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Victorino down to the wire in Final Vote

Victorino down to the wire in Final Vote

PHILADELPHIA -- The "Bran Torino" alliance of Tigers third baseman Brandon Inge and Phillies outfielder Shane Victorino is on top of the leaderboard as the deadline approached in the record-smashing and totally unpredictable 2009 All-Star Game Sprint Final Vote.

Victorino took a small lead over the Giants' Pablo Sandoval in the most recent voting update Thursday morning and maintained it into the afternoon.

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Voting is under way until 4 p.m. ET on Thursday exclusively at MLB.com. This eighth annual event allows fans to decide the 33rd and final roster spot for the American and National Leagues leading up to the 80th All-Star Game on July 14 at Busch Stadium in St. Louis.

Fans also can vote again by mobile device -- exclusive in the U.S. to Sprint, Nextel and Boost subscribers. To receive the 2009 All-Star Game Sprint Final Vote mobile ballot text the word "VOTE" to 1122. To vote for a specific player, simply text message your choice to 1122. EXAMPLE: Text "A3" to vote for AL Player 3 or "N3" to vote for NL Player 3. Standard rate messaging fees also may apply; check with your carrier. Mobile voting in Canada is open to all carriers; fans should text their choices to 88555.

The other candidates on the NL ballot are center fielder Matt Kemp (Dodgers), third baseman Mark Reynolds (D-backs) and shortstop Cristian Guzman (Nationals).

After knocking on doors with Mayor Michael Nutter and appearing on radio and TV, Victorino has officially suspended all campaign activities.

But the latest Phillies marketing promotion is his brainchild. Per Victorino's suggestion, the club has partnered with the Tigers for a "Vote Bran Torino!" initiative, referencing the hit Clint Eastwood film. Inge has surged into first in American League voting.

"The Giants and Texas did it," Victorino said, explaining his idea. "We [were] both in second place. Why don't we join forces and join together?"

Governors Ed Rendell (D-Pa.) and Linda Lingle (R-Hawaii) had already entered into a friendly wager to see which state can produce more support for the 28-year-old center fielder, who is hitting .306 with 22 doubles, six triples, six home runs, 39 RBIs and 13 stolen bases. If Pennsylvania has more votes for Victorino, Lingle will send eight cases of pineapples to Rendell. If Hawaii has more votes, Rendell will send cheesesteaks.

Victorino also had his father, a council member for Maui County, promote him throughout the Hawaiian Islands, and the Phillies had the Cira Centre building lit with Victorino's No. 8.

The 80th Major League Baseball All-Star Game on Tuesday in St. Louis will be televised nationally by FOX Sports, in Canada by Rogers Sportsnet and Sportsnet HD and televised around the world by Major League Baseball International, with pregame ceremonies beginning at 8 p.m. ESPN Radio will provide exclusive national radio coverage, while MLB.com will provide extensive online coverage. XM will provide satellite radio play-by-play coverage of the XM All-Star Futures Game.

Even if Victorino does not win the vote, he could earn an All-Star spot. Mets center fielder Carlos Beltran will be unable to play because of an injured right knee. Because Beltran was voted a starter by the fans, Phillies and NL manager Charlie Manuel is not bound by the players and managers vote, which would have favored Kemp over Victorino.

So Victorino will make sure to plead his case to Manuel.

"I've got to go lobby," Victorino joked. "I need to go, actually. I'll be right back. Let me go now."

Still, he would rather be victorious in his first electoral race.

"We'll see what happens, I guess," Victorino said. "It should be interesting. It should be fun now."

David Gurian-Peck is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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