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Real or not? Paul Goldschmidt for MVP, Bryce Harper knocks cover off ball

After something of a down 2016, Paul Goldschmidt has picked it back up for the surprising Diamondbacks. Charles LeClaire/USA TODAY Sports

A few years ago, when Paul Goldschmidt was having a breakout season that eventually resulted in him finishing second in the National League MVP voting, his Arizona Diamondbacks teammates printed up T-shirts with his picture that proclaimed him "America's First Baseman."

He begged his teammates not to wear them in public. "I'm not going to get mad at guys having fun," Goldschmidt said at the time, "but I'm sure not going to wear it."

The nickname has kind of stuck -- the Diamondbacks use it as a hashtag on their Twitter feed -- but I'm not sure America knows that he is its first baseman. It should, because the two-time MVP runner-up is putting up MVP-type numbers once again. Chris Iannetta was the star in Arizona's 15-3 victory Thursday over the Padres with a home run and seven RBIs, while Goldschmidt went 2-for-3 with a double and walk to raise his season line to .310/.438/.569 with 13 home runs, 46 RBIs and 53 runs. He ranks second in the NL in on-base percentage, ninth in slugging, sixth in wOBA, sixth in RBIs and first in runs. On top of that, he has 13 steals and plays a slick first base. He entered the day third in the NL in Baseball-Reference WAR behind Zack Cozart and Nolan Arenado and second behind Cozart in FanGraphs WAR -- and ahead of Bryce Harper, the presumptive MVP favorite at this point.

Put it this way: If you're used to staying up late to get your Mike Trout fix, I recommend staying up late to get your Goldschmidt fix. As a bonus, you get to watch a very good Diamondbacks team that is now 37-25 and continues to support the offense with a 3.59 ERA, third best in the majors.

Goldschmidt is coming off -- for him -- a bit of a down year. Even as offense increased around the league in 2016, he declined from a 1.005 OPS to .899, as he lost 24 points in batting average and hit nine fewer home runs. You know you're good when .297/.411/.489 is considered a minor disappointment. One small change in his approach is he has been a little more aggressive, which maybe is a reason he's scorching fastballs again: .350 with nine home runs (after hitting 14 home runs off fastballs in all of 2016). Note that before his thumb injury, Trout also had taken a more aggressive approach early in the count.

Goldschmidt is so quiet and professional that you haven't heard one gripe about the team-friendly deal he signed a few years ago that has him under contract through 2019. He's never going to promote himself, but for all the hype of Harper's first two months, Goldschmidt might be the more deserving candidate. So we'll do some promotion for him: American's First Baseman is worth your attention.

Bryce Harper really is The Natural

Here he is knocking the cover off the baseball:

OK, maybe it wasn't quite as impressive as when Roy Hobbs did it:

Play of the day

In the same game, Trea Turner helped out Joe Ross (who had 12 strikeouts) with some range to his left to throw out the not-fast Mark Trumbo:

Dallas Keuchel heads back to the DL

Lance McCullers Jr. had another terrific outing for the Astros, taking a no-hitter into the seventh before Lorenzo Cain tripled into the left-center gap on a 3-0 fastball. Given it was a 1-0 game at the time, even Don Mattingly would approve of that swing. The bigger news for the Astros came earlier in the day when Keuchel was put on the disabled list with neck discomfort. He flew back to Houston to meet with team doctors, and there is no timetable for his return. Keuchel had been warming up for his start Wednesday, but he ended up not pitching because of an illness. Now this neck-soreness issue, something for which he had recently completed a DL stint.

If there's anything that can stop this Houston runaway train, it's that injuries to the rotation are starting to pile up, especially if this turns into some long-term thing. Remember, Collin McHugh, who won 32 games the past two seasons, has been out all season. Charlie Morton and Joe Musgrove are also on the DL, although Musgrove could return next week.

The Astros called up top prospect Francis Martes, but they'll use him out of the bullpen and keep David Paulino in the rotation for now. Martes wasn't pitching well at Triple-A, with a 5.29 ERA and 28 walks in 32⅓ innings, averaging just four innings per start. He was unlikely to help in the rotation given those control issues. The big picture here, especially factoring in McCullers' injury history, is the Astros might be on the hunt for a starter, even with that big lead in the American League West.

Odubel Herrera also hates singles

About a week ago, there were rumors the Phillies might send the 2016 All-Star to the minors. He was hitting .218 at the end of May, with a lowly .262 OBP, as his chase rate was among the worst in the majors at more than 40 percent. Remember the player who drew 23 walks last April? That approach had been completely lost, and Herrera was basically getting himself out.

After getting a day off, look what he has done in June:

June 3: 2-for-4, two doubles

June 4: 3-for-4, two doubles, HR

June 5: 3-for-5, two doubles, HR

June 6: 1-for-4, double

June 7: 2-for-3, two doubles

June 8: 1-for-4, double

That's 12 hits, all for extra bases, the first Phillies player in the modern era to accomplish that feat. Baseball in 2017 is awesome and weird.

Quick thoughts ... Keep an eye for news on Kevin Kiermaier, who jammed his hip sliding feet-first into first base. Hard to fault him there, as he otherwise might have collided with Jose Abreu. This is a reminder: Why can't baseball have the "softball" first base, the orange one in foul territory? That would eliminate these potential collisions and also create a runner's lane to avoid those controversial plays when a throw hits the runner. ... David Price said the other day he's going to limit his interviews with the Boston media. Then he goes out and gives up six runs in five innings to the Yankees, including two home runs by Gary Sanchez (who has four career hits off Price, all home runs). I'm sure talk radio in Boston will be gentle with Mr. Price. ... The Reds' Joey Votto went 4-for-4 to help send the Cardinals to their seventh straight loss. I'm sure talk in St. Louis will be gentle on Friday.