Los Angeles Times - - INSIDE BASEBALL - — Bill Shaikin

MVP Gold? Paul Gold­schmidt has fin­ished sec­ond in the Na­tional League MVP race twice — once when the Ari­zona Di­a­mond­backs fin­ished .500, the other time when they fin­ished two games above .500. Now, with the Di­a­mond­backs on pace for their first play­off spot in six years, their first base­man might fi­nally take home the tro­phy. He en­tered the week­end ranked sec­ond in the NL in on-base plus slug­ging per­cent­age (to Bryce Harper), runs scored (to Char­lie Black­mon), runs bat­ted in (to Nolan Are­nado), walks (to Joey Votto) and on-base per­cent­age (to Justin Turner). He also ranks in the top eight in home runs, bat­ting av­er­age, slug­ging per­cent­age, hits and stolen bases, with 15, same as Cincinnati Reds speed­ster Jose Per­aza. Not so rocky: The no­tion that a team that plays at Coors Field would con­tend for the play­offs with kids in the start­ing ro­ta­tion seemed fan­ci­ful, but here we are in Au­gust, with the Colorado Rock­ies on pace for a wild-card spot. They’ve used seven start­ing pitch­ers — no team in the NL West has used fewer — and none of them older than 27. Rook­ies Kyle Free­land, Jeff Hoff­man, Ger­man Mar­quez and An­to­nio Sen­za­tela com­bined to start 69 of the Rock­ies’ first 110 games. Jon Gray, who led the team in strike­outs last year, is back af­ter miss­ing two months be­cause of a stress frac­ture in his foot. And, best of all, Chad Bet­tis could be ac­ti­vated as soon as next week. Bet­tis, who led the Rock­ies in in­nings last year, left the club in spring train­ing so he could be treated for tes­tic­u­lar can­cer. Fly me to the moon: On Mon­day, be­fore the Tampa Bay Rays opened a series in Hous­ton, Rays ace Chris Archer pre­sented Or­bit, the Astros’ mas­cot, with a “dec­la­ra­tion of un­friend­li­ness” in recog­ni­tion of a “state of dis­cord” be­tween the two. Or­bit crum­pled the dec­la­ra­tion and the next day sent Archer a lax­a­tive bot­tle wrapped in a pa­per that read “elec­trolyte for­mula.” Archer did not con­sume the prod­uct, then pitched six in­nings to beat the Astros. The fol­low­ing day, Archer pre­sented Or­bit with a diploma cer­ti­fy­ing him as a “ju­nior mas­cot.” As Archer shook hands with Or­bit, his team­mates pelted the un­sus­pect­ing mas­cot with wa­ter bal­loons. Score­board: hu­man 1, “lime-green outer-space crea­ture” 0. Los­ing the club­house? Yadier Molina is 35. A re­cent day off seemed to make sense; he has played more than any other ma­jor league catcher. “Just kind of watch­ing him go around the bases too,” St. Louis Car­di­nals man­ager Mike Ma­theny said, “you could tell that he’s, you know …” Tired? “I train to play 174 games be­cause that’s what it takes to be Cham­pion,” Molina shot back in In­sta­gram. “I’m not tired and the day I feel tired I’ll ex­press it my­self.” He added the hash­tag “#mis­in­form­ing.” Just a mis­un­der­stand­ing? Ap­par­ently not, be­cause the Car­di­nals’ iconic catcher fol­lowed up with an­other In­sta­gram post, this one a pic­ture of him and for­mer coach Jose Oquendo. “Miss­ing this men right here,” Molina wrote. The Car­di­nals by­passed Oquendo to hire Ma­theny. Present tense: The Astros claimed to pro­tect their fu­ture by re­fus­ing to swap their top prospects at the trade dead­line, but their fu­ture is now, with the best record in the Amer­i­can League. They made one dead­line deal, ac­quir­ing start­ing pitcher Fran­cisco Liri­ano in the hope he can be an ef­fec­tive re­liever. “Dis­ap­point­ment is a lit­tle bit of an un­der­state­ment,” Astros ace Dal­las Keuchel said. “I feel like a bunch of teams re­ally bol­stered their ros­ters for the long haul and for a huge play­off push, and us just kind of stay­ing pat was re­ally dis­ap­point­ing.” That would have been the feel­ing in the Dodgers’ club­house had the team not ac­quired Yu Darvish. Dumb­ing down: No sooner had Adrian Bel­tre col­lected his 3,000th hit than Fox Sports ra­dio host Doug Got­tlieb won­dered aloud whether Bel­tre might have used steroids. “If I’m Adrian Bel­tre, that’s the great­est com­pli­ment any­body could ever give me: I’m so good I must be on some­thing,” Got­tlieb said. No ev­i­dence links Bel­tre, 38, to the use of per­for­manceen­hanc­ing drugs. Got­tlieb noted, cor­rectly, that steroid abuse is wide­spread in the Do­mini­can Repub­lic, where Bel­tre grew up. So, rather than ac­cuse, Got­tlieb could ed­u­cate, with a dis­cus­sion of how to pierce the steroid cul­ture in the Do­mini­can. “Is it in­ter­est­ing to the na­tional sports ra­dio lis­tener?” he said. “I’ve been trained to think it isn’t.”

Jonathan Daniel Getty Im­ages

Paul Gold­schmidt

Dy­lan Buell Getty Im­ages

Yadier Molina

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