Gerrit Cole a unanimous winner of his 1st AL Cy Young Award. Blake Snell takes the NL prize

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NEW YORK (AP) — After several close calls, Gerrit Cole finally won his first American League Cy Young Award on the strength of consistent excellence all season.

Blake Snell joined a short list of pitching royalty by turning around a terrible start.

Cole was a unanimous AL winner Wednesday and Snell took home Cy Young honors in the National League — becoming the seventh hurler to claim the prize in both circuits.

Runner-up twice before, Cole easily finished on top this time following an outstanding season for the New York Yankees. The ace right-hander received all 30 first-place votes in balloting by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America.

“I’m very proud of this season. I’m very proud of some of the other seasons where I’ve made a pretty strong run at this award as well,” Cole said on a conference call. “But it’s hard to say it wasn’t a little different. I mean, there was just a lot of momentum going into this.”

Cole allowed no more than two runs in 26 of his 33 starts — best in the majors. He went 15-4 with 222 strikeouts while leading the AL in ERA (2.63) and innings (209). He finished with a flourish, too, throwing a two-hit shutout at Toronto in his final outing.

He became the sixth Yankees pitcher to win a Cy Young and first since Roger Clemens in 2001. Cole and Ron Guidry (1978) were the only unanimous choices.

“It makes me tremendously proud that I feel that I'm holding up my end of the bargain in terms of those great players and those great legacies,” said the 33-year-old Cole, who signed a $324 million contract with New York in December 2019. “I'm contributing to the overall brand of what we do.”

Snell was the NL winner after going 14-9 and leading the majors with a 2.25 ERA for the San Diego Padres.

The free-agent lefty was picked first on 28 of 30 ballots. San Francisco Giants right-hander Logan Webb finished second and Zac Gallen of the NL champion Arizona Diamondbacks was third.

Snell, the AL Cy Young Award recipient in 2018 with Tampa Bay, joined Gaylord Perry, Pedro Martinez, Randy Johnson, Clemens, Roy Halladay and Max Scherzer as pitchers to win in both leagues.

“It feels amazing. I'm not really good at understanding how to accept awards and not look forward,” Snell said. “I'm trying to enjoy this more than the first one I won. It's really special.

“In 2018, I was a kid. I thought I was going to win 40 of ‘em. I thought I was invincible. I thought winning the Cy Young was just what I was going to do every year. That’s just — you're young and that's how you think.”

Drafted first overall by Pittsburgh in 2011 out of UCLA, Cole started the All-Star Game this year after earning his sixth selection to the Midsummer Classic. He came in second in Cy Young voting in 2019 and '21, and finished among the top five on three other occasions.

Minnesota Twins right-hander Sonny Gray was the AL runner-up with 20 second-place votes, and Kevin Gausman of the Toronto Blue Jays finished third.

Cole and Snell shined for disappointing teams. Both the Yankees and Padres finished 82-80 despite having two of baseball’s three highest payrolls, and neither made the playoffs.

Shaking off a dreadful start to the season, Snell had 234 strikeouts in 180 innings over 32 outings. He was 1-6 with a 5.40 ERA after losing to Boston on May 19, then dominated the rest of the way despite topping the majors with 99 walks this year.

“I just kept telling myself how good I was,” Snell explained.

Harnessing his 95-96 mph heater and overpowering curve, he won eight of his last nine decisions and did not allow a run in five of his final six starts — including the last three.

“I understand myself way more. I don't get mad at things that I shouldn't get mad at anymore," said Snell, who has never pitched a complete game in 191 major league starts. "I don't try to be perfect. I just try to be the best version of me. And in doing so, I feel like this year came together pretty magically.”

Snell gave up only 5.75 hits per nine innings, by far the best mark in the big leagues. All those stingy numbers while he was on the mound were more than enough to beat out Webb (11-13, 3.25 ERA) and Gallen (17-9, 3.47), who each logged at least 210 innings. Both got one first-place vote.

Snell, a Seattle native who turns 31 next month, became a free agent after the World Series. He rejected a $20,325,000 qualifying offer from the Padres on Tuesday to pursue a more lucrative contract.

“I'm excited to be a free agent,” he said. “I don't really know what to expect.”

The four previous San Diego pitchers to win the Cy Young were Randy Jones (1976), Perry (1978), reliever Mark Davis (1989) and Jake Peavy (2007).

Webb's finish marked the first time a starting pitcher with a losing record placed first or second in the balloting.

Seattle right-hander Luis Castillo gets a $250,000 bonus for coming in fifth in the American League. Gray earned a $150,000 bonus and Gausman $100,000.

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AP MLB: https://apnews.com/hub/mlb