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Tulo staking rare under-radar All-Star claim

OAKLAND -- If a shortstop leads the league in hitting and OPS at his position while tied for the lead in doubles, does it make him an All-Star? Or, at least, does it qualify as a good year? The answer becomes complicated if the shortstop in question is the Rockies' Troy Tulowitzki.

Tulowitzki entered Wednesday's game against the Athletics fifth in the National League with a .320 batting average, to go along with 18 doubles and an .838 OPS. Only the Cardinals' Jhonny Peralta, the leader at shortstop in fan voting for the All-Star Game, ranked near him in all three categories.

Since May 29, Tulowitzki's .400 batting average leads the NL, he has a career-best 29-game on-base streak and a current 14-game hit streak. But Tulowitzki realizes he set a high standard last year, when he was hitting .345 with 21 homers by the break, and he led NL players in fan votes. His eight homers going into Wednesday pale by comparison.

"What's missing, what people expect out of me, is that month where I go off, or two weeks where I hit six homers," Tulowitzki said. "Hopefully, that's in my future. I know I can be better and I work every single day to be better.

"But I've gotten better as the season has gone on, after finally being back on the field. People around here realize how much time I missed, and my offseason wasn't the same, but I don't think people on the outside realize what it takes to get back when you don't play the second half of the [previous] year."

Tulowitzki ranked third in the latest balloting update, and is not expected to suddenly find himself at the top by Sunday, when the starters are announced. Voting from players, managers and coaches was due early this week, however, for most of the reserve spots, and NL manager Bruce Bochy of the Giants can fill out spots. A factor could be that third baseman Nolan Arenado and second baseman DJ LeMahieu also have legitimate All-Star claims, and it could be difficult to get three Rockies reserves into the game.

"It'll be interesting to see what happens," Tulowitzki said. "At this point in my career, I probably have the name, meaning if you see my name on the ballot the name sticks out. Numbers-wise, maybe it's not what I've done in the past.

"It's one of those things where sometimes you set the bar high and people want you to have that career year every single year. Sometimes it doesn't happen and sometimes it does. At the end of the year, if I'm healthy and play, we'll be sitting here talking, saying, 'That wasn't a bad year.'"

Thomas Harding is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb, and like his Facebook page.
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