Gio Gonzalez didn't win the National League Cy Young Award but said the award he accepted Thursday night at the Oklahoma Sports Hall of Fame is just as prestigious.
Finishing 21-8 with a 2.89 ERA his first season with the Washington Nationals, Gonzalez was presented with the Warren Spahn Award.
“He's the Cy Young for left-handed pitchers,” said Gonzalez, who finished third in the Cy Young voting. “To be ranked No. 1 for all left-handed pitching in both the American and National League, that's as high as it gets.”
Tuesday's banquet capped an incredible debut season in the nation's capital for Gonzalez, who was traded by Oakland to the Nationals a year ago.
Serving as Washington's ace after Stephen Strasburg was shut down late in the season, Gonzalez helped the Nationals make the first postseason appearance by a D.C. baseball team since 1933.
“To accomplish what we did, where they hadn't made the playoffs in like 100 years, to do it for a city that for a long time was just looking to get a baseball team, it meant so much to all of us,” Gonzalez said. “To represent this award, it means even more.”
Washington moved into first place in the NL East in late May. When September arrived, skeptics wondered whether the Nationals might fade, especially after team officials announced Strasburg would be shut down the final four weeks of the season.
The Nationals clinched a wild-card berth with two weeks left in the regular season and finished four games in front of Atlanta.
“Oh wow, that was special. Words can't describe it,” Gonzalez said. “Then in the playoffs we ended up one out away.”
Gonzalez was referring to Game 5 of the NL Division Series against St. Louis, a game he started, a game the Nationals led 6-0 early.
Washington was still up 6-3 when Gonzalez left after five innings. The Nationals led going to the ninth before the Cardinals staged a memorable four-run rally to shock fans at Nationals Park.
“We had such a great run,” Gonzalez said. “It opened eyes for this year to what everyone is going to be expecting.”