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Felix Hernandez Cy Young Watch: The King struggles, but he doesn't lose much ground
Our weekly tracking of Felix Hernandez's bid to win a second Cy Young Award:
Felix Hernandez saw his string of six consecutive quality starts -- and dominant performances, for that matter -- come to an end against the Los Angeles Angels on Friday. In uncharacteristic fashion, he blew a 5-0 lead and allowed five runs (four earned) in seven innings. He received a no-decision in the Mariners' 6-5 loss to the Angels.
Well, he can't be lights-out all the time. In his 10 previous starts, Hernandez had a 6-0 record with a 1.41 ERA to climb back into the American League Cy Young Award conversation. During that previously-referenced stretch of six consecutive dominant outings, he was especially nasty (4-0, 1.13 ERA). So, one uneven performance doesn't hurt Hernandez too much, and it wasn't the worst week to be human because frontrunner Jered Weaver actually lost a game (to the Mariners, no less) and fell to 15-2 on his remarkable season.
On to our weekly update:
Current AL Cy Young frontrunner: Weaver
Yes, the Mariners beat Weaver, but he still put in a credible performance (seven innings, four hits, three runs). He also won a game since we last wrote. For the season, Weaver is 15-2 with a 2.22 ERA
Other contenders: Chris Sale, David Price, Justin Verlander and Hernandez
Ranking the top contenders:
Sale: The 23-year-old has returned from his dead-arm issues, and he's been fantastic. Sale allowed only four runs in 14 2/3 innings over his past two starts, and he collected two victories. He had 11 strikeouts over eight innings during a victory over Oakland on Sunday. He's now 14-3 with a 2.60 ERA and 132 strikeouts in 138 2/3 innings.
(Tie) Price and Verlander : He earned his 15th win of the season and remains tied with Weaver for the league lead in that category. In a victory over Minnesota on Saturday, Price allowed two runs over seven innings to earn victory No. 15. For the season, he's 15-4 with a 2.50 ERA.
Verlander has had two more strong starts since we last wrote, including shutting out the New York Yankees over eight innings and recording 14 strikeouts. Verlander is now 12-7 with a 2.46 ERA, and he still leads the AL in WAR for pitchers (5.9), innings pitched (175 2/3), strikeouts (174) and complete games (six).
Hernandez: King Felix is now 10-5 with a 2.74 ERA. He ranks fifth in the league in ERA, second in innings pitched (171), third in strikeouts (162), first in shutouts (three, tied with Brandon Morrow) and is tied for third in complete games (three).
Description of Hernandez's current status: In need of another eye-opening stretch
As I said before, one so-so start isn't going to drop Hernandez from the race. But he still must do something spectacular to gain ground on Weaver. I keep talking about the unreal finish to his 2010 Cy Young year. He had an 0.96 ERA in his final 10 starts that year, and it could take a similar closing effort this time, too.
He's in fifth place right now, but in terms of WHIP and innings pitched, he's on pace to have the second-best season of his career, trailing only his Cy year. He also has a good shot at winning at least 15 games for only the second time in his career. That's a shame because he's pitched well enough to have three or four 15-plus victory seasons in his career, but you know the sad story of the Mariners offense too well.
It feels like Hernandez has another surge in him this season. He'll need to get started as soon as possible.