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Ryan Vogelsong, San Francisco Giants
Vogelsong broke into our top five last week but gets nudged out at the All-Star break. That's not to say he doesn't warrant consideration for the Cy Young Award, however.
With a 2.36 ERA, Vogelsong ranks second in the National League. In 16 starts this season, he's arguably had only one bad game. He's allowed three or more runs five times, which includes his most recent appearance.
Opposing batters are hitting only .221 against Vogelsong, tied for the sixth-best mark in the NL. That's even more impressive considering he strikes out 6.3 batters per nine innings.
Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers
Is it possible for last year's Cy Young Award winner to be having a quietly great season? It feels that way, despite Kershaw actually having better numbers than he did at this point last year.
Kershaw has pitched the most innings in the NL, leading Matt Cain and Johnny Cueto by one-third of a frame. His 119 strikeouts are third in the league, while his 1.06 WHIP and .221 opponents batting average also rank among the NL's top six pitchers.
The Dodgers were a surprise team in the first half due largely to their pitching. For them to hold on to first place and keep the Giants at a distance, Kershaw will have to maintain his Cy Young form and lead the Dodgers' rotation.
Gio Gonzalez, Washington Nationals
Gonzalez looked like the Cy Young front-runner for much of the first half of the season. He's not pitching as dominantly, especially from a strikeout standpoint, as he had earlier in the year. But the Nats left-hander has 12 wins on the season and has won his last four decisions.
After allowing four earned runs in each of his two previous starts, Gonzalez looked as if he might be wearing down a bit. Prior to that, he allowed three runs or fewer in 13 straight appearances. But Gonzalez held the Rockies to one run in his most recent outing, showing he may be back on track.
Opposing lineups are barely touching Gonzalez's stuff. He leads the NL with an opponents batting average of .192. More impressively, he's averaging 10.45 strikeouts per nine innings. Only his teammate, Stephen Strasburg, has a higher rate.