The status of a sore right knee isn’t the only question facing Nelson Cruz on Sunday morning. He’ll also learn whether he’ll be a starter in the All-Star Game for the third time in his career.
Cruz left Saturday’s 4-0 loss to the Angels after experiencing pain in his right knee on a slide at second base in the second inning. The injury isn’t believed to be serious, but he and the Mariners are waiting for a day-after assessment.
If Cruz is unavailable, even if it’s only for a day or two, the Mariners are likely to make a roster move to bolster an already thin bench. Triple-A Tacoma outfielder Boog Powell looms as the likeliest recall candidate.
As for the All-Star Game, Cruz faced an uphill fight after surrendering his long-held lead Thursday to Tampa Bay’s Corey Dickerson in online balloting to determine the American League’s starting designated hitter on June 11 in Miami.
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Cruz led Dickerson by 192,710 ballots in an update released June 20 by Major League Baseball. That lead dwindled to 92,728 on June 26. Just three days later, MLB released a partial update on close races that showed Cruz trailing by 59,062.
The Mariners responded with a full-scale blitz on social media that included testimonials and promotional giveaways to those who could show they voted the maximum allowable times prior to the deadline.
The final vote totals will be announced at 4 p.m. Sunday on ESPN along, with one exception, the reserves and pitching staffs selected for each league’s 32-player roster. Each club is guaranteed to have one player selected.
The last player on each roster will be chosen in a online vote from a field of five candidates in each league. Those candidates will be identified Sunday, and the two winners will be announced at 3 p.m. on July 6 on MLB Network.
Cruz looms as a strong candidate to be picked as a reserve if he fails to win election as a starter. He is seeking to become an All-Star for the fifth time in his career: a starter in 2014 and 2015; and a reserve in 2009 and 2013.
Second baseman Robinson Cano is also a candidate. He was the Mariners’ only All-Star in 2016.
***The three-game weekend series against the Angels concludes at 12:37 p.m. Sunday and can be seen on Root Sports Northwest. Lefty James Paxton (5-3 with a 3.44 ERA) will face Los Angeles right-hander Jesse Chavez (5-8, 3.04).
***Paxton is 3-2 with a 2.12 ERA in eight career starts against the Angels, including 1-1 and 2.18 in three starts at Angel Stadium. He gave up one earned run over 5 1/3 innings in a 6-4 loss on May 2 at Safeco Field.
***Chavez is 1-6 with a 5.40 ERA in 18 career games, including eight starts, against the Mariners. That one victory came earlier this year when he gave up one run in 5 2/3 innings on April 7 in a 5-1 victory at Angel Stadium.
***Albert Pujols is just 5-for-22 in his career against Paxton, but he has two doubles and two home runs. Kole Calhoun is 7-for-26 in his career against Paxton. No other current Angel has more than seven career plate appearances.
***Cruz is 7-for-17 with three homers in his career against Chavez. Robinson Cano is 11-for-25, while Kyle Seager is 5-for-21 with two homers, and Mike Zunino is 4-for-12. No other Mariner has more than six plate appearances against Chavez.
***The Mariners are 37-13 when scoring four or more runs. They are 3-29 when they score three or fewer.
***The Mariners are batting .327 with runners in scoring position over their last 27 games, which is the highest average in the majors in that span.
It was five years ago Sunday — July 2, 2012 — that the Mariners became the first major-league team to start three Japanese-born players: Munenori Kawasaki at second base, Ichiro Suzuki in right field and Hisashi Iwakuma at pitcher.
None played a major factor in the Mariners’ 6-3 victory over Baltimore at Safeco Field. Casper Wells erased a two-run deficit in the seventh inning with a three-run double before Miguel Olivo and Dustin Ackley hit homers in the eighth inning.
Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners