The Colorado Rockies may be one of only three teams to have not won a Cy Young Award since 1993, but plenty of the game’s greatest pitchers have passed through Denver over the last 31 seasons.
Two such recipients came through LoDo in the past three days with a fourth starting on Saturday. This includes a pair of three-time winners in the New York Mets’ Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander in back-to-back games.
“It’s something to look forward to in a lot of different ways for all of us and how we view that,” manager Bud Black said of the Mets’ starters. “For young players to see Hall of Fame type players, it’s something that they’ll remember and should remember and should watch. I like watching greatness. I like watching great performers in any field.”
On Friday night, Scherzer reversed a career of lackluster starts here — his 6.39 ERA at Coors Field was the lowest of any of MLB’s 30 ballparks entering the game — to give up one run over seven innings in his first win in Denver during the 5-2 triumph by New York. It was his 277th career quality start and fourth in seven starts at Coors Field, as well as his 48th time striking out eight and walking none.
Coupled with his rotation mate Verlander, the Mets have a dynamic duo of Hall of Famers. It’s a challenge for any team to face the pair in the same series, but for the Rockies’ skipper, he relishes such a test.
“This will be a great challenge,” Black shared. “It’s good for baseball when a guy like Verlander and Scherzer pitch, no matter where they pitch.”
The last game the 2022 American League Cy Young Award winner pitched in Colorado was five years, two teams and one Tommy John surgery ago when he suited up with the Detroit Tigers on August 30, 2017. (It was his final start with Detroit before being traded to the Houston Astros the next day.)
What’s even more historic about the pitching matchups the Mets bring this weekend is that both reigning Cy Young Award winners will now start against the Rockies within a span of only four days.
It’s just the fourth time that the mound at the center of 2001 Blake Street will feature the top pitching honorees in the same season. And for the first time, neither pitcher will represent an NL West club.
Sandy Alcantara, the 15th unanimous winner in the NL, tossed six strong innings on Wednesday night, giving up two runs in the Miami Marlins only win of the four-game series.
Entering 2023, Colorado had faced both the AL and NL winners in Denver in the same calendar year three times. The first instance was in 2002, when Randy Johnson of the Arizona Diamondbacks and Roger Clemens of the New York Yankees accomplished the feat. In 2009, Cliff Lee of the Philadelphia Phillies, who won it the previous year with Cleveland, and Tim Lincecum of the San Francisco Giants joined the group. The next year, it was Lincecum again and Zack Greinke of the Kansas City Royals.
Since the start of the 1993 season, a total of 36 different players have won the top honor in pitching excellence in either league. Of those elite, 35 were starting pitchers — props to Eric Gágne of the Los Angeles Dodgers for being the last reliever to win the award in 2003. American League hurlers Jack McDowell (1993, Chicago White Sox), David Cone (1994, Kansas City Royals) and more recently Corey Kluber (2014 and 2017, Cleveland) never pitched a game in Denver. It should come as no surprise that Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw, a three-time winner in 2011 and 2013-14, has the most starts in Colorado with 26 games.
A total of 20 reigning Cy Young Award winners ascended the bump at 20th and Blake Street. To get two in the same week is a real treat for fans of baseball in the Rocky Mountain region.