Dan's Dugout: Cy Young Race Already Red-Hot • Latino Sports

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Dan’s Dugout: Cy Young Race Already Red-Hot

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The calendar says June 1 but the race for the National League’s Cy Young Award is already crazier than a $2 bill.

Jake Arrieta has competition for the 2016 NL Cy Young

Jake Arrieta has competition for the 2016 NL Cy Young

Defending champion Jake Arrieta tied a major-league record when his team, the Chicago Cubs, won 23 straight games he started. Never mind that the affable righthander recorded 22 wins, tops in the majors, and an 0.75 earned run average — best in baseball history — over the second half of last season.

Clayton Kershaw, doing his best imitation of an earlier Dodgers lefty whose surname began with the same letter, had more shutouts than walks during a May performance that could only be called miraculous. In an age when complete games have followed the buffalo nickel into the dustbin of history, the bearded southpaw doles them out like hot dogs at a carnival.

Up the coast, Madison Bumgarner has also staked a claim to the award. The Most Valuable Player in both the NL Championship Series and World Series just two years ago, the San Francisco southpaw is a two-way threat: he smacked hit five home runs last summer. Shades of Carlos Zambrano!

Then there’s Noah Syndergaard, a 6’6″, 240-pound southpaw in his first full season with the New York

Noah Syndergaard is the hardest thrower in the National League

Noah Syndergaard is the hardest thrower in the National League

Mets. The hardest thrower in the league has already jumped over Matt Harvey and Jacob deGrom to establish himself as the ace of a powerful pitching rotation perfectly positioned for postseason play. On any given night, he can pitch as well as anyone in the game today.

And let’s not forget the dynamic duo of Washington. Max Scherzer fashioned a 20-strikeout game — without a single walk — against his old Detroit club earlier this year and is a threat to throw a no-hitter every time out. In 2015, he became the fifth pitcher in baseball history to throw a pair in the same season. And Stephen Strasburg, suddenly living up to his initial reputation, started like Popeye on Spinach and hasn’t let up. He was 9-0 before Memorial Day.

Unlike the presidential election, which inspires many voters to check off “none of the above,” the Cy Young contest in the Senior Circuit may prompt split ballots — or even a few votes for “all of the above.”

Clayton Kershaw is crafting a Cooperstown career

How could anyone deny Kershaw? The winner of four straight ERA titles is even reviving talk of The 300 Club, an exclusive fraternity of 24 pitchers whose most recent member was Randy Johnson.

Kershaw may not be in Cooperstown yet but his path gets wider every time he pitches. The fact that Sandy Koufax hovers over the Dodgers like a guardian angel helps. The author of three no-hitters plus a perfect game, Koufax might have been the best lefthander in baseball history had his elbow allowed him to continue pitching past age 30.

It will be tough for anyone to reach Warren Spahn, whose 363 wins represent the most by any southpaw, but Kershaw seems capable of almost anything. Despite the five-man rotation and the prevailing penchant for pitch counts, Kershaw has already crafted two 20-win seasons and won three strikeout crowns — once by fanning 301 men.

The Los Angeles lefty lost a probable win during the Memorial Day weekend at New York when rookie manager Dave Roberts lifted him in the eighth inning with a 2-1 lead. While closer Kenley Jansen watched helplessly from the bullpen, alleged set-up man Adam Liberatore allowed Curtis Granderson to

Zack Grienke (left) and Clayton Kershaw were teammates when Jake Arrieta no-hit L.A.

Zack Grienke (left) and Clayton Kershaw were teammates when Jake Arrieta no-hit L.A.

triple home the tying run. Though anatomically impossible, Kershaw was beside himself in the dugout.

Kershaw got a good look at his Cy Young competition last August 30, when Arrieta pitched a no-hitter against the Dodgers. Just for good measure, Arrieta pitched another no-hitter this season.

It’s a good thing Chris Sale is in the other league; after leading the American League in strikeouts a year ago, the star southpaw of the Chicago White Sox won his first nine games this season. But he might be just another Sale in the sunset when voters gather to pick the Cy Young in the NL.

Before that happens, however, look for postseason matches that pit the league’s best arms against each other. That will be “must-see TV.”

Elsewhere in baseball:

GRILLIBraves

Jason Grilli gets a new start in Toronto

Now that he’s with a contender again, erstwhile closer Jason Grilli could find the fountain of youth in Toronto before he reaches his 40th birthday later this year . . .

White Sox lefty Jose Quintana, a native of Colombia, has been a pleasant surprise on the South Side of Chicago . . .

Michael Pineda, the 6’7″ Dominican righthander who pitched so well for the Yankees last summer, has been a bigger bust than Dolly Parton this year but somehow remains in the rotation . . .

The Mets made a great move to acquire smooth-fielding first baseman James Loney from San Diego shortly after Lucas Duda went down with an injury . . .

The resilience of the Royals will be challenged now that regulars Sal Perez, Alex Gordon, and Michael Moustakas are all sidelined for various lengths of time . . .

HARPERheritage

Bryce Harper ended his slump with a home run

Even superstars slump, if Bryce Harper’s recent 4-for-33 skid is an accurate barometer . . .

Now that he’s suspended til August 1 for alleged domestic violence, the Braves are willing to trade Cuban import Hector Olivera for a tunafish sandwich . . .

Ex-Met Neil Allen, now Minnesota’s pitching coach, has been suspended indefinitely following his arrest for drunken driving . . .

The Dodgers will get a big boost from the imminent return of Hyun-Jin Ryu, a Korean lefty who was a mainstay of their rotation in 2014 but missed all of last year following Tommy John surgery  . . .

With Mark Teixeira’s neck barking, Nick Swisher could return to the Yankees any day now . . .

Could have gotten enormous odds against Boston outfielder Jackie Bradley, Jr. uncorking a 29-game hitting streak . . .

Miami wunderkind Jose Fernandez is pitching like Jose Fernandez again, with six straight wins and a 7-2

Jose Fernandez is thriving with the Miami Marlins

Jose Fernandez is thriving with the Miami Marlins

record . . .

Red Sox hitters lead the American League in batting, runs scored, runs batted in, hits, doubles, and a bunch of other offensive categories . . .

And speaking of offense, does anyone deny that ex-Met Daniel Murphy has blossomed into one of baseball’s best hitters? The Washington second baseman has his sights set on the NL batting crown.

About Dan Schlossberg

Former AP sportswriter Dan Schlossberg of Fair Lawn, NJ has produced 35 baseball books, including autobiographies of Ron Blomberg, Al Clark, and Milo Hamilton. Also a broadcaster, he is the host and executive producer of Braves Banter and Travel Itch Radio and a contributor to Sirius XM.

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