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PHOENIX — File this under it takes one to know one.
With two of the top National League MVP candidates in Arizona for a weekend series, Miami Marlins manager Don Mattingly weighed in Friday on what he considers the most relevant criteria for choosing the winner. He made it sound pretty basic.
“Just the guy who is putting up the numbers,” said Mattingly, the 1985 American League MVP with 35 homers and 145 RBIs for the Yankees.
“At the end of the day, that is what we really look at. The guy that is driving in runs, getting on base, doing kind of everything offensively. It is more of an offensive award. It is nice when you have balance with it.”
Diamondbacks first baseman Paul Goldschmidt and Miami right fielder Giancarlo Stanton are perhaps the top candidates in a crowded NL MVP field that includes Colorado third baseman Nolan Arenado, Colorado center fielder Charlie Blackmon, Cincinnati first baseman Joey Votto and Marlins darkhorse candidate Marcell Ozuna.
Goldschmidt looked more the part Friday, with two hits, two walks and three runs scored as the Diamondbacks (89-65) dropped their magic number to clinch a playoff spot to two. Stanton was 0-for-4 with a sacrifice fly that gave him 121 RBIs, second in the NL and tied with Preston Wilson for the most in franchise history.
Arizona right-hander Taijuan Walker (9-8) is to face Miami rookie left-hander Dillon Peters (0-2) in the second game of the season Saturday.
Mattingly parsed the MVP field.
“‘G’ (Stanton) has played great defense this year,” Mattingly said. “When you look at an Arenado or a Goldschmidt, you look at the whole package. Arenado has been so good at third, and Goldschmidt is so good at first and he also steals bags.
“Blackmon has played center, stealing bags, hitting homers, hitting for average. I haven’t really looked at everybody’s numbers, but there are a ton of guys you could talk about.
“I think you look at that complete package of a player, but in general I think it is the whole offensive package that you really see when you talk about that award.”
In general, Mattingly added, “it almost makes more sense that a guy who has a better year on a bad team.”
Goldschmidt has finished second in the MVP balloting twice, in 2013 and 2015, and has 35 homers and 117 RBIs, nearing career highs in each category (36, 125) set in 2013, when he finished second to Andrew McCutchen. He has 18 stolen bases.
Stanton leads the majors with 56 homers and is second with 121 RBIs. Arenado leads the majors with 126 RBIs and leads the NL with 42 doubles while hitting 34 homers.
Blackmon has 14 triples, 35 homers and 95 RBIs from the Rockies’ leadoff spot. Stanton has a 7.3 WAR, according to baseball-reference.com, and Votto (6.9), Arenado (6.6), Goldschmidt (6.0) and Washington third baseman Anthony Rendon (6.0) round out the top five.
Arizona manager Torey Lovullo has noticed Stanton’s development.
“Some of the balls that he hits that I’ve seen on a highlight reel, I kind of shake my head at how far they are going,” Lovullo said. “Or how they are coming off the bat and you think it is a line drive to the third baseman and it carries over the left field wall. It’s amazing. He’s mastered that art.”
“Nothing against Giancarlo, but I’m biased to one guy. I think Giancarlo is a fantastic player, and he is a very worthy MVP candidate. But I am a firm believe in Paul Goldschmidt.”
The fan in Lovullo appreciated the chance to see them both.
“I love competition,” Lovullo said. “I love seeing what guys look like when they are performing. I’ll sit there and watch this like a fan.”
Walker, who is 3-1 with a 2.14 ERA in his last six starts, has never faced the Marlins. He is 3-3 with a 4.01 ERA in 11 home starts.
Peters will make his fifth major league start after being recalled when rosters expanded Sept. 1. He made quality starts in two of his first three appearances before giving up nine hits and eight runs in 3 2/3 innings of a 10-3 loss to Milwaukee last Sunday.
Peters had a no-decision in his lone road start at Philadelphia. He has never faced the Diamondbacks.