SEATTLE -- Nelson Cruz has anchored the middle of the Mariners lineup in impressive fashion again this season, but now he needs Seattle fans to go to bat for their big designated hitter as he enters the final days of voting with a narrow margin for a starting spot on
SEATTLE -- Nelson Cruz has anchored the middle of the Mariners lineup in impressive fashion again this season, but now he needs Seattle fans to go to bat for their big designated hitter as he enters the final days of voting with a narrow margin for a starting spot on the American League team for the MLB All-Star Game presented by Mastercard.
With voting set to conclude on Thursday, Cruz has seen his lead whittled considerably over the past week by the hard-charging Corey Dickerson of the Rays, who leapfrogged Matthew Holliday of the Yankees into second place in the DH race and now is within less than 100,000 votes of Cruz.
Cruz is the only Seattle player contending for a starting spot as Robinson Cano dropped out of the top five at the second-base position this week. Jean Segura has put up good numbers at shortstop, but two stints on the disabled list have kept him out of contention. And Ben Gamel has opened eyes with his .346 batting average, but the rookie began the season in the Minors and isn't on the Esurance MLB All-Star Game Ballot.
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Just a week ago, Cruz led Holliday by 191,000 votes, with Dickerson about a thousand votes further back. But not only has Dickerson closed that gap considerably, Indians three-time All-Star Edwin Encarnacion has also moved into third with a late push.
Cruz has posted a .291/.377/.513 slash line with 14 home runs and 58 RBIs in 74 games heading into Monday's off-day. His RBI total is second in the AL, one behind Yankees outfielder Aaron Judge.
Dickerson has put up a .330/.371/.587 line with 17 homers and 39 RBIs in 73 games for the Rays, ranking third in the league in batting average and fourth in slugging percentage.
Encarnacion has a .261/.379/.486 line with 17 homers and 40 RBIs in 72 games for the Indians, while Holliday has hit .262/.366/.511 with 15 homers and 47 RBIs in 68 games for the Yankees.
Cruz's excellent 2017 actually began in March when he hit .300 with three homers and two doubles with five RBIs in six games for the Dominican Republic in the World Baseball Classic.
Once the regular season opened, the 36-year-old anchored the Mariners' potent lineup from the cleanup spot over the first three months despite some calf and hand issues that have affected his production of late.
"He hasn't landed on the DL, but there have been days he hasn't been available or he's played through some stuff, which he's got a lot of fortitude to do," Mariners manager Scott Servais said. "I certainly respect that, as do his teammates. How he makes adjustments, how he prepares, whether it's watching video or in the weight room, the work in the batting cage, his influence is very heavy in our clubhouse. As it should be. He's a proven veteran."
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 at 8:59 p.m. PT. On smartphones and tablets, fans can also access the ballot via the MLB.com At Bat and MLB.com Ballpark mobile apps.
The Esurance All-Star Selection Show will take place on Sunday at 4 p.m. PT on ESPN. Following the unveiling 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.
Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter [