You probably don’t need an incentive to watch Clayton Kershaw throw down against Dallas Keuchel during Game 5 tonight. Both pitchers have proven their mettle in the postseason and posted quality starts when they met for the first time in Game 1 of the World Series. When they take the mound for a meeting in Houston on Sunday, they’ll become the sixth pair of Cy Young Award winners to face off twice in the same World Series, rounding out a list that includes Sandy Koufax vs. Whitey Ford (1963), Greg Maddux vs. Orel Hershiser (1995) and Tim Lincecum vs. Cliff Lee (2010), among others. MLB.com’s Manny Randhawa broke down each of those historic matchups earlier today; it’s worth a full read.
Keuchel’s award-winning season is the more recent of the two. He took home the hardware in 2015 after dazzling the American League with two complete game shutouts and a 20-8 record in 33 starts, complemented by a 2.48 ERA, 2.0 BB/9 and 8.4 SO/9 in an AL-best 232 innings. While he hasn’t come close to shouldering that kind of workload since 2015, his 2017 performance trended toward some career-best numbers with a 14-5 record in 23 starts and a 2.90 ERA, 2.9 BB/9 and 7.7 SO/9 over 145 2/3 innings. He’s been rock-solid for the Astros this October, too, going 2-0 in four starts and turning in a collective 3.00 ERA with quality outings against the Yankees and Dodgers.
Kershaw, on the other hand, has appeared near the top of Cy Young ballots for the last six straight seasons, though he hasn’t captured the award since 2014. He’ll feature prominently in that conversation again this year despite missing nearly six weeks with a lower back strain. He finished the regular season with an NL-best 18-4 record in 27 starts, backed by a 2.31 ERA, 1.5 BB/9 and 10.4 SO/9 through 175 innings. While he hasn’t always looked like the best pitcher in the league when it comes to his postseason performance, he’s been nearly impenetrable in all four starts this month, working a 2.96 ERA in 24 1/3 innings and besting Keuchel with seven innings of one-run, 11-strikeout ball during Game 1 of the World Series.
Here’s something worth considering: Of the 10 Cy Young award winners to go head-to-head multiple times in the Fall Classic, the pitchers who took home the first win (that is, a team win, not necessarily a pitcher win) ended up winning the Series three of five times. There’s still some hope for Keuchel and the Astros, however: he could be the first Cy Young recipient to take a Game 1 loss against a fellow Cy Young winner and come back to win the World Series since Mets’ right-hander Tom Seaver in the 1969 World Series.