Clay-ja vu: Kershaw deserving of 4th Cy Young

Lefty struck out 202 batters despite missing five weeks with back injury

Clay-ja vu: Kershaw deserving of 4th Cy Young

LOS ANGELES -- Guess who's a finalist again for the National League Cy Young Award?

Clayton Kershaw already has three of them, but he has a strong case in 2017 to make it four in the last seven years. Kershaw already has become the first pitcher to finish in the top five in Cy Young voting in seven consecutive seasons since Greg Maddux.

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Kershaw went 18-4 with a 2.31 ERA in 27 starts in 2017. He led the NL in wins, ERA, the ratio of strikeouts to walks and opponent's on-base percentage. He was second in win percentage and WHIP. He struck out at least 200 batters for the seventh time in the last eight seasons, even though he missed five weeks healing from a strained lower back.

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Opponents hit .167 off Kershaw with runners in scoring position, the second-lowest mark in the Majors. He was 9-2 at home and 9-2 on the road. He is the fifth Dodgers pitcher to win at least 16 of his first 18 decisions, which included a 12-game win streak, the longest such run in MLB.

Kershaw's 200th K of the year

Kershaw became the first Dodger to be named to seven consecutive All-Star teams since Steve Garvey made eight consecutive appearances. Kershaw had six starts where he exited after at least six scoreless innings, and his season high for strikeouts in a game was 14.

Kershaw's 14 Ks in 14 seconds

"I think the fans get cheated on not getting the opportunity to see him in between starts," manager Dave Roberts said of Kershaw. "Because I think that we as fans can appreciate him every fifth day, and the energy and the emotion and the success that he's had on the field. But to be behind the scenes and to watch him work so diligently, with detail, every single day, that's something that I marvel at.

"To not only get to a certain plateau, but to want to strive to be better -- and that consistency that he's shown over the course of his entire career, that now has sort of affected, impacted his teammates, not only the starting pitchers, but the position players -- it's just a credit to him. I wouldn't know what it's like to be a superstar. But with what he does every single day, with working with a purpose, with everything he does, it makes sense."

Best Pitcher: Kershaw

While the award is based solely on 2017 regular-season statistics, Kershaw's stellar year adds to his remarkable franchise career totals. He ranks among Dodgers leaders in wins (8th with 144), strikeouts (4th with 2,120) and innings (13th with 1,935).

The other finalists for this year's award are Washington's Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg.

Ken Gurnick has covered the Dodgers for since 2001. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.