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NL vote leaders looking over their shoulders

NL vote leaders looking over their shoulders

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For the second week running, the projected National League starters for the July 13 All-Star Game remained the same. But given the latest fan-voting results released on Tuesday, something is bound to change before the process concludes at the end of the day on July 1.

The races at catcher, third base, shortstop and in the outfield are all close.

Behind the plate, the margin between first and second place is only about 120,000, while at shortstop, it's fewer than 300,000. At the hot corner, roughly 345,000 votes is all that stands between first and fifth place. And among the bunched-up outfielders, the fourth-place man is about 378,000 from a top-three spot.

As it stands, those currently slated to make up the NL starting lineup for the July 13 Midsummer Classic at Angel Stadium in Anaheim are: Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina and first baseman Albert Pujols; Phillies second baseman Chase Utley and third baseman Placido Polanco; Marlins shortstop Hanley Ramirez, and outfielders Ryan Braun of the Brewers, Jason Heyward of the Braves and Andre Ethier of the Dodgers.

Pujols -- the league's leading vote-getter for the past two weeks with more than 2.6 million votes -- and Utley -- right behind him with more than 2.4 million -- have maintained healthy leads throughout the balloting process, and it doesn't seem like anyone will stand in the way of these two sharing the right side of the All-Star Game infield for the third time.

But there's still plenty left to be decided.

At the hot corner, Polanco -- who last went to an All-Star Game in 2007 and is a full-time third baseman for the first time since 2002 -- maintained a lead he's held all along, but it has been shrinking as the weeks have rolled by. After leading the Mets' David Wright by roughly 180,000 last week, Polanco's lead now sits uncomfortably at a little more than 130,000, as the 34-year-old -- leading NL third basemen with a .313 batting average entering Tuesday's games -- has compiled 1,157,196 votes.

Perhaps sparked by the Mets' recent eight-game winning streak, fans have Wright -- batting .283 with 12 homers and 53 RBIs -- creeping close with 1,026,658 votes.

Meanwhile, retirement talk might have allowed Chipper Jones to stay in the running. The long-time face of the Braves franchise hinted recently that 2010 could be his final season. Now, despite a subpar season at the plate thus far, Jones is a rather close third with 871,375 votes. And don't discount Milwaukee's Casey McGehee (833,959) or Cincinnati's Scott Rolen (812,450).

Molina also should be looking over his shoulder.

Molina, the NL's starting catcher last year, is being closed in on rather quickly by the Braves' Brian McCann. Molina holds the smallest lead among non-outfielders in the NL. Molina and his .245 batting average have captured 1,322,095 votes, while McCann -- batting .258 with seven homers and 29 RBIs for the first-place Braves -- sports 1,201,920. Veteran Ivan Rodriguez of the Nationals is also close with 1,084,146 votes, as he looks to make his 15th All-Star Game in what has been a turn-back-the-clock year -- one in which he is batting .316 through 45 games.

Once again, the top five in the outfield, respectively, are Braun, Heyward, Ethier and Phillies teammates Jayson Werth and Shane Victorino. And once again, they're all pretty close.

Braun continues to pace the outfield with 1,816,052 votes, while Heyward sits just behind with 1,786,786, a difference of 29,266 -- an increase over Braun's lead of only 2,845 a week ago.

Ethier remained third with 1,723,266 votes, but Werth (1,345,798) and Victorino (1,252,792) are still in the running.

Braun, batting .304 with 10 homers and 45 RBIs, seeks his third straight trip to the All-Star Game. Heyward, among the favorites for the NL Rookie of the Year award, is batting .264 with 11 homers and 44 RBIs. And Ethier, a Triple Crown threat earlier this year, sports a .318 batting average with 12 homers and 43 RBIs.

While Werth and Victorino look to climb their way into the starting lineup, their shortstop, Jimmy Rollins, is due back from the disabled list this week. Perhaps he'll return just in time to recapture the lead at his position?

Rollins gave it up to Ramirez a couple of weeks ago and now trails by nearly 300,000 votes, as Ramirez has a count of 1,501,056. While looking for his third consecutive All-Star Game start, Ramirez is batting .286 with 11 homers and 40 RBIs. Rollins, meanwhile, has 1,205,832 votes despite being limited to 12 games because of a bothersome calf.

Not much ever seems to bother Pujols, and this year's no different.

The three-time NL Most Valuable Player is putting up his usual big-time numbers -- a .306 batting average with 15 homers and 50 RBIs through 68 games -- and has compiled 2,622,123 votes as he seeks his ninth All-Star Game appearance and seventh start. Pujols' lead of nearly 1.5 million votes over the second-place Ryan Howard of the Phillies (1,137,058) is the largest in the league.

Utley, on the other hand, is not having his typical big year -- he's hitting .267 with 11 homers and 33 RBIs -- but he's compiled 2,409,027 votes and hasn't really faced much competition at second base. Despite leading the NL with a .339 batting average, the Braves' Martin Prado is far behind while in second place with 1,170,897.

Fans can cast their votes for starters up to 25 times at MLB.com and all 30 club sites using the 2010 All-Star Game MLB.com Ballot Sponsored by Sprint until July 1 at 11:59 p.m. ET. Sprint subscribers can now vote on the go with select Sprint devices. They can learn more about how to vote on their smart phones at MLB.com/Sprint.

Starting rosters will be announced during the 2010 All-Star Game Selection Show on TBS on July 4. Baseball fans around the world will then be able to select the final player on each team via the 2010 All-Star Game Final Vote Sponsored by Sprint.

And the voting doesn't end there. Fans will have the opportunity to participate in the official voting for the Ted Williams Most Valuable Player Award presented by Chevrolet at the Midsummer Classic via the 2010 All-Star Game MVP Vote Sponsored by Sprint.

The All-Star Game will be televised nationally by FOX and around the world by Major League Baseball International. ESPN Radio will provide exclusive national radio play-by-play, while MLB.com will offer extensive online coverage.

2010 MLB All-Star Balloting : National League (Click on player's name to go to his Campaign Headquarters)
1st Base
RANKPLAYER NAMENL TEAMTOTAL VOTES
1.Albert PujolsCardinals2,622,123
2.Ryan HowardPhillies1,137,058
3. Prince FielderBrewers789,526
4.Troy GlausBraves753,249
5.Joey VottoReds691,075
2nd Base
RANKPLAYER NAMENL TEAMTOTAL VOTES
1.Chase UtleyPhillies2,409,027
2.Martin PradoBraves1,170,897
3.Dan UgglaMarlins775,319
4.Rickie WeeksBrewers656,405
5.Brandon PhillipsReds631,737
3rd Base
RANKPLAYER NAMENL TEAMTOTAL VOTES
1.Placido PolancoPhillies1,157,196
2.David WrightMets1,026,658
3.Chipper JonesBraves871,375
4.Casey McGeheeBrewers833,959
5.Scott Rolen Reds812,450
Shortstop
RANKPLAYER NAMENL TEAMTOTAL VOTES
1.Hanley RamirezMarlins1,501,056
2.Jimmy RollinsPhillies1,205,832
3.Troy TulowitzkiRockies936,338
4.Jose ReyesMets681,774
5.Orlando CabreraReds641,759
Catcher
RANKPLAYER NAMENL TEAMTOTAL VOTES
1.Yadier MolinaCardinals1,322,095
2.Brian McCannBraves1,201,920
3.Ivan RodriguezNationals1,084,146
4.Carlos RuizPhillies902,790
5.Rod BarajasMets673,328
Outfield
RANKPLAYER NAMENL TEAMTOTAL VOTES
1.Ryan BraunBrewers1,816,052
2.Jason HeywardBraves1,786,786
3.Andre EthierDodgers1,723,266
4.Jayson WerthPhillies1,345,798
5.Shane VictorinoPhillies1,252,792
6.Matt HollidayCardinals1,187,686
7.Matt Kemp Dodgers943,962
8.Jason BayMets868,059
9.Raul IbanezPhillies846,395
10.Manny RamirezDodgers828,369
11.Alfonso SorianoCubs725,614
12.Justin UptonD-backs583,445
13.Ryan LudwickCardinals564,005
14.Jonny GomesReds547,681
15.Colby RasmusCardinals537,126
Results updated: Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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