All-Star voting update: Still too many Phillies, not enough Morneau

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2010 All-Star Game.JPGI know the All-Star Game approaches the irrelevant and that early vote totals are even less relevant than the game, but I just can’t help myself.  The leaders so far:

American League

C:  Joe Mauer
1B: Mark Teixeira
2B: Robinson Cano
3B: Evan Longoria
SS: Derek Jeter
OF: Ichiro, Nelson Cruz, Carl Crawford
DH: Vlad Guerrero

Comments: unchanged since last week. Justin Morneau continues to get no love.

National League

C: Yadier Molina
1B: Albert Pujols
2B: Chase Utley
3B: Placido Polanco
SS: Jimmy Rollins
OF: Ryan Braun, Jayson Werth, Andre Ethier

Comments: The only change from last week is that Shane Victorino is no longer in the top three outfielders, having been passed up by Andre Ethier.  I hope the NL can survive with only four starters from the Phillies.  Well, five, assuming Charlie Manuel gives Halladay the nod over Ubaldo Jimenez.

Remember folks: treat this like a Chicago election: vote early, vote often! 

A.J. Hinch: “We’ll use every pitcher in Game 7 if we have to”

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It’s not entirely clear why the Astros threw Ken Giles into the ninth inning of Game 6 of the ALCS. With a six-run advantage and the bottom half of the Yankees’ lineup due up, pushing the series to its seven-game capacity looked like a sure bet. Giles may be one of Houston’s better bullpen arms, but he’s not their only option, and it would have made more sense to keep him fresh for a do-or-die Game 7 on Saturday night.

Of course, there’s no such thing as a sure bet when it comes to postseason baseball. That’s more or less what Astros’ manager A.J. Hinch had to say after the game, telling reporters that he had envisioned a quick three outs from his closer as they tried to pull back from the brink of elimination. “We didn’t have the luxury of limping into that inning,” Hinch said. “We’ve seen how these guys can explode in these innings.”

It’s not difficult to recall the Yankees’ explosive drive in the eighth inning of Game 4, when they exploited the holes in Houston’s ‘pen and evened the series with Gary Sanchez‘s go-ahead double off of Giles. Back home in Minute Maid Park, however, there was a slightly different feel to the eighth and ninth innings of Game 6. Jose Altuve led off the eighth with a solo home run, followed by Alex Bregman‘s two-run double and Evan Gattis‘ sac fly. In the ninth, Giles labored through a 23-pitch outing to lock down the win, handing out a base hit and a seven-pitch walk before eventually whiffing Chase Headley on three straight pitches for the last out.

So, while Hinch’s decision to lean on Giles in Game 6 may have felt wasteful, his concerns were not entirely unfounded. He’s prepared to roll with the same strategy during Saturday’s series finale, too, leaving nothing on the table as the Astros battle for their first World Series showdown since 2005. According to Dallas Keuchel, that means all hands on deck — except for Justin Verlander, whose four wins, 24 strikeouts and 1.46 postseason ERA have gotten the Astros as far as he could possibly be expected to take them. “No pitcher is going to be in the dugout,” said Keuchel. “They’re all going to be in the bullpen, myself included. Any way we can help out, we’re trying to get to the World Series, the same way the Yankees are, and that’s a nice feeling to have.”

Does that mean Giles will be available for a Game 7 appearance? Stranger things have happened. Joe Sheehan notes that the right-hander has pitched in back-to-back days 13 times this year, though he’s never thrown as many as 23 pitches on Day 1. Granted, he likely doesn’t have enough left in the tank for another 20+ pitch run on Saturday, but with the World Series on the line, any help he can offer will be invaluable.