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MLB.com Columnist

Tracy Ringolsby

Kershaw, Felix primed to follow in 1968's footsteps

Like Gibson in NL and McLain in AL that year, pitchers could take 2014 MVP Awards

Kershaw, Felix primed to follow in 1968's footsteps

Pitching was so dominant in 1968 that right-handers Bob Gibson of the Cardinals and Denny McLain of the Tigers won the National League MVP Award and the American League MVP Award -- the only season in which pitchers won the MVP Award in both leagues. After that season, Major League Baseball lowered the pitching mound from 15 inches to 10 inches.

Could Clayton Kershaw of the Dodgers and Felix Hernandez of the Mariners this year join Gibson and McClain in earning the MVP Awards in the same season?

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It's possible, particularly if Seattle winds up claiming an AL Wild Card berth and advancing to the postseason. The Mariners are built around a pitching staff, and Hernandez is the anchor.

Kershaw, meanwhile, is having a dominating season for a team that is in position to claim the NL West crown.

And there is not an offensive player having one of those "eye-opening'' seasons, which could open the door for Kershaw and Hernandez in the MVP Award voting this time around.

Since the Baseball Writers' Association of America created the MVP in 1931, the award has been won by a pitcher only 21 times, including Carl Hubbell of the New York Giants in 1933 and '34 and Hal Newhouser of the Tigers in 1944 and '45.

Justin Verlander of the Tigers won the AL MVP Award in 2011, the first time a pitcher had won the award since A's closer Dennis Eckersley in 1992, and first time a starting pitcher took home the honors since Roger Clemens in 1986. Gibson, in 1968, was the last pitcher to win the NL MVP Award.

In recent times

While Verlander won the AL MVP Award in 2011, there have been only 17 pitchers to finish in the top 10 in the voting the last 10 years -- eight in the AL and nine in the NL. And only 23 pitchers have received an MVP Award vote, ranging from Verlander winning in 2011 and finishing eighth in '12 to Adam Wainwright of the Cardinals finishing 15th in NL voting in 2009.

In the last 10 years, there has not been a pitcher finish higher than sixth in the NL MVP Award voting -- Roy Halladay of the Phillies in 2010 and CC Sabathia of the Brewers in '08.

Low down

With a 1.73 ERA, Kershaw could become the 20th pitcher since the mound was lowered in 1969 to have an ERA below 2.00. Only four of the 19 have had an ERA lower than 1.73 -- Dwight Gooden, 1.50 with the Mets in 1985; Greg Maddux, 1.56 and 1.63 with the Braves in 1994 and '95; and Nolan Ryan, 1.69 with the Astros in 1981.

Kershaw, who had a 1.83 ERA a year ago, would become third pitcher since 1969 to have a sub-2.00 ERA twice. Pedro Martinez had a 1.74 ERA with the Red Sox in 2000 and 1.89 ERA with the Expos in 1997, and Maddux in '94 and '95.

Ten times a pitcher with a sub-2.00 ERA won the Cy Young Award -- Kersahw in 2012, Martinez in 2000 and 1997, Maddux in 1995 and '94, Gooden in 1985, Ron Guidry in 1978, Steve Carlton and Gaylord Perry in '72 and Vida Blue in '71. And in four of those seasons, another pitcher with a sub-2.00 ERA was second in voting -- John Tudor to Gooden in 1985, Ryan to Steve Carlton and Luis Tiant to Perry in 1972, and Wilbur Wood to Blue in '1.

Power surge

The Nationals hit six home runs against the Mariners on Friday night, including four off Hernandez. That equaled the second-most home runs hit in a game at Safeco Field. The Indians had a record eight home runs at Safeco on July 16, 2004. The Royals (May 21, 2003) and the Mariners (Aug. 27, 2004) also had six-homer games.

Hernandez had given up three home runs in a game six previous times, including three times at Safeco -- May 7, 2010, against the Dodgers; Aug. 24, 2008, against the A's; and June 16, 2006, against the Giants.

Hernandez gave up five runs in seven innings in that game. Yes, he was working on an extra day of rest, but before too much is made of that, it should be pointed out that it was the 14th time he had five or more days between starts, and in the previous 13, he was 7-0 with a 1.78 ERA.

Kershaw had his game to forget this season, too. On May 17 at Arizona, Kershaw gave up seven runs, all earned, while retiring only five batters.

Tracy Ringolsby is a columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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