Utley Leads Phillies All-Stars

For a team that finds themselves seven games under .500, the Phillies were able to provide some help to the National League All-Star team roster. Chase Utley, Ryan Howard and Tom Gordon will all be in Pittsburgh and Bobby Abreu still has a shot to win a spot on the roster.

Despite their hugely disappointing first half, the Phillies had three players, first baseman Ryan Howard, second baseman Chase Utley and closer Tom Gordon, named to the NL All-Star team, tying them with the Cardinals and the Braves for the second-most players on the squad.

For Howard and Utley, it marked their first All-Star selections. Howard considers it one of the top three moments in his baseball life.

Utley was voted a starter, while Howard and Gordon were selected via player ballots to the NL squad. Utley finished nearly 200,000 votes ahead of Houston's Craig Biggio in fan voting, but he would have been making his All-Star debut regardless of fan voting. He won the player vote by a huge margin (461-255) over Florida's Dan Uggla.

"I'm excited for all of us," Utley said. "My first priority is to have a good season, and if you do, then you should have a good shot to be in the All-Star Game."

"It's up there," said Howard, who also will take part in the Home Run Derby. "It has to be in the top three. I don't know what the other two are yet."

Asked if his 2005 Rookie of the Year award might be there, Howard said, "Umm ... it's a tie."

Howard is leading the majors with 28 homer after hitting a second-deck bomb to left field off Blue Jays right-hander A.J. Burnett on Sunday. He also ranks near the top in RBIs (69) and slugging percentage (.612). Although he finished a distant sixth to Albert Pujols in fan voting, Howard finished second to Pujols in player voting - ahead of the likes of Nomar Garciaparra, Lance Berkman and Carlos Delgado - to earn his spot.

Utley also homered Sunday, his 16th, and raised his average to .300. Despite moving to the number two hole in the batting order for much of the past two months, Utley has 49 RBIs to go along with 66 runs, second-most in the NL.

Gordon defied those who thought his age (38) and time away from closing made him a risky replacement for Billy Wagner. Gordon has converted 21 of 22 save opportunities, has a 2.11 ERA and 41 strikeouts in 34 innings. He also received the most player votes at his position, his 214 tallies putting him well ahead of Milwaukee's Derrick Turnbow (164) and San Diego's Trevor Hoffmann (159).

It was Gordon's third All-Star selection. Although he appreciated the honor, the Phillies' poor play of late seemed to temper his enthusiasm.

"I wish we were playing a lot better," Gordon said. "It's definitely an honor, and I'm happy for our guys. If we were playing better we'd have more guys there who deserve it.

"The important thing is winning ballgames and getting on the right track. Wins and losses are the most important thing. I've been to All-Star Games, but I've never won a World Series, so that's what I want to get."

Bobby Abreu, the reigning, record-setting champion of the All-Star Home Run Derby, was one of five players placed on the "Final Vote" All-Star ballot, where fans vote the last member of each league's team onto the squad. Abreu joins Garciaparra and three pitchers - Mets closer and former Phillie Billy Wagner, Padres RHP Chris Young and Brewers LHP Chris Capuano - on the NL ballot.

Prior to that announcement, Abreu, who only has eight homers this season, expressed doubt that he would defend his Home Run Derby title if he were asked to do so.

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