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Verlander quietly making his case for Cy

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Verlander quietly making his case for Cy
DETROIT -- Lost in all the buzz about Miguel Cabrera's Triple Crown and MVP chances is that ace Justin Verlander has a realistic shot at being named the American League Cy Young Award winner for the second straight year.

It hasn't been a huge topic of conversation in the clubhouse, mostly because Verlander's 2011 numbers were so outstanding that his stats this year seem almost pedestrian, but he's once again among the league leaders in most statistical categories.

He paces the league in innings pitched (231 1/3) and strikeouts (231), is second to Los Angeles' Jered Weaver (1.00) with a 1.06 WHIP and second to Tampa Bay's David Price (2.56) with a 2.72 ERA. He's also tied for fifth in wins (16).

"Justin's definitely been a good enough pitcher to be talked about as far as the Cy Young Award winner," catcher Alex Avila said. "Price has pitched unbelievable, though."

As the season comes to a close, the race for the Cy Young has seemingly narrowed to Price and Verlander -- with Weaver and White Sox lefty Chris Sale a bit farther behind.

Both Verlander and Price are scheduled to make one more regular-season start. What makes it interesting for the Tigers is that whereas a poor outing from Price would certainly bolster Verlander's candidacy, that last outing for the Rays lefty is in U.S. Cellular Field, against the White Sox.

But with the Tigers and White Sox tied atop the division entering Wednesday and with eight games left in the regular season, the individual awards aren't of prime importance.

"To be honest with you, when Price pitches against Chicago, I hope he shuts them out for nine innings," Avila said. "I mean, Justin winning a Cy Young would be phenomenal, just like Miguel winning the MVP would be great, but all that kind of takes a backseat to us getting to the playoffs."

Manager Jim Leyland, who hasn't been shy in making his case for Cabrera when it comes to who deserves the MVP nod, was asked to weigh in on Verlander's chances on Wednesday. He believes the Cy Young race is much closer.

"I don't really know. I think he's got a shot. I think if he wins another start, he's got a shot," Leyland said. "I think if David Price wins on Sunday, which I hope he does, that'd be his 20th win."

Price would be the first AL pitcher to 20 wins. But since the biggest disparity between Cabrera and Angels outfielder Mike Trout is the wins above replacement (WAR) stat, it's worth noting that Verlander's WAR, according to FanGraphs.com (6.5) and Baseball-Reference.com (7.1), is higher than Price's -- 5.0 and 6.2, respectively.

"As far as the opportunities he's given us to win games he pitches, it's second to none," Avila said.

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