PITTSBURGH -- Lance Berkman walked into the visitors' clubhouse at PNC Park on Friday, looked at the lineup card posted on the wall and said, "Well, we've officially mailed it in. They're keeping me in the lineup."
Berkman was poking fun at himself in his typical good-natured manner, but his point was clear -- mired in an 0-for-22 slump at the time, he realized that he was partly to blame for the Astros' downturn after they'd won 14 of 15 to jump into the National League Wild Card race.
Still, most players would gladly trade their years for the one Berkman is having. The five-time All-Star has a batting average well over .300, and he's logged 100 RBIs for the sixth time in his 10-year career. His offensive contributions make him the Astros' nominee for the MLB Hank Aaron Award presented by Sharp.
This coveted honor is awarded annually to the best overall offensive performer in each league, with each club having a nominee. Fans can vote here until Sunday, Oct. 12, to select the winner in each league.
The winners will be announced prior to Game 4 of the World Series on Sunday, Oct. 26. Last year's winners were Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez and Brewers first baseman Prince Fielder.
Launched in 1999 to honor the 25th anniversary of Hank Aaron's breaking of Babe Ruth's all-time home run record, the Hank Aaron Award was the first major award to be introduced in 30 years.
Berkman, 32, set a career high when he scored his 111th run of the year on Friday against the Pirates. He is among the NL leaders in runs scored, batting average, hits, total bases, doubles, extra-base hits, walks, on-base percentage and slugging.
Berkman, who nicknamed himself "Puma" after growing tired of being called "Fat Elvis," had a historic May, hitting .471 (49-for-104) with nine home runs, 22 RBIs and 89 total bases. He recorded 31 hits in a span of 50 at-bats to become only the second player since 1957 to enjoy such a streak.
He also had seven games in a row in which he did not record outs in consecutive at-bats, and he set a team record with 18 hits over a six-game span. That effort earned him NL Player of the Month honors.
Alyson Footer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.