Avila continues to close gap on Yanks' Martin

Avila continues to close gap on Yanks' Martin

Avila continues to close gap on Yanks' Martin
DETROIT -- Alex Avila continues to hit, and fans continue to vote. But time is running out to try to get him into the All-Star starting lineup.

In fact, it's down to a matter of hours.

The latest balloting results released Tuesday show Russell Martin's lead at catcher whittled to just over 400,000 votes. For the third straight week, it's closer than it was at the last update. Other than the third and final outfield spot, it's the closest race going on the American League ballot.

The challenge is, it's also the final balloting update before online balloting at MLB.com ends Thursday night, which leaves the Tigers and Avila's teammates making a major push to try to get their catcher over the top in the vote tally.

Fans can cast their votes for starters up to 25 times at MLB.com and all 30 club sites -- online or via your mobile device -- using the 2011 All-Star Game MLB.com Ballot Sponsored by Sprint until Thursday at 11:59 p.m. ET.

The Tigers are doing everything they can to get people to cast those votes in Avila's favor. Justin Verlander, himself a likely All-Star, has been campaigning daily on Twitter for his catcher, trying to push the #voteavila hashtag. He talked Lions All-Pro defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh into a vote for Avila online, and has been trying to do the same with other local stars.

Tigers fans have also been getting into the act. A "Vote Avila" logo has been circulating around Twitter, and fans have been spreading the word.

But the most convincing push in Avila's favor are the statistics. The offensive categories he leads among AL catchers with enough at-bats to qualify for a title now include batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, OPS, doubles, triples and RBIs. And only Miguel Olivo has more home runs. His three-hit game Sunday and single on Monday pushed him into the AL's top 10 in hitting regardless of position.

Whether the vote enough to bridge the gap will be seen this weekend. Rosters will be announced during the 2011 All-Star Game Selection Show on TBS on July 3. Baseball fans around the world will then be able to select the final player on each team via the 2011 All-Star Game Final Vote Sponsored by Sprint.

At this point, Avila is pretty much the Tigers' only hope of putting somebody in the starting lineup. Miguel Cabrera stands third among first basemen, trailing Boston's Adrian Gonzalez and New York's Mark Teixeira. Jhonny Peralta remains fourth among AL shortstops, while Brandon Inge stands fifth at third base.

Once the game gets under way, Fans will have the opportunity to participate in the official voting for the Ted Williams Most Valuable Player Award presented by Chevrolet at the Midsummer Classic via the 2011 All-Star Game MVP Vote Sponsored by Sprint.

The All-Star Game, to be played in Phoenix on July 12, will be televised nationally by FOX and around the world by Major League Baseball International. ESPN Radio will provide exclusive national radio play-by-play, while MLB.com will offer extensive online coverage.

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. Read Beck's Blog and follow him on Twitter @beckjason. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.