Rivera, Mussina garner Cy Young votes
Right-handers played big role in keeping playoff hopes alive
NEW YORK -- The two Yankees perhaps most responsible for keeping their team afloat last summer both made it into the top six in the American League Cy Young Award voting, in results released Thursday by the Baseball Writers' Association of America.
Mariano Rivera finished fifth on the ballot with three points and Mike Mussina tied for sixth place with two, in what became a landslide victory for Cliff Lee of the Indians. Lee garnered 24 first-place votes and 132 points overall, besting Toronto's Roy Halladay, who finished with 71 points, Los Angeles' Francisco Rodriguez, who finished with 32 points, and Boston's Daisuke Matsuzaka, who finished with 10.
Rivera, 38, turned in one of his finest seasons, saving 39 games in 40 chances with a 1.40 ERA. Even more remarkable, the Yankees closer struck out 77 batters over 70 2/3 innings and walked just six, allowing 41 hits. Opponents batted .165 off Rivera, the lowest mark of his 14-year career.
Rivera has come close to winning the Cy Young Award four previous times, finishing third in the voting in 1996, '99 and 2004, and second in '05. No AL reliever has won the award since Dennis Eckersley in 1992.
"The amazing thing about Mo is that I'm never surprised what he does," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said earlier this year. "He's one of the most amazing athletes I've ever been around. I've had a chance to catch him, coach him, manage him. People ask me the greatest pitcher I ever caught, and I'll say Mariano Rivera."
Mussina, 39, enjoyed something of a renaissance in his 18th big league season, winning 20 games for the first time in his career and posting a 3.37 ERA, his lowest since 2001. A free agent, Mussina has not yet decided whether or not he will return to the big leagues next year in an attempt to win 300 games. He currently stands at 270 victories, which ranks 33rd all-time and fourth among active pitchers.
"I talked about that at Spring Training -- I thought he was going to have a good year," Girardi said. "He's just thrown the ball great."
Yet even Mussina couldn't match Lee, whose remarkable turnaround saw him produce a 22-3 record just a year after pitching his way back down to the Minors. Lee finished with a 2.54 ERA in 31 starts, setting career highs in wins, innings and strikeouts.
Anthony DiComo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.