Cy Young Award: NL’s Sandy Alcantara, AL’s Justin Verlander both unanimous

AP file photo by Matt Slocum / The Miami Marlins' Sandy Alcantara is this year's Cy Young Award winner for the National League.

HOUSTON — It didn't take Justin Verlander long to realize he could have a special year after missing almost two full seasons recovering from Tommy John surgery.

Heading into his fifth start, Verlander knew he was back.

"In that moment, I felt normal and like myself, pain-free, able to recover like I always have," he said. "I think my mindset just completely shifted to like, 'OK, I am the pitcher I've always been.'"

On Wednesday, the Houston Astros ace capped his stellar season that included a World Series championship by winning the American League Cy Young Award, joining the Miami Marlins' Sandy Alcantara in the National League as unanimous selections.

It's the second time the winners in both leagues were unanimous since the award began in 1956 and the first since Denny McLain (Detroit Tigers) in the AL and Bob Gibson (St. Louis Cardinals) in the NL swept the voting in 1968.

The 39-year-old Verlander, who also won the award in 2019 after winning both MVP and the Cy Young in 2011, becomes the 11th player to win it three times.

Behind Verlander, who was the 11th AL pitcher to win unanimously — he also did so in 2011 — were Dylan Cease of the Chicago White Sox with 97 points and 14 second-place votes and the Toronto Blue Jays' Alek Manoah with 87 points and seven second-place votes. The three pitchers were named on every ballot.

Alcantara received all 30 first-place votes, the 15th time the NL has had a unanimous winner. The right-hander was followed in the voting by a pair of lefties: Max Fried of the Atlanta Braves was second with 72 points, including 10 second-place votes, and Julio Urías of the Los Angeles Dodgers was third with 66 points and seven second-place votes.

Alcantara had a 2.28 ERA while pitching an MLB-best 228 2/3 innings and six compete games. It's the first Cy Young Award for the 27-year-old from the Dominican Republic, who is the first Marlin to receive the honor.

"It makes me feel so special because I came here to the Marlins with my positive mentality — just tried to win," he said. "Tried to compete, tried to get better. This year I put everything in the same spot, working hard. I've had great success. And now to win the National League Cy Young, I feel so happy and blessed."

Alcantara's complete games were the most in the majors since Chris Sale had six in 2016. The two-time All-Star went 14-9 and threw seven or more innings in 13 straight starts from May 11 to July 15, which was the longest such streak since 2014.

Alcantara's innings pitched and wins were both career highs, and his ERA was his best in six seasons and ranked second in the NL.

"The hard work, the positivity, every day, fighting for my team, competing against any team. That makes it special," he said. "My mentality all the time is to be aggressive. Try to get better every day. And I'll keep doing the same. And let's see if I can win the Cy Young next year, too."

He joins Pedro Martinez (1997) as the only player born in the Dominican Republic to win the NL award. Martinez also won twice in the AL (1999, 2000) and the other Dominican winner in the AL was Bartolo Colon in 2005.

  photo  AP file photo by David J. Phillip / Justin Verlander, who helped the Houston Astros win the World Series this fall, is this year's Cy Young Award winner for the American League.
 
 

Verlander's 18 wins led the AL, and he had 185 strikeouts to give him 3,198 in his career, the most among active players.

He led the majors this season with a 1.75 ERA, the lowest of his 17-year career. He becomes the fourth AL pitcher with two unanimous Cy Young Awards, joining Roger Clemens (1986, 1998), Martinez (1999, 2000) and Johan Santana (2004, 2006).

Verlander led the Astros to the best record in the AL, and while the postseason doesn't count for the award, he got his first World Series win as a pitcher in Game 5 to help Houston beat the Philadelphia Phillies in six games.

Verlander, who will receive a $200,000 bonus, is a free agent and said he has communicated with Astros owner Jim Crane about a possible return, but the pitcher noted Houston is far from his only potential suitor.

"Obviously, there's a lot of people that are interested, and Jim understands that based on our conversation," he said. "He completely understands that. ... So we'll see what happens."

Although winning the Cy Young isn't new, he said this one has a different meaning.

"It shows that I'm at a different point in my life," Verlander explained. "I will always remember this Cy Young as looking back at the growth of me as a father and as a person, and just also the the rehab and all the hard work that went into the rehab and how I was just so committed to it was going to go well and I was going to come back and be me."

Cease was 14-8 and ranked second to Verlander in the AL with a 2.20 ERA. He had a career-high 227 strikeouts and went 14 consecutive starts this summer without allowing more than one earned run.

Manoah went 16-7 with a 2.24 ERA in his second season. He had 180 strikeouts and went 4-0 with a 0.88 ERA in his last six starts to help the Blue Jays make the playoffs.

Fried was 14-7 with a 2.48 ERA and 170 strikeouts. He was a first-time All-Star and helped lead the Braves to their fifth straight NL East Division crown.

Urías was 17-7 and led the NL with a 2.16 ERA to help the Dodgers lead the majors with 111 wins in the regular season. He had 166 strikeouts after a 2021 season in which he led the majors with 20 wins.