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Brantley adds stellar defense to All-Star case

Brantley adds stellar defense to All-Star case

SEATTLE -- Much has been made about Michael Brantley's breakout offensive showing in the season's first half. As valuable as the Indians left fielder has been in the batter's box, he has also developed into a defensive weapon.

During the fourth inning of Friday's 3-2 loss to the Mariners, Brantley made a leaping grab at the wall in left-center field to rob Seattle's Mike Zunino of an extra-base hit. The left fielder then teamed with shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera on a relay to double up Logan Morrison at first base, giving Brantley nine outfield assists on the season.

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"He's solid. That's a big part of what he does," Indians manager Terry Francona said of Brantley's defense. "I think because his offense has been so good, it's allowed me to maybe talk about him more and point out some of those things. I think he understands that when he leaves the batter's box, he can still influence the game. That's very important."

Entering Saturday's game, Brantley's nine outfield assists ranked second in the Majors to only Oakland's Yoenis Cespedes (10). In the previous 25 seasons, the most assists in a season by a Cleveland left fielder is 16 from Albert Belle in 1993. Brantley, who had 11 assists last season, is on pace to reach that mark this year with eight assists already out of left field.

"He's good out there," said Indians pitcher Trevor Bauer, who was on the mound for Friday's double play. "You almost start expecting him to make plays like that, because he does it so often. I think it'd be easy to overlook exactly how difficult that play is and what a good play it was."

Offensively, Brantley has turned in an All-Star-worthy showing as well. Through 75 games, the outfielder was hitting .322 with 12 home runs, 19 doubles, 52 RBIs, 53 runs and nine stolen bases. Among American League outfielders, Brantley ranked first in average, second in RBIs and third in extra-base hits (32) and OPS (.908), entering Saturday.

Fans can cast their votes for starters at MLB.com -- online or on a mobile device -- using the 2014 All-Star Game MLB.com Ballot Sponsored by Experian until Thursday at 11:59 p.m. ET. The 2014 All-Star Game will be played at Target Field on July 15 on FOX.

Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, and follow him on Twitter @MLBastian. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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