NEW YORK (AP) — Everyone expected Clayton Kershaw to pitch a shutout, and he did — a unanimous choice for the NL Cy Young Award.
Corey Kluber edging out Felix Hernandez for the AL pitching prize, that was no sure thing.
Now, the big question: Is Kershaw the Most Valuable Player, too?
“I can’t even really fathom it happening,” Kershaw said on a conference call Wednesday, shortly after winning his third Cy Young in four seasons.
Kershaw led the majors in victories and ERA and threw a no-hitter, going 21-3 with a 1.77 ERA for the NL West champion Los Angeles Dodgers.
The 26-year-old lefty with a wicked curveball will find out Thursday if he’s the first NL pitcher to sweep the MVP and Cy Young honors since Bob Gibson in 1968.
“I think a lot of things probably have to go right,” Kershaw said, adding, “there are so many people out there who don’t think a pitcher should win.”
Pittsburgh center fielder Andrew McCutchen, who won the NL MVP last year, and Miami slugger Giancarlo Stanton are competing against Kershaw for honor.
“Everybody’s going to have an opinion” on the position player-vs.-pitcher debate, Kershaw said.
His thought? “I don’t really have an opinion either way,” he said, diplomatically.
“I think most valuable is such a tough thing to assess,” he said.
Kershaw won the Cy Young for the second year in a row, getting all 30 first-place votes in balloting by members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America.
Johnny Cueto of Cincinnati was second with 112 points, followed by Adam Wainwright of St. Louis (97) and World Series MVP Madison Bumgarner of San Francisco (28).
Voting was completed before the postseason began. Kershaw went 0-2 with a 7.82 ERA in a Division Series loss to St. Louis, leaving him at 1-5 with a 5.12 ERA in his playoff career.
“For me, personally, the season didn’t end the way I wanted to,” Kershaw said.
Kluber’s dominant second half helped him draw 17 of 30 first-place votes and 169 points, while Seattle ace King Felix got 13 firsts and 159 points. Chris Sale of the Chicago White Sox was third with 78 points.
“I think I’m definitely surprised,” said Kluber, who “just assumed” Hernandez would win.
Nicknamed “Klubot” for his stoic demeanor, his plans after the announcement were far from flashy.
“Probably go home and give my daughters a bath,” he said.
A 28-year-old righty, Kluber went 18-9 to tie for the AL lead in wins. He had a 2.44 ERA in his first full major league season and 269 strikeouts, two behind league leader David Price.
Kluber had consecutive 14-strikeout games in September, not done since Arizona’s Randy Johnson in 2004. He became Cleveland’s fourth Cy Young winner, joining Gaylord Perry (1972), CC Sabathia (2007) and Cliff Lee (2008).
“To have your name mentioned along with theirs in certain categories is humbling,” Kluber said.
Hernandez, who won the AL award in 2010, went 15-6 with a league-leading 2.14 ERA. He struck out 248 in 236 innings.
“I don’t know what to say. That was tough,” Hernandez said. “A little disappointed.”
Kershaw won the major league season opener in Australia on March 22, then a strained upper back put him on the disabled list for the first time in his seven-year career.
Once he returned, he kept looking more and more like his friend, Dodgers Hall of Fame lefty Sandy Koufax.
Kershaw joined Koufax as one of nine pitchers with at least three Cy Youngs. Roger Clemens leads the list with seven.
The previous pitcher with a unanimous win was Detroit’s Justin Verlander, who took the AL Cy Young and MVP in 2011. A year earlier, Philadelphia’s Roy Halladay unanimously won the NL Cy Young.
Verlander is among six AL pitchers to take the Cy Young and MVP since Gibson’s NL sweep nearly a half-century ago.
Kershaw became the first pitcher to lead the majors in ERA for four straight years. He topped baseball this season in complete games and was best among starters in strikeouts per nine innings and WHIP (walks plus hits per inning).
He struck out 239 in 198 1-3 innings, three behind NL co-leaders Stephen Strasburg and Cueto.
Kershaw’s crowning achievement was the first no-hitter of his career, at Dodger Stadium against Colorado on June 18. Soon after, he was picked for his fourth All-Star team.
Kershaw came within one Cy vote of being unanimous last year. Tim Lincecum had been the last NL pitcher to win back-to-back Cys, in 2008-09 for the Giants.
The Cy Young was first awarded in 1956. Up through the 1966 season, there was only one selection from both leagues.
Kershaw earned a $1 million bonus and Kluber got $10,000.