Dylan Cease loved watching Justin Verlander while growing up, and now he's facing him in the pitching matchup of the season


(670 The Score) As a two-time Cy Young winner, Astros ace Justin Verlander understands well how the game’s top pitching award can be top of mind for a youngster like White Sox right-hander Dylan Cease.

“Old guys think about it too,” Verlander said. “It’s very natural to think about that.”

It’s with that as context that a great pitching matchup looms at Guaranteed Rate Field on Tuesday evening, when Verlander will take the mound for the Astros and Cease will take it for the White Sox. They’re the two frontrunners in the American League Cy Young race, which is on Cease’s mind – even if he doesn’t want it to be.

"I think about it a little bit,” Cease said. “I am trying not to fixate on it. We have a lot of other things going on. Definitely it is, I would be lying if I said it wasn't on my mind. I don't think whoever does better in this game is the winner, but it's definitely important.”

The 39-year-old Verlander is the favorite to win the award, as he leads MLB with a 1.85 ERA, 0.86 WHIP and 15 wins. His 17 quality starts are also third in MLB and second in the AL.

Cease, 26, is 12-5 with a 1.96 ERA, which ranks third in MLB and second in the AL. His 12.2 strikeouts-per-nine-innings rate is second in MLB. Cease also has a streak of 14 straight starts in which he has allowed one or zero earned runs.

While Verlander has the edge, Cease will certainly get equal billing Tuesday.

“He was definitely someone I looked forward to watching,” Cease said of following Verlander in his youth. “I would look at his games and watch him on YouTube all the time. He would start out in his games throwing 92 miles per hour and finish in the late innings throwing 101 miles per hour. Just the fact that I am here now and he is still doing it is pretty rare.”

Verlander himself has been impressed with Cease as he has evolved

“You do not get these matchups too often of two guys having great years,” Verlander said. “It's very exciting. Things have to align just right. He is having a tremendous year. He seems to have put it all together now.”

Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.

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