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MLB: American League Cy Young contenders

As the regular season reaches its conclusion, we take a look at who the contenders are for the American League Cy Young award.

Will it be the veteran Justin Verlander or maybe Tampa Bay's Shane McClanahan? Could Verlander's stablemate Framber Valdez spring a surprise and clinch his first award?

1. Justin Verlander (Houston Astros) - -350

In pole position so far has to be the evergreen 39-year-old Justin Verlander. The nine-time All-Star who already has two AL Cy Young awards, (won in 2011 and 2019) and is having a sensational season.

At the moment his season has been curtailed by a calf injury although Astros’ manager Dusty Baker has said this week that Verlander will return on Friday night against the Oakland Athletics.

Verlander was put on the 15-day injured list after pain in his calf which following an MRI revealed 'fascial disruption but no muscle fibre disruption', which Verlander acknowledged that he had "dodged a bullet".

The former Detroit Tiger has a 16-3 record this season with an ERA 1.83, the only eligible starting pitcher with an ERA of under 2.00.

He is favourite to win his third Cy Young Award, having only made one start in 2020 and missed the entire 2021 season with Tommy John surgery.

The Astros are hoping that Verlander will be fit enough to lead their charge to the World Series.

2. Shane McClanahan (Tampa Bay Rays) - +1800

Shane McClanahan was born in Baltimore before moving to Florida. He was drafted by the New York Mets in the 2015 Major League Baseball draft, but turned down the opportunity to attend University of South Florida and play college baseball.

He was then selected by the Tampa Bay Rays in the draft of 2018 and was added to the 40-man roster for the AL Wild Card series against the Toronto Blue Jays.

McClanahan made his debut in the AL Division series against the New York Yankees, becoming the first pitcher to have made his debut in the postseason. Last season, McClanahan threw 10-6 with a 3.43 ERA.

This season the 25-year-old has been sensational, he has started 25 games with a 11-5 record and an ERA of 2.13.

The left-handed pitcher has been on the 15-day injured list, but is set to be made active on Friday following shoulder impingement.

McClanahan was set to make his usual start against the Miami Marlins in late August, however, he complained of fatigue in his shoulder and was pulled from the game.

McClanahan's Cy Young-calibre season is expected to continue as he tries to push the Rays to the playoffs via the American League Wild Card positions.

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3. Framber Valdez (Houston Astros) - +2000

Another player having a superb season is the Astros' pitcher Framber Valdez. The 28-year-old has started 25 games this season and has an ERA of 2.50 with a record of 15-5.

On Monday night against the Detroit Tigers, Valdez pitched his first career shutout in the Astros' 7-0 win.

He posted his 24th straight quality start, tying a record with New York Mets ace Jacob deGrom in 2018 for the longest-single season streak.

Speaking following his start, Astros team manager Dusty Baker waxed lyrically about Valdez: "That's a monumental streak, a lot of great pitchers have never come close to getting there.

"Players know when they are getting close to something and that doesn't bother me, because I know it motivates them to excellence."

Valdez might be the surprise package come the end of the season, his numbers are there to be reckoned with even if his team-mate Justin Verlander is favourite for the award.

Outside contenders

Chicago White Sox pitcher Dylan Cease (+300) is making a late case for himself. It may be too late, however, the injuries to Verlander and McClanahan may help his cause as an outsider.

Cease has a 14-7 record this season with an ERA of 2.16 after starting 29 games and while his is only second to Gerrit Cole (New York Yankees) in the most strikeouts in the American League this season, 214, he has walked 68 which leads the AL.

Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Alek Manoah (+5000) has a 14-7 record this season with an ERA 2.43. The 24-year-old has started 28 games this season and struck out 163.

The Yankees' Cole is unlikely to win his first Cy Young award, but remains an outside possibility. The 32-year-old simply has too much of an ERA (3.30) to match the leading contenders, but you can never write off Cole.

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