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Tampa Bay Rays' Blake Snell Captures AL Cy Young Award

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Blake Snell of the Tampa Bay Rays narrowly beating out past winners Justin Verlander and Corey Kluber for his first American League Cy Young Award.

The 25-year-old lefty was 21-5 with a 1.89 ERA, and he led all major league starters with a .178 batting average allowed -- the fifth lowest ever for a starter and lowest since Pedro Martinez's record .167 average in 2000.

"This means a whole lot," Snell said. "It's something I wanted to achieve this year. I had this goal in mind."

Snell pitched just 180 2/3 innings, fewest ever by a Cy Young-winning starter. Over full seasons, Snell is the second starter to win the award with fewer than 200 innings after Clayton Kershaw logged 198 1/3 in 2014.

Snell got 17 first-place votes and 169 points to 13 first-place votes and 154 points for Verlander. Kluber had 71 points, followed by Boston’s Chris Sale and Houston’s Gerrit Cole.

Snell had a 1.89 ERA, third best in the AL since the DH was introduced, trailing only Ron Guidry (1.74) in 1978 and Pedro Martinez (1.74) in 2000. The 25-year-old pitched had 33 1/3 fewer innings than Verlander, but his dominance was enough to sway the electorate.

The lefty nicknamed Snellzilla wreaked havoc against the AL’s top lineups. He was 3-0 with a 1.08 ERA in four starts against the World Series champion Red Sox, and 2-0 in two starts each against the Astros and Indians. The Yankees roughed Snell up twice, but he got threw five scoreless innings in a victory Aug. 16. That came during a late-season run of nine consecutive wins for Snell, including a victory against every team in the AL East. He also made five starts against former Cy Young winners and went 3-0 with an 0.59 ERA.

Snell was the first player 25-or-younger to win 21 games since Barry Zito in 2002. He was highly regarded as a minor leaguer for his electric arsenal, but subpar control led to struggles during his first two major league seasons. He was even demoted to Triple-A for a month in 2017.

It all came together this year. Snell was a stalwart for a most unusual pitching staff, taking the ball every fifth day while manager Kevin Cash successfully experimented with reliever “openers” to start games in between. Snell led the Rays with 31 starts, and no other traditional starter had more than 17. After longtime franchise ace Chris Archer was traded to the Pirates on July 31, Snell went 9-0 with a 1.17 ERA.

“I felt with the opener, I had a bigger role on the team,” Snell said.

Snell is the second Rays pitcher to win the award, following David Price in 2012.