Rafael Soriano making strides, but won’t reclaim closer’s role yet

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Nationals reliever Rafael Soriano has made some mechanical adjustments, which he has put to the test in a couple of low-leverage situations recently. The 34-year-old said of the changes, “Everything is good. I’m feeling good,” per a report from James Wagner of the Washington Post.

Soriano blew his seventh save of the season on September 5 at home against the Phillies, which included a rare Ben Revere home run. Manager Matt Williams demoted Soriano from the closer’s role so that he could focus on 1) standing taller on the mound; 2) keep his front shoulder closed; and 3) staying low in the strike zone. In his latest two appearances, he’s been able to do just that and has had better results, striking out two in the process.

For now, though, the Nationals plan to stick with Drew Storen in the closer’s role. Storen has notched the save in each of his four games since Soriano’s demotion. In four innings, the right-hander has struck out six and allowed two hits while walking none.

Justin Verlander named 2019 American League Cy Young Award winner

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Astros starter Justin Verlander was voted by the Baseball Writers Association of America as the 2019 American League Cy Young Award winner. Teammate Gerrit Cole finished in a close second place at 159 points. Charlie Morton finished third at 75 points, Shane Bieber fourth at 64, Lance Lynn fifth at 18, Eduardo Rodríguez and Lucas Giolito sixth at eight, and Mike Minor eighth at seven.

Verlander, 36, won the AL Cy Young Award (and AL MVP Award) in 2011 with the Tigers). He and Cole became the first pair of teammates to finish first and second on the ballot for the AL Cy Young Award. Four NL teammates accomplished the feat: Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling in 2001 and ’02, Don Newcomb and Sal Maglie in 1956, and Mike Marshall and Andy Messersmith in 1974.

During the regular season, Verlander led all starting pitchers in wins (21), games started (34), innings pitched (223), and WHIP (0.803). He also compiled a 2.58 ERA with a 300/42 K/BB ratio. Along with a 300-strikeout season, Verlander achieved other milestones, including reaching 3,000 strikeouts for his career and 200 career postseason strikeouts (an all-time record).

2019 was not without controversy for Verlander, a future Hall of Famer, as he had a well-publicized disagreement with Anthony Fenech of the Detroit Free Press. He tried to have Fenech barred from the clubhouse during media availability despite the collective bargaining agreement ensuring access to BBWAA-credentialed reporters. It was one of many Astros-related scandals in 2019.

Verlander is the first Astro to win the Cy Young Award since Dallas Keuchel in 2015. Roger Clemens (2004) and Mike Scott (1986) also won the award back when the Astros were in the National League.