Chris Sale has been close before, finishing second in American League Cy Young Award voting last season and finishing third in 2014. In the past six seasons, he has finished in the top six every year. In short, Sale has done everything except win an actual AL Cy Young Award itself.
Is this the season that changes? Sale edged ahead of Justin Verlander in the latest AL Cy Young Award poll done by MLB.com's Baseball Writers' Association of America members.
Sale got 23 of 32 first-place votes, with Verlander getting the other nine. While five pitchers made it onto ballots, voters have settled on clear front-runners.
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Meanwhile, Mets ace Jacob deGrom was atop the National League voting, finishing slightly ahead of the Nationals' Max Scherzer, a three-time Cy Young Award winner with the Tigers (2013) and Nats (2016-17).
As for deGrom, he hasn't finished higher than eighth in NL Cy Young Award voting since winning the NL Rookie of the Year Award winner in 2014. But this season, he leads the NL with a microscopic 1.68 ERA.
Lately, deGrom has been on a roll only slightly less impressive than Sale's. He has allowed one earned runs in 16 innings this month. In 19 starts this season, deGrom has given up two earned runs or less 14 times.
Here's a look at the voting:
1. Chris Sale, Red Sox (138 points)
Sale leads the AL with a 2.23 ERA, 188 strikeouts and 13.1 strikeouts per nine innings. His starting nod for the AL All-Star team on Tuesday reflected a closing kick in which he has allowed one earned run in his past four starts. Since allowing four earned runs in a June 1 start in Houston, Sale has given up one more than that in five starts combined. In 20 starts this season, he has allowed more than three earned runs only twice.
2. Justin Verlander, Astros (96 points)
Verlander leads the AL in innings and WHIP, and even after a couple of tough starts, his ERA is sitting at 2.29. While the Red Sox, Yankees and Astros jockey for AL seeding, Sale and Verlander could have a similar battle for the AL Cy Young Award.
3. Luis Severino, Yankees (33 points)
When Severino is at his best, there's virtually no one better. He's also 24 years old with 73 Major League starts under his belt. Severino is coming off a career-high 193 1/3 innings in 2017 and is at 128 1/3 after 20 starts. How that workload impacts his performance will be a storyline to watch in the second half.
Others receiving votes:Trevor Bauer, Indians; Blake Snell, Rays; Gerrit Cole, Astros.
1. Jacob deGrom, Mets (133 points)
deGrom has a 1.63 ERA in his past 10 starts. In that stretch, he has been credited with one victory, four losses and five no-decisions. Here's another: In his past 15 starts, deGrom has allowed 14 earned runs. Because he can't be a free agent until after the 2020 season, deGrom would bring a bundle of prospects on the trade front if the Mets decided to deal him.
2. Max Scherzer, Nationals (102 points)
Scherzer is following up a NL Cy Young Award-winning season with an even better one. His 2.41 ERA is the lowest of his career, and he leads the NL in WHIP, innings and strikeouts. Scherzer is also cruising toward his sixth straight 200-inning season. He has been so dominant for so long that his greatness is taken for granted.
3. Aaron Nola, Phillies (39 points)
This is what the Phillies predicted for Nola when they made him the seventh pick of the 2014 Draft out of LSU. He spent just one season in the Minor Leagues before debuting in 2015. Nola has made the difficult step from potentially good to potentially great this season.
Others receiving votes:Patrick Corbin, Diamondbacks.