The Astros got an assist from the broadcast booth yesterday

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The Astros have a secret weapon. But he’s only really needed once a year.

Former big league pitcher Steve Sparks is a radio broadcaster for the Astros. Sparks also happens to have been a knuckleballer. The Astros faced current knuckleballer R.A. Dickey last night so yesterday Sparks tossed knuckleballs in BP to Astros hitters to prepare them. It worked too: the Astros got five runs on six hits in seven innings off Dickey and won the game.

This is the second time Sparks has provided this service for Houston hitters, doing so before they faced Dickey last season. They roughed Dickey up then too — five runs on seven hits that time — even though they ended up losing the game thanks to their own pitching staff’s follies.

Would that everyone in the broadcast booth could be so helpful. Last night Chipper Jones showed up as a guest during the broadcast of the Braves-Mets game. During his visit he broke down B.J. Upton’s hitting problems in highly technical terms. Which was great, actually. Far more detail than one normally hears from any analyst. He also helped Upton during batting practice. I’d like to say it helped — Upton did go 1 for 4 which, as of late, is an improvement — but I think I’ll reserve judgment.

Here are the final All-Star voting results before the close of balloting

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All-Star voting ends this Thursday night, just before midnight eastern time. The All-Star teams — at least how they’ll appear before the dozen or two substitutions we’ll get before the game — will be unveiled on Sunday at 7pm on ESPN, just before Sunday Night Baseball.

Which means you still have time to alter these standings, which now stand as the final update before things are set in, well, not stone, but at least some Play-Doh which has been left out of the can too long and is kinda hard to mess with.

NATIONAL LEAGUE

AMERICAN LEAGUE

Javier Baez made a couple of fantastic plays last night

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Javier Baez is a second baseman. He’s played a good bit of shortstop and, if he played for some other teams, he may be an everyday shortstop, but he’s the Cubs’ second baseman.

With Addision Russell out with some shoulder issues, however, Baez got the call at short last night for the Cubs-Nats game in Washington. It was a good call, as he made a couple of spectacular plays in the field.

First up is this highway robbery of Bryce Harper, who thought he had a base hit. It was a good thought, too, as he hit the ball like a dang rocket:

Later, when Adam Lind was up to bat, he fouled one off behind third base. Baez got on his horse and did this:

That inspired Cubs broadcaster Len Kasper to use the old line the great Harry Kalas used about Garry Maddox: “Two-thirds of the Earth is covered by water, the other one-third is covered by Garry Maddox.” It’s a great line, and aptly used to describe Javier Baez’s Monday night.