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Justin Verlander and Sandy Alcantara Win MLB’s Cy Young Awards


In Justin Verlander’s long and celebrated profession, it has never been enough to pitch higher than his peers. A flame-throwing, right-handed starter, he also needed to pitch greater than anyone else.

That determination has led to 12 seasons of a minimum of 200 innings pitched, 251 regular-season games through which he went a minimum of seven innings, and five seasons through which he led his league in starts. “Throwback” is used to explain him so often that he might as well work for the Mitchell & Ness apparel company.

“I do often wonder how I might have been back then,” Verlander said in 2017 when asked concerning the days through which pitchers were expected to complete nearly every game they began. “I believe it might be a reasonably cool time to play baseball.”

In 2022, a rather different Verlander emerged. Returning to the Houston Astros from nearly two seasons lost to injuries — one six-inning start was his total output for 2020 and 2021 — he led the American League in wins (18), E.R.A. (1.75) and hits allowed per nine innings (6.0), but he was limited — by his standards — to 175 innings, tied for thirty fourth within the majors.

The standard was enough to beat any concerns concerning the quantity, as Verlander, 39, won the American League Cy Young Award on Wednesday, holding off younger starters who pitched more innings but couldn’t quite match his shockingly good comeback season.

It’s the third Cy Young of Verlander’s profession, after also winning in 2011 and 2019, and the ninth season through which he placed in the highest five in voting by members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. He proved that his talk during spring training about potentially hanging around long enough to win 300 games — he leads lively starters with 244 — was not all bluster. And the award was a fitting end to a season through which Verlander, a probable Hall of Famer, won a World Series game for the primary time after struggling in eight previous starts.

“The carrot in front of me that I keep striving for is to be great,” Verlander told Tyler Kepner of The Latest York Times before the season. “And so I wouldn’t do it otherwise.”

Within the National League, the Cy Young Award went to Miami’s Sandy Alcantara, a hard-throwing right-hander who has fashioned himself as a successor of sorts to Verlander: Alcantara’s 228⅔ innings led the majors in 2022, and his 434⅓ innings over the past two seasons are 36⅓ greater than some other pitcher (and the equivalent of slightly below seven average starts).

Alcantara, 27, was an All-Star in 2019, and his profession E.R.A. of three.49 coming into the 12 months was solid. But his success was obscured by his 20-34 profession record with the perpetually rebuilding Marlins. His team struggled again in 2022, losing 93 games, but Alcantara thrived, going 14-9 with a 2.28 E.R.A. and 207 strikeouts. He accomplished six of his 32 starts, while the remainder of Major League Baseball’s pitchers combined to finish only 30 of 4,828.

Asked in an interview on MLB Network about completing so many games — he had greater than some other team in 2022 — Alcantara said that’s his goal in every start.

“All the time,” he said. “That’s why I get so mad once they take me within the eighth.”

Despite his success, Alcantara said he has room to enhance, with opportunities to recuperate from “my foot to my hat.”

“The whole lot that I need to do, I need to do perfect,” he said. “I don’t feel pleased once I do something really good today because I do know tomorrow I could do bad.”

Verlander, who’s a free agent after opting out of his $25 million player option for 2023, was a unanimous winner with all 30 first-place votes, topping his fellow finalists, Dylan Stop of the Chicago White Sox (14 second-place votes) and Alek Manoah of the Toronto Blue Jays (seven second-place votes).

Alcantara, who signed a five-year, $56 million extension with the Marlins in November 2021, was also a unanimous pick, putting him far ahead of the opposite finalists, Max Fried of the Atlanta Braves (10 second-place votes) and Julio Urías of the Los Angeles Dodgers (seven second-place votes).

The one other season through which each Cy Young votes were unanimous was 1968 when Bob Gibson of the St. Louis Cardinals, with a 1.12 E.R.A., won the N.L. award and Denny McClain of the Detroit Tigers, with 31 wins, won the A.L. award.

“What do you would like me to say?” Alcantara said immediately after Pedro Martinez, considered one of the 2 other pitchers from the Dominican Republic to win a Cy Young (Bartolo Colon, in 2005, was the third), announced his win. “I made it.”

Awards season will conclude Thursday with the presentation of the Most Helpful Player Awards.

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