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Escobar needs support from fans

Escobar needs fans' support

Kelvim Escobar, always complimentary with respect to Angels fans, is hoping the feeling is mutal.

The Angels' classy right-hander is in a position where he can use their support more than ever, with time running out on balloting in the Final Vote for the lone remaining spot on the American League All-Star squad.

"The fans have been great to me at Angel Stadium," said Escobar, whose 2.05 home ERA is the second best in the AL behind Oakland's Joe Blanton, at 1.80. "I've always enjoyed pitching in that ballpark -- even before I came to the Angels. They're good fans, respectful. And they know the game."

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Escobar was typically grateful when he learned that he was among the five candidates in the Final Vote, joining Boston's Hideki Okajima, Detroit's Jeremy Bonderman, Minnesota's Pat Neshek and Toronto's Roy Halladay.

Okajima held the lead in the latest tabulations, followed by Bonderman.

Escobar, 9-3 with a 3.32 ERA, has been one of the AL's dominant starters all season, repeatedly delivering his best efforts in important games. He shut out Cleveland in a performance he called his best ever, and he also shut out the Dodgers for eight innings before turning it over to the bullpen.

"It's been a goal of mine my whole career to pitch in the All-Star Game," Escobar said. "I think everybody wants to be with the best in the game. That would be a great honor. Nobody would enjoy being in San Francisco [for the July 10 Midsummer Classic] more than I would."

The sixth annual Monster All-Star Final Vote ballot opened exclusively on MLB.com at 7 p.m. PT Sunday, with close to 9 million votes cast in just under 48 hours of fan voting (through 1 p.m. PT on Tuesday). The online voting will continue until 3 p.m. PT on Thursday.

In addition, fans can cast their votes via their mobile phones by texting the word "Vote" to 36197 to receive the ballots. In Canada, fans should text the word "Vote" to 88555.

The Monster All-Star Final Vote program has seen nearly 60 million votes cast since its inception in 2002, including a record 18.6 million last year when fans chose A.J. Pierzynski of the Chicago White Sox and Nomar Garciaparra of the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Previous winners of the Monster All-Star Final Vote include: Scott Podsednik (AL, 2005); Oswalt (NL, 2005); Hideki Matsui (AL, 2004); Bobby Abreu (NL, 2004); Jason Varitek (AL, 2003); Geoff Jenkins (NL, 2003); Johnny Damon (AL, 2002); and Andruw Jones (NL, 2002). The 78th Major League Baseball All-Star Game, which will determine home-field advantage in the 2007 World Series, will be televised nationally by FOX Sports, in Canada by Rogers Sportsnet and Sportsnet HD and televised around the world by Major League Baseball International, with pre-game ceremonies beginning at 5:00 p.m. PT.

ESPN Radio will provide exclusive national radio coverage, while MLB.com will provide extensive online coverage of all festivities surrounding the 78th All-Star Game. XM will provide satellite radio play-by-play coverage of the XM All-Star Futures Game as well as the State Farm Home Run Derby and Midsummer Classic. The Angels already have two pitchers on manager Jim Leyland's AL staff -- John Lackey and Francisco Rodriguez. Both have made no secret of their desire to have Escobar join them.

"I'll vote for Kelvim -- I already have," Lackey said. "I really hope the fans get behind him. He deserves it."

"He's having a great season," K-Rod added. "I hope he makes it, too."

Lyle Spencer 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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