The Ohio Cup is always appointment viewing, for little reason other than it pins two intrastate rivals who happen to be two of the more storied franchises in baseball against one another.
But the 2017 version of the series -- which begins tonight at 7:10 pm ET at Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati -- adds another level of intrigue.
For that, look no further than shortstop, where both the Indians and Reds feature players who could end up representing their league in July at the MLB All-Star Game presented by MasterCard.
Between Francisco Lindor and Zack Cozart, Ohio seems to be shortstop country these days. This season, both have been #ASGWorthy, to say the least.
• Cast your Esurance All-Star ballot for Lindor, Cozart and other #ASGWorthy players
Simply put, both Lindor and Cozart have spent most of this season raking. Let's start with Cozart, who hopes to return to the lineup Monday despite a minor wrist issue. Cozart is leading all Major League shortstops in fWAR (2.3), hitting (.351), OBP (.432), SLG (.595), wOBA (.431) and wRC+ (165), and he is the only one with an OPS above 1.000 (1.028). It would be the first All-Star appearance of Cozart's seven-year career, if he's selected to the Midsummer Classic.
Lindor, who burst onto the scene with a top 10 American League MVP Award finish last season, is also having a huge year. The 23-year-old is leading AL shortstops in fWAR (1.6), doubles (12), homers (9) and slugging (.518), while pacing the reigning AL champion Indians in hits (46), runs (29), homers and fWAR (1.6).
Lindor brings a seven-game hitting streak into the series, as well as a small but significant history at Great American Ball Park. The Indians shortstop is a career .440 hitter (11-for-25) in Cincinnati, with six runs scored in five games.
Lindor remains a favorite to sit atop the first Esurance MLB All-Star Game Ballot at his position, but he does face some stiff competition in the AL. Also having #ASGWorthy years are Seattle's Jean Segura (.336 average), Boston's Xander Bogaerts (48 hits, seven steals) and Houston's young stud Carlos Correa (24 RBIs).
Cozart's main competition will likely come from a bigger name in a bigger market -- Dodgers shortstop Corey Seager. The reigning National League Rookie of the Year Award winner is hitting .292/.392/.497 with seven home runs, tops among NL shortstops. Arizona's Chris Owings (.323 average, 51 hits), and Chicago's Addison Russell (despite a slow start) could also contend for the starting spot.
Fans may cast votes for starters at MLB.com and all 30 club sites -- on computers, tablets and smartphones -- exclusively online using the 2017 Esurance MLB All-Star Game Ballot until Thursday, June 29, at 11:59 p.m. ET. On smartphones and tablets, fans can also access the ballot via the MLB.com At Bat and MLB.com Ballpark mobile apps. Vote up to five times in any 24-hour period for a maximum of 35 ballots cast.
Following the announcement of the 2017 All-Star starters, reserves and pitchers, fans should return to MLB.com and cast their 2017 Esurance MLB All-Star Game Final Vote for the final player on each league's All-Star roster. Then on Tuesday, July 11, while watching the 2017 All-Star Game presented by MasterCard live on FOX, fans may visit MLB.com to submit their choices for the Ted Williams Most Valuable Player Award presented by Chevrolet with the 2017 MLB All-Star Game MVP Vote.
The 88th Midsummer Classic, at Marlins Park in Miami, will be televised nationally by FOX Sports; in Canada by Rogers Sportsnet and RDS; and worldwide by partners in more than 160 countries. ESPN Radio and ESPN Radio Deportes will provide exclusive national radio coverage, while MLB Network, MLB.com and SiriusXM will have comprehensive All-Star Week coverage. For more information about MLB All-Star Week and to purchase tickets, please visit AllStarGame.com and follow @AllStarGame on social media.