Nats’ Scherzer happy with con­so­la­tion prize: Cy Young

Right-han­der is 6th to win the award in both leagues

Baltimore Sun - - SPORTS - By Chelsea Janes

WASH­ING­TON — About a half-hour af­ter the Wash­ing­ton Na­tion­als’ sea­son came to its gut-wrench­ing end, Max Scherzer’s eyes blazed with shock.

“It was a good pitch,” he said, re­liv­ing the pitch the Los An­ge­les Dodgers’ Joc Ped­er­son hit out to tie the de­ci­sive Game 5 of the Na­tional League Divi­sion Series, his last pitch of the 2016 sea­son. “Right on the black.”

Scherzer then shook his head and turned to his locker, left to an off­sea­son of won­der­ing why his best stuff was not good enough when he needed it most. But it was good enough more of­ten than not in 2016, so of­ten that he was named the Na­tional League Cy Young Award win­ner Wed­nes­day night, as voted on by the Base­ball Writ­ers As­so­ci­a­tion of Amer­ica.

Amonth af­ter that loss, Scherzer sat with fam­ily and col­lege friends on a boat in the Bri­tish Vir­gin Is­lands, hol­ler­ing with joy as he was sprayed with cham­pagne, cel­e­brat­ing an im­pres­sive con­so­la­tion prize. Scherzer be­came the sixth pitcher, and the first since Roger Cle­mens in 2004, to win base­ball’s high­est pitch­ing honor in each league.

“For some rea­son, this just means so much more to me. It just ver­i­fies every­thing I try to go out there and set out to achieve,” said Scherzer, whose con­fer­ence call with writ­ers was chop­pier than most, since most con­fer­ence calls are not con­ducted from the ocean. “Win­ning the sec­ond one con­firms that every­thing I tried to do works.”

Scherzer is the first Na­tional to win the award, and the first Cy Young win­ner man­aged by Dusty Baker in his two decades spent man­ag­ing four teams. Since the right-han­der be­came the first $200 mil­lion man in Na­tion­als history two win­ters ago, he has re­sponded with two no-hit­ters, a 20-strike­out game and pitch­ing’s most pres­ti­gious honor.

Scherzer, 32, beat out Chicago Cubs aces Jon Lester and Kyle Hen­dricks in a de­ci­sive vote that does not in­clude the post­sea­son. He was named first on 25 of 30 bal­lots, with three sec­ond-place votes, one third and one fourth. Lester was sec­ond with one first­place vote the vote; Hen­dricks, first on two bal­lots, fin­ished third.

Though he was a late ad­di­tion to the Na­tional League all-star team, and a late en­try into the Cy Young race, Scherzer qui­etly stalked another elite sea­son from start to fin­ish. He led the Na­tional League in wins (20), in­nings pitched (2281⁄ strike­outs (284), WHIP (0.97) and strike­outs-towalks ra­tio (5.07). He fin­ished sec­ond in bat­ting av­er­age against (. 196) and sev­enth in ERA (2.96), and in­duced a higher per­cent­age of swing­ing strikes than any­one else in base­ball (15.3 per­cent, ac­cord­ing to FanGraphs).

“For me, it’s a cul­mi­na­tion of every­thing, from the coach­ing staff, to how they pre­pared, from what I was able to do with [Wil­son] Ramos and [Jose] Lo­ba­ton, ev­ery­body to­gether in uni­son,” Scherzer said. “Com­pet­ing at the same level, do­ing what we need to do when I take the mound, to go­ing out there and ac­tu­ally do­ing it.”

When he stum­bled, he usu­ally tripped over home runs — though af­ter he al­lowed the14th-most home­run­sper nine in­nings in the first half of the sea­son, he had the 20th fewest home runs per nine in the sec­ond half, al­most a home run fewer ev­ery two starts. By some cruel sym­me­try, his ultimate demise came by the home run, the only run the Dodgers scored against him in six-plus in­nings in Game 5.

“I know we didn’t win the World Series. That was my ultimate goal,” Scherzer said. “But be­ing able to pick up this sec­ond Cy Young re­ally means a lot to me, and I owe it to my team­mates.”

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