Cincinnati - In a season marred by myriad injuries, poor play and just plain old bad luck, Ryan Braun has been one of the lone bright spots for the Milwaukee Brewers.
The leftfielder is putting up numbers similar to or better than he had up to this point in 2011, when he went on to win the National League's most valuable player award, with a .311 batting average, 20 home runs, 52 runs batted in, .596 slugging percentage, .392 on-base percentage and 13 stolen bases.
Will that be enough to earn his fifth consecutive starting nod in the All-Star Game? The Brewers certainly hope so.
Major League Baseball released its final balloting update Tuesday, and Braun ranked third among National League outfielders with 3,168,617 votes. The top three vote-getters are named starters for the game July 10 at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City.
Matt Kemp of the Los Angeles Dodgers led all NL outfielders with 4,118,524 votes, and Carlos Beltran of the St. Louis Cardinals was second with 3,717,483. Braun's third-place standing is a reversal from last week, when he fell into fourth place behind Melky Cabrera of the San Francisco Giants.
Cabrera stood at 3,045,884 votes as of Tuesday, a reversal that Braun said he knew about but wasn't necessarily following.
"People always bring it up to me, especially the media, so of course I'm aware of it," Braun said Wednesday. "But we're playing a game every day, and it's far from the forefront of my thoughts or my focus. But I'm certainly always aware of it.
"I've always appreciated everybody's support. It's been awesome. It's really meant a lot to me."
Braun is bidding for his fifth consecutive all-star start, an honor that might well become a lock anyway with Kemp still dealing with a hamstring injury. But having to fight for votes is a new experience for Braun, who had led all NL outfielders in voting the previous four years.
Considering that and the tumultuous off-season he experienced with his successful appeal of a 50-game suspension in the wake of a positive drug test, Braun was asked if a starting spot would be more meaningful to him this time around.
"No," he said simply. "No."
Voting closes at 10:59 p.m. Thursday, and the Brewers are doing everything possible to try and get fans to use their 25 votes. Social media has been a valuable tool in getting the word out, and a team spokesman has even spent considerable time during the current road trip passing out "Vote Braun" placards and T-shirts to Brewers fans in the stands.
Those same T-shirts even made their way into all the lockers in the Brewers' clubhouse at Great American Ball Park.
While Braun said he won't be caught wearing one - "Never. No chance," he said - he's thankful for the team's support.
"It's very meaningful, absolutely," he said. "I definitely appreciate it."
Fans can vote on MLB.com, on the individual websites of the 30 major-league teams and also on mobile devices. The results will be announced at noon Sunday on TBS.