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With only days to go, tight races abound in NL

With only days to go, tight races abound in NL

With only days to go, tight races abound in NL
Four days.

That's how much time remains for fans to vote on starters for the July 12 All-Star Game at Arizona's Chase Field. That's all the time left to decide who makes up the National League lineup. And as of Monday, the races at first base, second base, shortstop and outfield were all too close to call.

The fifth and final voting update revealed that Joey Votto of the Reds and Prince Fielder of the Brewers are still neck-and-neck while trailing the sidelined Albert Pujols at first base. A similar Reds-Brewers showdown is taking place at second between Brandon Phillips and Rickie Weeks. Jose Reyes of the Mets continues to gain on Troy Tulowitzki of the Rockies for the starting nod at shortstop. And Matt Holliday of the Cardinals and Matt Kemp of the Dodgers could be the ones battling it out for the final outfield spot.

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With in-stadium voting now finished, Braves catcher Brian McCann (with a lead of nearly 800,000 votes), Phillies third baseman Placido Polanco (with a lead of over 1.2 million), Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun (the NL's overall leader, and nearly 1.2 million more than the fourth-place outfielder), and Cardinals outfielder Lance Berkman (over 400,000 votes ahead of Kemp) seem to have some breathing room.

But it continues to be interesting elsewhere. And perhaps it's most interesting at first base -- if for no other reason than because we don't know how often an opportunity like this while arise in the near future.

Who knows where Pujols will sign this offseason, and who knows how his production will be impacted by the current wrist injury that has him out until August. But considering his otherworldly numbers throughout the years, this may be one of those rare opportunities to vote in somebody other than "The Machine" as a starter.

Which begs the question: Who?

Fielder, the lefty basher looking for his second All-Star Game start, is having a phenomenal year, one that has him batting .305 while tied for the NL lead in homers (21) and pacing the league in RBIs (68) and OPS (1.037). Votto, the reigning NL Most Valuable Player, is looking to start his first Midsummer Classic. He's hitting .318 with 11 homers, 49 RBIs and a league-leading .443 on-base percentage.

As of Monday, those two were separated by just 70,727 votes -- peanuts in a balloting process of this magnitude -- but the injured Pujols sported a lead of more than 450,000 over both of them.

All-Star Game rules stipulate that if a player voted to start by the fans is too injured to play, then the player other than him that leads the Player Ballot gets the nod. But fans have a chance to take out that part of the equation if Fielder or Votto jump Pujols.

At shortstop, with every triple he hits, it seems Reyes gets closer to jumping Tulowitzki.

Two weeks ago, Tulowitzki's cushion over the second-place Reyes was 586,956. Last week, it was 413,171. Now, his lead has been whittled down to 244,832.

Reyes, who hasn't started the Midsummer Classic since '07, is hitting a league-leading .341 with 32 RBIs, 28 stolen bases and a remarkable 14 triples. Tulowitzki, who has only been to the All-Star Game once and has never started, is hitting .273 with 14 homers and 50 RBIs.


And now it looks like Tulo has his hands full.

Phillips can sympathize with the Rockies' star shortstop -- the Reds' second baseman has now lost his lead.

Phillips led Weeks by nearly 300,000 votes two weeks ago. But then the lead shrank to fewer than 200,000 votes last week, and now Phillips trails by 78,397. The numbers seem to support Weeks, who sports a .360 on-base percentage and 14 homers, while Phillips has a .345 on-base percentage and six homers. The track record supports Phillips, the two-time Gold Glove Award winner who made his first All-Star team last season. Weeks has never been an All-Star in his eight-year career.

Only one of them will make his first All-Star Game start in a year that has seen stalwart Chase Utley miss significant time.

And only three outfielders will get the nod. Which, for now, means the toughest choice is between the third-place Holliday and the fourth-place Kemp -- two sluggers separated by 192,038 votes.

Holliday, batting .330 with nine homers and 39 RBIs after missing some time with injuries, is looking to make his fifth All-Star Game. Kemp, meanwhile, is trying to make it for the first time and is having one the best seasons in baseball, with a .327 batting average, 21 homers, 60 RBIs and an NL-leading .619 slugging percentage.

But he's running out of time.

Fans can cast their votes for starters up to 25 times at MLB.com and all 30 club sites -- online or via a mobile device -- using the 2011 All-Star Game MLB.com Ballot Sponsored by Sprint until Thursday at 11:59 p.m. ET.

Rosters will be announced during the 2011 All-Star Game Selection Show on TBS on Sunday. Baseball fans around the world will then be able to select the final player on each team via the 2011 All-Star Game Final Vote Sponsored by Sprint.

Fans will also 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 2011 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.

2011 NATIONAL LEAGUE ALL-STAR BALLOTING (as of June 26)

CATCHER
Brian McCann, Braves: 3,062,884
Yadier Molina, Cardinals: 2,271,887
Buster Posey, Giants: 1,849,984
Jonathan Lucroy, Brewers: 1,451,280
Carlos Ruiz, Phillies: 1,392,944

FIRST BASE
Albert Pujols, Cardinals: 3,358,432
Prince Fielder, Brewers: 2,903,584
Joey Votto, Reds: 2,832,857
Ryan Howard, Phillies: 1,881,711
Freddie Freeman, Braves: 702,911

SECOND BASE
Rickie Weeks, Brewers: 2,869,583
Brandon Phillips, Reds: 2,791,186
Chase Utley, Phillies: 2,406,965
Dan Uggla, Braves: 1,223,812
Freddy Sanchez, Giants: 1,184,145

THIRD BASE
Placido Polanco, Phillies: 3,261,718
Chipper Jones, Braves: 2,040,594
Pablo Sandoval, Giants: 1,584,671
David Wright, Mets: 1,497,778
Scott Rolen, Reds: 1,417,248

SHORTSTOP
Troy Tulowitzki, Rockies: 2,955,609
Jose Reyes, Mets: 2,710,777
Jimmy Rollins, Phillies: 1,724,166
Alex Gonzalez, Braves: 1,142,470
Yuniesky Betancourt, Brewers: 1,131,078

OUTFIELD
Ryan Braun, Brewers: 3,932,100
Lance Berkman, Cardinals: 3,208,183
Matt Holliday, Cardinals: 2,935,965
Matt Kemp, Dodgers: 2,743,927
Andre Ethier, Dodgers: 2,264,640
Jay Bruce, Reds: 2,119,267
Shane Victorino, Phillies: 1,742,128
Carlos Beltran, Mets: 1,639,362
Jason Heyward, Braves: 1,302,127
Carlos Gonzalez, Rockies: 1,253,728
Raul Ibanez, Phillies: 1,239,678
Corey Hart, Brewers: 1,217,629
Justin Upton, D-backs: 1,141,296
Carlos Gomez, Brewers: 1,016,685
Martin Prado, Braves: 1,012,084

Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his columns and his blog, listen to his podcast and follow him on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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