There's a new leader in the National League Final Vote. Late Wednesday, Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo passed Rockies veteran Justin Morneau for the top spot, while White Sox left-hander Chris Sale continued to maintain a slight advantage two-thirds of the way through the All-Star Game Final Vote Sponsored by Experian.
Sale, the winning pitcher of last year's All-Star Game, was still holding on to his early lead in the American League. He was trailed by Angels right-hander Garrett Richards, Tigers right-hander Rick Porcello, Indians right-hander Corey Kluber and Astros left-hander Dallas Keuchel.
Morneau, who scored the winning run for the AL in the 15th inning of the 2008 Midsummer Classic, is hoping for what would be an emotional return to Target Field when the 85th All-Star Game is played there on Tuesday. But the former Twin fell behind Rizzo and he's just ahead of Braves left fielder Justin Upton, as all three players have tallied more than 3 million votes. Nationals second baseman Anthony Rendon and Marlins third baseman Casey McGehee are fourth and fifth, respectively.
Balloting began Sunday night with the presentation of five nominees per league by All-Star managers John Farrell of the AL and Mike Matheny of the NL to decide the 34th and final roster spots in each league, and the close of voting is at 4 p.m. ET today with winners announced soon thereafter on MLB.com. Twitter support over the last six hours of balloting will count toward candidate totals. From 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. ET today, tweet with designated player hashtags and follow @MLB.
Here is a closer look at this year's choices (statistics are through Tuesday's games):
Chris Sale: #TargetSale (A5) -- Sale was 8-1 with a 2.16 ERA over 13 starts entering his start at Boston. He has a WHIP of 0.870, having allowed 60 hits and 16 walks over 87 1/3 innings, while striking out 96. The White Sox are trying to become the first team to have four winners, following successful campaigns for Scott Podsednik, A.J. Pierzynski and Paul Konerko.
"Great guy," Konerko said of Sale. "But his numbers speak for themselves. The game matters, and if the American League wants to win it, I think Chris Sale should be there."
Garrett Richards: #VoteGRich (A4) -- In his first full season as a starter, Richards has held batters to a league-low .196 batting average while posting a 2.71 ERA and 119 strikeouts. Richards is trying to improve the Angels' 0-for-5 record in Final Vote competition, and his team has gotten behind him in a big way.
"I think it's one indication that our guys are tight in there," manager Mike Scioscia said. "They support each other. They understand the great honor it is to play in an All-Star Game. I think that they truly have a feeling of being part of it if somebody on our team goes. They'll experience that with Mike [Trout] and hopefully get a chance to experience it with Garrett."
Rick Porcello: #PickRick (A3) -- The Tigers are 49-37 and entered Wednesday with a 4 1/2-game lead in the AL Central. Only Masahiro Tanaka, who has 12 wins, has won more games in the Majors than Porcello, who has 11. That considered, Tigers outfielder Torii Hunter may have put his campaign case in the best perspective:
"If not for him, we might not be in first place," Hunter said. "Rick has done a lot for this ballclub. He's still deserving to go to the All-Star Game."
Corey Kluber: #VoteKluber (A2) -- The Indians were planning to hand out #VoteKluber K cards to fans entering their game Wednesday at Progressive Field, keeping their idle starter fully in view between starts. He ranks fourth in the AL in strikeouts (137) and eighth in ERA (2.86), to go along with an 8-6 record for the Tribe.
"This is no lie. I started [voting] at 10:30 a.m.," Indians manager Terry Francona said Tuesday afternoon. "I just quit a little bit ago. I voted my [rear] off."
Dallas Keuchel: #VoteKeuchel (A1) -- Alhough Keuchel was in the back of the ballot pack, the lefty is certainly deserving of his first All-Star nod, having gone 8-5 with a 3.06 ERA in 16 starts, including three complete games. He flourished and had a chance to make another big statement in his showdown opposite 2012 AL Final Vote winner Yu Darvish on Wednesday.
"It's nice to see the support I've been getting," Keuchel said. "Regardless of what happens, I appreciate everything that everybody's been doing for me."
Anthony Rizzo: #VoteRizzo (N4) -- The Cubs' first baseman is putting up arguably the best Final Vote run of any candidate in the event's history. He hit his third straight homer in as many days during the balloting on Wednesday, a solo shot in Cincinnati. That puts him right behind only Giancarlo Stanton with 20 homers in the NL, so we're no longer talking about just NL first-basemen comparisons, but top league power hitters.
"Whatever happens this week is on the fans," Rizzo said. "Our team winning will get us in the highlights more."
Justin Morneau: #VoteMorneau (N2) -- Talk about widespread support. Not only does Morneau have alliance backers in Cleveland and in his native Canada (including hockey players), but also huge support in Minnesota, where he was a Twin from 2003-13 and was selected to four straight All-Star Games from 2007-10 (scoring the winning run in 2008). Morneau was 0-for-3 with a walk in Tuesday's 2-1 victory over the Padres. He has been as consistent as they come in 2014, batting .313 with 13 homers while turning in 30 multi-hit performances, and he leads the Rockies in both doubles (20) and RBIs (59).
"I'm not much of a self-promoter," Morneau said. "At this point I feel I've played well enough to be there. Obviously, you hope that's what comes out in the end. But there are other guys that are having great seasons, too. ... It's a tough ride but I feel like to this point it would really be an honor to be on that third-base line and get introduced in that stadium in Minnesota, and be a part of that team."
Justin Upton: #VoteJUp (N5) -- After his second straight two-hit performance during this voting period, Upton's line is .277/.350/.533 and his .854 OPS is still sixth among all NL outfielders. His 17 homers tie for fourth in the NL.
"It will be interesting to see how Braves Country reacts to me," Upton said. "But I'm hoping it's the same way and I'm hoping I can get there."
Anthony Rendon: #VoteRendon (N3) -- When the Nationals' game on Tuesday against Baltimore was postponed by rain and rescheduled for Aug. 4, it meant a little less on-field campaigning. But Rendon still has plenty of evidence to show. The versatile infielder hit a game-tying two-run homer in the sixth inning on Monday, and he's among the team leaders in RBIs and runs scored. Matheny could use him at second or third base at any point in the All-Star Game.
"He has the ability to stay the same in any situation," teammate Adam LaRoche said. "To be as consistent as he has been, you just don't see that in young guys. It's something that takes a few years to pick up on. He just has that mindset. It's not just done on the surface. That's his personality. He is very level-headed along with being competitive. He wants to be the best at what he does. I love the kid."
Casey McGehee: #VoteHitsMcGehee (N1) -- The NL hits leader saw his career-best 14-game hitting streak end with an 0-for-4 collar on Tuesday. He said he is content with whatever comes of the voting.
"I'm kind of at peace with the fact that this whole All-Star thing -- that it is what it is," he said. "It's going to play out the way it's going to play out, and that's OK. But I'm not going to let that change how I approach [the game]."
History shows that all is not always lost for players who don't win a Final Vote. Of the 96 previous players who fell short during the first 12 years, 18 were subsequently added as All-Star replacements -- 19 percent, or nearly one in five of all non-winners. However, there was no such All-Star honor for any of the eight who finished behind Steve Delabar of Toronto and Freddie Freeman of Atlanta last year, so the surest route is to win this competition.
In each of the past seven years, clubs have formed alliances to lend their collective support for their respective candidates. This year's alliances are Indians-Rockies (#ClevelandRox), Astros-Marlins (#GoBeardorGoHome), White Sox-Nationals, Braves-Angels and Cubs-Tigers.
You can also vote on the mobile web at MLB.com/vote or via text message. To receive the Final Vote ballot, text the word "VOTE" to 89269. To vote for a specific player, text your choice to 89269. For example: Text "A3" to vote for AL Player 3 or "N3" to vote for NL Player 3. Standard message and data rates may apply. Text "STOP" to end and "HELP" for information. Mobile voting in Canada also is available and fans should text their choices to 101010.
In addition, MLB.com is providing a unique analysis of how a specific region in the United States is voting for the 10 candidates. Scroll over any county to see a color-coded display showing the online vote share for each player. Click here or visit MLB.com to access the data visualization map.
The final phase of All-Star Game voting will again allow you to help choose the Ted Williams All-Star Game Most Valuable Player Award presented by Chevrolet. During the Midsummer Classic, vote exclusively online at MLB.com and via Twitter in the 2014 All-Star Game MLB.com MVP Vote Sponsored by Pepsi, and the fans' collective voice will represent 20 percent of the overall vote that determines the recipient of the Arch Ward Trophy.
MLB.TV Premium subscribers, for the first time, will be able to live stream the All-Star Game via MLB.TV through FOX's participating video providers. Access will be available across more than 400 platforms that support MLB.TV, including the award-winning MLB.com At Bat app. MLB.com will provide extensive online coverage of the All-Star Week festivities.
The 85th All-Star Game will be televised nationally by FOX, in Canada by Rogers Sportsnet and RDS, and worldwide by partners in more than 200 countries via MLB International's independent feed. ESPN Radio and ESPN Radio Deportes will provide national radio coverage of the All-Star Game. MLB Network and SiriusXM will also provide comprehensive All-Star Week coverage. More information is available at allstargame.com.
Mark Newman is enterprise editor of MLB.com. Read and join other baseball fans on his MLB.com community blog.