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The five best starts of Clayton Kershaw’s Cy Young season

Clayton Kershaw(notes) walked away from the 2011 season with the equivalent of a pitcher's triple crown, leading the National League in wins (21), ERA (2.28) and strikeouts (248).

It came as no surprise, then, to learn that the 23-year-old lefty from the Los Angeles Dodgers was awarded with the 2011 NL Cy Young award on Thursday. In beating out Roy Halladay(notes) and Cliff Lee(notes) from the Phildaelphia Phillies, he becomes the youngest winner since Doc Gooden won at age 20 in 1985.

As someone who saw Kershaw in person as a minor leaguer with plenty of promise, it's pretty cool to see the lanky lefty really fulfill the expectations we had for him. He put together a campaign that couldn't be touched by anyone from the Philadelphia or San Francisco pitching powerhouses and gives Dodgers fans plenty of hope for the future.

At any rate, here are the five most memorable starts of Kershaw's 2011 Cy Young season — a list just like the one we did for AL winner Justin Verlander on Tuesday.

5. Sept. 20 vs. San Francisco Giants: If we're going by game score, Kershaw's 20th win of the season is tied for just his 17th-best outing of the season. But consider this: His 17th-best start still featured 7 1/3 innings of one-run and six-hit ball in a 2-1 victory over the Dodgers' biggest rival. With the win, Kershaw became the first Dodgers pitcher to win 20 games since Ramon Martinez(notes) in 1990.

The five best starts of Clayton Kershaw’s Cy Young season4. May 20 vs. Florida Marlins: This was the first time we saw Kershaw in his full glory this season. The two-hit complete-game shutout in an 8-o win was the second of his career and the first of two he'd record in 2011. He also struck out 10 batters, one of seven double-digit strikeout games during the campaign.

3. June 20 vs. Detroit Tigers: The other two-hit complete-game shutout of Kershaw's 2011 campaign. A total of 11 strikeouts gave him a game score of 93, the highest of the season and just a tick better than the 92 he recorded against the Marlins.

2. Sept. 25 vs. San Diego Padres: There's no denying that Kershaw's strong finish sealed the Cy Young win and his 21st win of the season served as his grand finale. His 7 1/3 inning, two-run performance against the Padres capped a two-month run that saw Kershaw record a 1.44 ERA in 81 innings while winning nine of 11 starts.

1. July 20 vs. San Francisco Giants: Was Clayton Kershaw put on this earth to beat the Giants? It's hard to look at 2011 and come to any other conclusion. As SoCal's antidote to Tim Lincecum(notes), Kershaw became the first Dodgers pitcher since 1946 to go 5-0 against the Giants in one season. This three-hit shutout over eight innings in a 1-0 win was his best win of the bunch against San Francisco and it came at Lincecum's expense. In four matchups against Tiny Tim, Kershaw went 4-0 and allowed only one run in 30 1/3 innings. Here's hoping that both the Dodgers and Giants are able to lock down both pitchers so we're treated to many similar matchups over the next decade.

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