The left-hander nicknamed Snellzilla led the majors with 21 victories, and his 1.89 ERA was tops in the AL.
NEW YORK — Blake Snell of the Tampa Bay Rays has won his first AL Cy Young Award in a tight race over past winners Justin Verlander and Corey Kluber.
Snell, who graduated from Shorewood High School, got 17 first-place votes and 169 points in voting announced Wednesday by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America to 13 firsts and 154 points for Verlander. Boston’s Chris Sale was third with 59 points.
“I feel like it’s just turning more into quality of work and what did you accomplish in those innings,” Snell said. “I think that’s just the way it’s going.”
Snell had a 1.89 ERA, third best in the AL since the DH was introduced, trailing only Ron Guidry (1.74) in 1978 and Pedro Martinez (1.74) in 2000. The 25-year-old pitched had 33 1/3 fewer innings than Verlander, but his dominance was enough to sway the electorate.
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The lefty nicknamed Snellzilla wreaked havoc against the AL’s top lineups. He was 3-0 with a 1.08 ERA in four starts against the World Series champion Red Sox, and 2-0 in two starts each against the Astros and Indians. The Yankees roughed Snell up twice, but he got threw five scoreless innings in a victory Aug. 16. That came during a late-season run of nine consecutive wins for Snell, including a victory against every team in the AL East. He also made five starts against former Cy Young winners and went 3-0 with an 0.59 ERA.
Snell was the first player 25-or-younger to win 21 games since Barry Zito in 2002. He was highly regarded as a minor leaguer for his electric arsenal, but subpar control led to struggles during his first two major league seasons. He was even demoted to Triple-A for a month in 2017.
It all came together this year. Snell was a stalwart for a most unusual pitching staff, taking the ball every fifth day while manager Kevin Cash successfully experimented with reliever “openers” to start games in between. Snell led the Rays with 31 starts, and no other traditional starter had more than 17. After longtime franchise ace Chris Archer was traded to the Pirates on July 31, Snell went 9-0 with a 1.17 ERA.
“I felt with the opener, I had a bigger role on the team,” Snell said.
Snell is the second Rays pitcher to win the award, following David Price in 2012.
Scherzer went 18-7 with a 2.53 ERA and led the majors with 220 2/3 innings and 300 strikeouts. He was attempting to become the first player since Randy Johnson to win three consecutive Cy Youngs. He got the first-place vote of
John Maffei of the San Diego Union-Tribune, 29 seconds and 123 points. Aaron Nola of the Philadelphia Phillies was third with 86 points, followed by Colorado’s Kyle Freeland and Arizona’s Patrick Corbin.
Verlander led the AL with 290 strikeouts while going 16-9 with a 2.52 ERA for AL West champion Houston. This is his third second-place finish since winning the Cy Young and MVP in 2011 with Detroit.
Kluber was attempting to win his second straight Cy Young and third overall. He went 20-7 with a 2.89 ERA for AL Central champion Cleveland and led the AL with 215 innings.
The Mets’ Jacob deGromm won the NL Cy Young.