Felix’s Cy Young bid could well rest with the Angels

We’re coming down to crunch time in the AL Cy Young and MVP races. And while the debate between Mike Trout and Miguel Cabrera has been heated for MVP honors, an even-broader and equally uncertain field appears to be competing for Cy Young honors.

The final two weeks could well swing the vote in what appears to be a five-pitcher race.

Felix Hernandez clearly has dropped back into the pack after his three-start slip at the beginning of September, but I don’t think this one is decided yet and most voters — there are two BBWAA writers in each AL city with a Cy Young ballot — should still be open to how things play out.

Along with Hernandez, the top contenders are 2011 winner Justin Verlander of the Tigers, David Price of the Rays, Chris Sale of the White Sox and Jered Weaver of the Angels, with closer Fernando Rodney of the Rays also getting some consideration.

All of those guys — except Rodney, obviously — have two starts left. For Felix, the challenge is clear. Though the Mariners have yet to finalize their rotation beyond this weekend, it’s all-but-certain he’ll pitch twice against the Angels — once in Anaheim next week and once in Safeco in the final three-game homestand on Oct. 1-3.

And that means Hernandez needs to twice dominate one of the few teams that has consistently had his number. Felix is 6-11 in 28 starts against the Angels in his career. Throwing out a couple teams that he’s only faced once, that .353 winning percentage is the lowest mark against any opponent and his 3.89 ERA is the second-highest of any foe (behind only the Blue Jays’ 5.13 in nine games).

In Anaheim, Felix is 2-5 with a 3.21 ERA in 14 starts. He’s faced the Angels just once in Anaheim this year and wound up with a no-decision, but it was the only difficult start he had in his fabulous August as he gave up five runs (four earned) in seven innings.

The rest of the month, Hernandez was 4-0 with a 0.26 ERA (1 run in 34 2/3 innings), so yeah, the Angels are an aberration even when Felix is on fire.

He’s also lost both his battles at Safeco to the Angels this year, including a 5-2 defeat on Sept. 1 that snapped his nine-game winning streak as he allowed nine hits and five runs (4 earned) in 7 2/3 innings. And back on May 26, the Angels got to him for 10 hits and five runs in six innings in a 5-3 loss in Seattle.

If he reverses that trend, could two big outings to close out his season sway the Cy Young decision?

If you want to put a finger on the current pulse, here are a couple good reads — Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com has Verlander in the lead at the moment, with Price second and Felix third.

Chris Corcoran of SI.com lists Verlander, Sale and Price as his top 3 at the moment.

MLB.com’s Anthony Castrovince had Tampa’s Price and Rodney as favorites the other day, but that was before Felix threw eight innings of one-run ball in a no-decision against the Orioles.

Clearly momentum has shifted from Hernandez after his unbelievable midseason run. But depending on what his competition does, that could certainly shift back just as quickly with two strong starts against the Angels. At 13-8, Hernandez doesn’t have the eye-popping win-loss record, but he was 13-12 when he won it 2010, thanks to overpowering numbers in the statistics that pitchers actually can control.

Hernandez again can’t be blamed for pitching for a team that offers little offensive help. In 10 no-decisions this year, he’s posted a 2.41 ERA, including four starts when he allowed one or less runs while going 8-plus innings.

If he’d gotten just a little run support in even half those games, he’d be 18-8 with his 2.85 ERA and 220 2/3 innings and 207 strikeouts, not to mention five shutouts (four by 1-0 scores) and, yep, a perfect game.

So voters who look closely will see that Hernandez indeed deserves to be in the Cy Young debate. Whether he deserves to win it? That answer may well rest with the Angels.

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