Marte neck-and-neck with Belt in NL Final Vote balloting

Marte neck-and-neck with Belt in NL Final Vote balloting

ST. LOUIS -- The Pirates pounded the digital pavement Wednesday, pushing hard to put Starling Marte on his first All-Star team. Judging by the early returns, their effort is paying off.

Marte is one of five candidates in the National League for the Esurance MLB All-Star Final Vote. Pittsburgh's dynamic left fielder again ranked second in the Thursday's balloting update, behind only Giants first baseman Brandon Belt, though Marte had passed Belt breifly in the voting several times Wednesday night.

Cast your Esurance Final Vote for Marte

Marte is followed closely by Rockies shortstop Trevor Story and D-backs third baseman Jake Lamb.

The club's @Pirates Twitter account has been promoting the #VOTEMARTE campaign, and several Bucs joined in to stump for their teammate.

"He does it all, but Marte's speed itself can change the result of a game," tweeted reliever Jared Hughes. "Want NL home field advantage? #VoteMarte"

Andrew McCutchen chimed in with a slew of hashtags, dropping in a #MartePartay -- the signature broadcast call when Marte homers -- among the #VoteMarte party line.

As they prepared to play the Cardinals at Busch Stadium on Wednesday night, several Pirates carried around a "Vote Marte" banner to further support the cause.

"Starling Marte is the best athlete I've played with, hands down. He's extremely talented," said closer Mark Melancon, already guaranteed a trip to San Diego next week for the Midsummer Classic. "Sometimes I don't even know if he knows how talented he is. He's a ball of muscle that just goes out there and competes."

Marte expected his teammates would have his back, as he's often had theirs at the plate, on the bases and in left field.

The Pirates and Tigers have teamed up to send Marte and second baseman Ian Kinsler, an American League Final Vote candidate, to the All-Star Game.

Fans can vote for the 2016 Esurance MLB All-Star Game Final Vote until 4 p.m. ET on Friday. The winners, as chosen exclusively by online fan voting totals, will be announced during a Final Vote-themed telecast of "MLB Now" featuring commentary from political analyst Jeff Greenfield, live on MLB Network and MLB.com from 4-5 p.m. ET. MLB Network will provide extensive coverage across all of its studio programming during the Final Vote, including interviews with the candidates, frequent updates, heat maps indicating the cities where votes are being cast for each candidate, news on player and club campaigns and a running countdown clock leading up to the announcement.

Baseball fans have cast nearly 600 million online votes for Final Vote candidates since the program's inception in 2002. In addition to MLB.com and the official club websites, fans can use their mobile devices to cast votes at MLB.com/vote or via text message. To receive the ballot, text the word "VOTE" to 89269. To vote for a specific player, fans can text their choice to 89269. EXAMPLE: Text "A3" to vote for AL Player 3 or "N3" to vote for NL Player 3. Message and data rates may apply. Text "STOP" to end and "HELP" for information. Mobile voting in Canada also is available and fans should text their choices to 101010.

For the fifth consecutive year, the Final Vote will include social balloting, as Twitter support for the 10 candidates over the last six hours of balloting will count toward their vote totals. From 10 a.m.-4 p.m. ET on Friday, any tweet that includes a designated player hashtag will be tabulated as part of the official vote total used to determine the winners.

On Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. ET, watch the 2016 All-Star Game presented by MasterCard live on FOX, and during the game visit MLB.com to submit your choice for the Ted Williams Most Valuable Player Award presented by Chevrolet via the 2016 MLB All-Star Game MVP Vote. The 87th All-Star Game, in San Diego, will be televised nationally by FOX, in Canada by Rogers Sportsnet and RDS, and worldwide by partners in more than 160 countries via MLB International's independent feed. ESPN Radio and ESPN Radio Deportes will provide national radio coverage of the All-Star Game. MLB.com, MLB Network and SiriusXM will also provide comprehensive All-Star Week coverage. For more information, please visit allstargame.com.

Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter at @adamdberry. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.