitions designed to create a deeper lineup with platoon advantages, but it hasn't paid off so far. Daniel Vogelbach, Tyler Naquin and Darin Ruf have a combined slash line of .225/.316/.413 with 8 HR in a Mets uniform. 

They also traded for Mychal Givens to help strengthen the bridge from their solid starting rotation to lights-out closer Edwin Diaz. Givens has struggled, though, with 11 ER allowed in 15 IP with the Mets.

Capitalizing on the schedule: Although the Mets bounced back on Wednesday with a doubleheader sweep, their recent hiccup was costly. They lost three straight games to the Nationals and Pirates by a combined score of 22-4. According to @StatsbySTATS Twitter, The Mets were the first team in MLB history to have three straight games where they lost by six+ runs to a team with 30+ fewer wins than them.

New York will have ample opportunity to reverse its recent trend with the easiest remaining schedule in baseball, including its next 10 games against the Pirates, Marlins and Cubs.

The Braves have not shown any cracks against a soft schedule of their own. Since June 1, Atlanta is a whopping 47-7 against teams currently with below .500 records. They have lost only one series to a losing team in that span, from June 17-19 against the Cubs. 

.500 baseball for almost a month: The Mets have a record teetering around .500 (12-11) since they began a four-game set in Atlanta on Aug. 15, where they lost three of four games. If there's one area of the team under the most pressure, it's the offense that ranks 17th in runs per game (3.96) in that time frame. 

There's plenty of baseball left: While momentum favors the Braves, there's still almost a month of baseball left, and the percentages favor the Mets and their easy schedule. New York still has a 65 percent chance to claim the NL East title, according to FanGraphs. The division could come down to a three-game series between the teams in Atlanta during the last week of the season. It could also go down as one of the most memorable division chases ever. Both teams are on pace for over 100 wins. It could be the sixth time in the Divisional Era (since 1969) that multiple teams from the same division win 100-plus games. It most recently happened with the Dodgers and Giants last season.