Best stories: Verlander, Game 6, Phillies

December, 28, 2011
12/28/11
10:52
AM ET
Here are four more of the biggest stories from 2011.

Justin Verlander wins Cy Young, MVP awards
In becoming the first pitcher to win the MVP Award since A's reliever Dennis Eckersley in 1992, and the first starter since Roger Clemens in 1986, Verlander led the AL in wins, winning percentage, ERA, innings, strikeouts, hits per nine innings, opponents' batting average, opponents' on-base percentage and opponents' slugging percentage. He was the first pitcher to win 24 games since Randy Johnson in 2002 and pitched at least six innings in every start -- in other words, he never got knocked out early. I wrote during the MVP debate that while there were other deserving candidates in the AL, 2011 felt like Justin Verlander's year. It was.

Game 6 of the World Series
It wasn't always elegant (there were five errors), but Game 6 immediately went down as one of the most exciting, legendary and improbable postseason games ever played. The Cardinals trailed 1-0, 3-2, 4-3, 7-4 and 9-7, but rallied each time. Five comebacks in a single game? A World Series game? With the season on the line? Are you kidding? Down to their final strike in the bottom of the ninth, David Freese tripled in two runs to tie it. After Josh Hamilton's two-run homer in the 10th, Lance Berkman -- down to his final strike -- singled in the tying run in the bottom of the inning, setting up Freese's dramatic walk-off home run in the 11th. I can't wait for the book.

Phillies rotation meets expectations
It was billed as the best starting rotation since the Greg Maddux-Tom Glavine-John Smoltz trio headlined the Braves. And Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels didn't disappoint, as each pitched at least 216 innings with Hamels' 2.79 ERA the highest of the three. They became the first team to have three starters pitch at least 200 innings, average at least eight strikeout per nine innings and post an ERA+ of 130 or higher. (Only five teams had two pitchers meet those criteria.) While Roy Oswalt battled back issues, rookie Vance Worley stepped in and posted a 3.02 ERA in 21 starts. Overall, the Phillies' rotation finished with a 2.86 ERA, the lowest in the majors since the 1985 Dodgers (2.71) and Mets (2.84).

Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera and Jim Thome reach milestones
Jeter reached 3,000 hits, Rivera passed Trevor Hoffman as the all-time saves leader and Thome became just the eighth player to hit 600 home runs.

David Schoenfield | email

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