NEW YORK — For once, Clayton Kershaw was glad to see a long shutout streak end.
Kershaw became the first pitcher to win the National League MVP award since Bob Gibson in 1968, coasting to an easy victory Nov. 13. “A little bit of shock, honestly,” the Dodgers ace said on a conference call. “I guess I never really anticipated to win that.”
A day after unanimously taking the NL Cy Young Award, Kershaw completed a Los Angeles sweep. A little earlier, Angels outfielder Mike Trout was a unanimous pick for the AL MVP.
Trout had been blanked in his bid the past two years, finishing second both times to Detroit slugger Miguel Cabrera. The 23-year-old Trout was the youngest unanimous MVP pick in major league history.
“Just anxious throughout the day,” Trout said of the waiting period. “I knew the experience I had the last two years. It helped me with it.”
Trout, the MVP of the All-Star game in July, and Kershaw both led their teams to West division titles. In August, they finally faced each in a regular-season game — Trout singled, doubled and struck out looking at Dodger Stadium.
Someday, they hope to meet in October. “I think in the future we’re going to contend for the World Series, year in and year out,” Kershaw said.
To do that, they want to improve in the playoffs. Kershaw went 0-2 with a 7.82 ERA against St. Louis in the Division Series, leaving him 1-5 with a 5.12 ERA in the postseason.
The MVP and Cy Young prizes don’t “take the sting away of what happened in the playoffs,” Kershaw said.
Trout went 1-for-12 in a three-game sweep by Kansas City in his first playoff try. “It’s tough to do. You have all these expectations, you want to do so good,” he said.
The awards voting was completed by the end of the regular season. Kershaw breezed past Miami bopper Giancarlo Stanton and Pittsburgh outfielder Andrew McCutchen to become Most Valuable Player.
While Detroit pitcher Justin Verlander won the AL MVP in 2011, no one on the NL side had done it for nearly a half-century.
There was plenty of everyday player-vs.-pitcher MVP debate before this announcement. Kershaw had acknowledged “there are so many people out there who don’t think a pitcher should win.”
But the 26-year-old lefty again dominated the hitters — Kershaw led the majors in wins and ERA while going 21-3 with a 1.77 ERA and throwing a no-hitter.
Kershaw got 18 of 30 first-place votes and 355 points in balloting by members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. He drew nine second-place votes, one third and pair of fourths.
“To be a pitcher and win the MVP, it’s pretty awesome,” he said.
Stanton got eight first-place ballots and 298 points. He led the NL with 37 homers and was second with 105 RBIs, and missed the last 17 games for the fourth-place Marlins after being hit in the face by a fastball.
McCutchen got four firsts and 271 points in his bid to win the award for the second straight year. He hit .314 with 25 home runs and 83 RBIs for the wild-card Pirates.
Six AL pitchers have won the MVP since Gibson took it for the Cardinals. Before Gibson, seven pitchers had won the NL MVP, a list that includes Hall of Famers Sandy Koufax, Carl Hubbell and Dizzy Dean.
The AL MVP has been won 12 times by pitchers, starting when it was first presented in 1931 to Lefty Grove.
Kershaw won the major league season opener in Australia on March 22, then missed more than a month when a strained upper back put him on the disabled list.
Featuring sharp breaking pitches, Kershaw came back to win his second straight NL Cy Young and third in four years.
Kershaw led the big leagues in complete games and was best among starters in strikeouts per nine innings and WHIP (walks plus hits per inning).
The four-time All-Star struck out 239 in 198 1-3 innings. On June 18, he threw the first no-hitter of his career, at Dodger Stadium against Colorado.
Trout received all 30 first-place votes and 420 points. Detroit designated hitter Victor Martinez was second with 229 points and Cleveland outfielder Michael Brantley third with 185.
Trout hit .287 and set career highs in home runs (36) and RBIs (111) while leading the major leagues in runs with 115 and extra-base hits with 84. In his third full season, he matched his bests in doubles (39) and triple (nine).
“The power’s definitely up,” he said. “Getting a little older and a little stronger.” Other numbers also changed. He led the AL with 184 strikeouts and his stolen bases dropped to 16.
Trout was a unanimous pick as the 2012 AL Rookie of the Year and was second in MVP voting to Cabrera in both of his first two full seasons, 81 points back in 2012 and 103 points behind last year.
Trout is the fifth-youngest MVP, STATS said. Vida Blue (1971), Johnny Bench (1970) and Stan Musial (1943) were 22 and Cal Ripken Jr. (1983) was a younger 23.
Kershaw and Trout won the last of baseball’s major postseason awards. Just in time, too. Pitchers and catchers are due at spring training in only 98 days.
(BEN WALKER, AP Baseball Writer)