Brantley makes All-Star case with all-around play

Brantley makes All-Star case with all-around play

LOS ANGELES -- Michael Brantley scorched a pitch from Dodgers lefty Hyun-Jin Ryu down the third-base line in the fifth inning on Wednesday. It was a rocket of a line drive, but it found its way right into the glove of Los Angeles third baseman Miguel Rojas for a hard-luck out.

When Brantley returned to the visitors' dugout at Dodger Stadium, Indians pitcher Trevor Bauer walked over and put his arms around the left fielder.

"He's hit a lot of balls hard right at people," Bauer said with a smirk. "I kind of felt like he could use a hug."

Brantley went 0-for-4 in the Indians' 5-4 win over Los Angeles, but the outfielder's case for his first All-Star Game was hardly hurt in the process. In fact, Brantley still played a key role in the three-run rally in the eighth inning that swung the game in Cleveland's favor.

With the Tribe trailing by a run, Brantley drew a leadoff walk against Dodgers reliever Brian Wilson. The outfielder then stole second base, marking his 10th theft of the season. Brantley later scored from second on a base hit to left field from David Murphy that helped ignite the Indians' decisive push.

During Tuesday's 10-3 rout over the Dodgers, Brantley showed off his skill both in the batter's box and in the field. He collected an RBI double in the first inning as part of a two-hit showing. In the fourth inning of that win, Brantley threw Dee Gordon out at the plate as part of a 7-2-4 triple play.

That play moved Brantley into a tie with Oakland's Yoenis Cespedes for the most outfield assists (10) in the Majors this season. In the batter's box, Brantley has hit .312 with 12 home runs, 20 doubles, 54 RBIs and 56 runs scored in 80 games.

"He just continues to get better," said Indians bench coach Brad Mills, who doubles as the team's outfield instructor. "With age and maturity, being around the game and experience, he just continues to get better. He knows the game extremely well. He knows all the details, the things that go into everything. He pays attention to all those details. That's what kind of sets him apart."

As of Monday's American League All-Star ballot update -- the last before rosters are announced on the Taco Bell All-Star Selection Show on Sunday at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN -- Brantley again ranked sixth among outfielders with 1,630,452 votes as Cleveland's sole representative on the leaderboards. The position remains headlined by overall voting leader Jose Bautista (4,460,245) of the Blue Jays and Mike Trout (4,085,647) of the Angels.

Fans can cast their votes for starters at -- online or on a mobile device -- using the 2014 All-Star Game 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 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.