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Baseball: Former Tomcats pitcher wins NL Cy Young Award

A former Cy Young Award winner announced a new Cy Young Award winner.

Former major league pitching great Orel Hershisher made the announcement on MLB Network last Wednesday night: “Your 2021 National League Cy Young Award winner is — Corbin Burnes, from the Milwaukee Brewers.”

Yes, that Corbin Burnes, the same one who pitched for the Riverhead Tomcats of the Hamptons Collegiate Baseball League in 2014.

In a tight vote, Burnes narrowly edged the Philadelphia Phillies’ Zack Wheeler for the honor. Burnes received the same number of first-place votes as Wheeler, 12, but also had 14 second-place votes (to Wheeler’s nine), three third-place votes and a fourth cast for him for 151 points. Wheeler had 141 points. The 10-point margin of victory is the closest in the NL and tied for the fourth overall since the ballot expanded from three pitchers to five in 2010, according to the Baseball Writers’ Association of America (BBWAA).

“You’re growing up always wanting to pitch in the big leagues and you want to be the best in the league,” Burnes told MLB Network. He added, “It’s awesome to be mentioned with these guys, and it’s exciting.”

Burnes went 11-5 this past season with a 2.43 ERA and a 0.94 WHIP. His ERA and 35.6 strikeout percentage led MLB. He had 234 strikeouts in 167 innings. In four MLB seasons, all with Milwaukee, Burnes has a 23-11 career record with a 3.39 ERA, 427 strikeouts and 89 walks.

Burnes set a major league record by starting this past season with 58 strikeouts without a walk. He also struck out 10 consecutive batters in a game against the Chicago Cubs, tying a record shared by Tom Seaver and Aaron Nola. Additionally, he pitched the first eight innings of a shared no-hitter with Josh Halder against the Cleveland Indians, the second no-no in Brewers history.

“Simply put, no pitcher this side of the injured Jacob deGrom was more dominant when he was on the mound,” wrote Jack Baer of yahoo!sports.

Burnes, a 6-foot-3 righthander, said he fully committed to a cut fastball in 2020. “I had to find something I could get strikes with and get ahead in counts,” he said.

Burnes, 27, became the first Brewers pitcher to win an NL Cy Young Award, although the club had back-to-back Cy Young winners in 1981 (Rollie Fingers) and 1982 (Pete Vuckovich) when it played in the American League.

Burnes, Wheeler and three-time winner Max Scherzer, who played for the Washington Nationals and Los Angeles Dodgers this past season, were named on all 30 ballots, the BBWAA said. Two writers representing each major league city submitted ballots prior to the postseason.

Burnes, a product of Saint Mary’s College of California, was an all-star for the Tomcats in 2014. That summer he went 3-2 with a 5.06 ERA, 46 strikeouts and 18 walks in 37 1/3 innings.

“It’s one of those things that’s still kind of sinking in,” Burnes was quoted as saying on the Brewers’ website. “To be honored alongside Max and Zack, who both had great seasons in their own right — Max has already won three Cy Youngs. Just to be included with these guys, and now to be included on the list of names who have won a Cy Young, it’s pretty special.”