Leading the league in the three biggest pitching categories is a guaranteed Cy Young award.
The latest example was Clayton Kershaw, who received 27 of 32 first-point votes and 207 points to become the 10th Dodger to win the award.
Just like AL Cy Young Award winner Justin Verlander, Kershaw was tied for the league lead with 21 wins and led with 248 strikeouts and a 2.28 ERA. His 0.98 WHIP and his .207 batting average against also ranked first in the league.
“I always dreamed about playing in the big leagues,” Kershaw said on a conference call. “I never dreamed about doing anything special in the big leagues. I don’t think any kid ever does.
“The people I’m now associated with, just by having this award, is something that I never thought would ever happen.”
Roy Halladay received four first-place votes and 133 points. Halladay’s Phillies’ teammate Cliff Lee was third with 90 points and ex-Yankee Ian Kennedy was fourth, getting the other first-place vote for his 21-win season in Arizona.
Kershaw was the first Dodger to win the award since Eric Gagne in 2003 and the first Dodgers starter since Orel Hershiser in 1988. He also was the first lefty since “Fernando Mania” resulted in a Cy Young for Fernando Valenzuela in the strike-shortened 1981 campaign.
“Whenever you have a Cy Young next to your name, there’s going to be expectations that go along with it,” Kershaw said. “Whenever I look at a pitcher and I see that he’s won a Cy Young Award, I think, you know, this guy, he better be good. And that’s what I hope to be. I hope people have that expectation for me.”
The 23-year-old lefty recorded 49 of his league-leading 248 strikeouts against San Francisco and his ERA over the 2010 World Champions was his third-lowest against any National League opponent. The most impressive aspect of those starts was winning four times over two-time Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum.
The two aces that were picked three selections apart in the 2006 draft squared off and Kershaw won three 2-1 games and a 1-0 game. During those starts, Kershaw struck out 36 while allowing 16 hits in 30 1/3 innings.
Kershaw also became the first lefty to win the award in the NL since Randy Johnson struck out 1,420 batters while winning four straight Cy Young Awards for the Diamondbacks from 1999 to 2002.
Before winning the award, Kershaw had been 26-23 with a 3.17 ERA in 85 games (83 starts). He showed his potential by going 9-4 before the 2010 All-Star break, but was 4-6 afterwards, partially due to poor run support.
“Clayton represents everything good about this game and this award,” Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said in a statement released by the team. “He is a tremendous worker, a student of baseball and a great teammate. He’s always trying to get better and deserves all the accolades that come his way.”
For the second consecutive year, 12 players received votes for the award. Also getting consideration were Philadelphia’s Cole Hamels (17 points), Lincecum (seven points), Milwaukee’s Yovani Gallardo (five points), San Francisco’s Matt Cain (three points), Milwaukee closer John Axford (two points), Atlanta closer and Rookie of the Year Craig Kimbrel (two points) and San Francisco teammates Madison Bumgarner and Ryan Vogelsong (one point).
Follow Yankees beat writer Larry Fleisher on Twitter @LarryFleisher.