WASHINGTON -- The Nationals were built on the power of their starting rotation, and that strength was recognized when two Washington pitchers were named finalists for the National League Cy Young Award on Monday night. Max Scherzer will have the chance to win his second consecutive NL Cy Young Award, while Stephen Strasburg is a finalist for the first time in his career.
Clayton Kershaw joins the Nats' aces as the other finalist, and the winner of the award will be revealed Nov. 15 on MLB Network.
After winning the NL Cy Young Award in 2016, Scherzer was even better in '17. He posted a career-low 2.51 ERA in 31 starts. He led NL pitchers with 6.0 Wins Above Replacement, according to FanGraphs, an 0.902 WHIP, two complete games and 268 strikeouts in 200 2/3 innings. The fact that he surpassed 200 innings could be key considering it represents a significant advantage over Kershaw and Strasburg, both of whom reached about 175 innings.
That stellar 2017 season has put Scherzer in position to win his second consecutive Cy Young Award and third overall in his career. Last season, he became the sixth pitcher in MLB history to capture the award in both leagues afer winning it in '13 while with Detroit. Now he aims to enter even more elite company. Scherzer could become the first NL pitcher to win back-to-back Cy Young Awards since Kershaw did so from 2013-14.
And while Scherzer has become a staple as a Cy Young Award finalists, this is the first time in Strasburg's eight-year he has finished higher than ninth on the ballot.
It is no coincidence that Strasburg's high placing on the ballot comes after one of the healthiest seasons of his career. Aside from a brief stint on the disabled list from the end of July until the beginning of August, Strasburg made 28 starts with a 2.52 ERA and a 2.72 FIP, both career bests. He struck out 204 batters in 175 1/3 innings, and during a season where home run records were set around MLB, Strasburg lead the Majors by holding opposing hitters to 0.67 home runs per nine innings.
And Strasburg was most dominant in the second half of the season. His 0.86 ERA after the All-Star break was the lowest in MLB, which included a streak of 35 consecutive scoreless innings. By the end of the season, no pitcher in baseball was better.
All three finalists went though stretches when they were the most dominant pitcher in the NL this season, which should make for a close finish. Either way, the Nationals' dominant rotation will be front and center when the NL Cy Young Award winner is crowned next week.
Jamal Collier covers the Nationals for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.