Friday night’s slate of MLB games are highlighted by the home teams having very good starting pitching as they open up the weekend series.

There could be a somewhat surprising pitching duel Friday night when Bruce Chen and the Kansas City Royals (43-46, 21-24 away) pay a visit to Corey Kluber and the Cleveland Indians (48-44, 27-19 home) in the first game of a weekend three-game series from Progressive Field in Cleveland, OH at 7:05 ET, a series that leads right into the All-Star Break.

The posted total at Prime Wagers is 8½ for this contest with the current odds on the ‘under’ set at -105.

The Indians simple refuse to go away in the American League Central race, as they
are in second place and only 2½ games behind the Detroit Tigers, who were expected to run
away with things
before the season, after taking two out of three from the Toronto Blue Jays,
beating R.A. Dickey 4-2 in the series finale on Thursday afternoon.

Winning that series from the Blue Jays was important because it showed that the Indians
did not get down on themselves after losing three out of four games to those Tigers here at home
last weekend when the Tribe had a chance to make a statement. One encouraging sign to come
out of that Tiger series was the performance of tonight’s starter Kluber, who got back on track after
two sub-par performances.

Kluber may not be a household name nationally, but he had allowed three earned runs or less
in 11 of his first 13 games this season before getting touched up for seven runs
(six earned) on 11 hits in 4.2 innings by the Baltimore Orioles on June 27th
and then
following that up by allowing four earned runs, albeit on only four hits, in 5.1 innings
vs. these Royals on July 2nd.

Kluber managed to right the ship vs. probably the best offense in the American League though,
limiting the potent Tigers to two runs on five hits with an impressive 10 strikeouts in 6.1 innings
on Sunday in the only Cleveland victory of that series.

That leaves Kluber 6-5 with a 4.23 ERA overall, but he has an excellent ratio of 86 strikeouts vs.
19 walks in 87.1 innings, and believe it or not he is actually ninth in the Major Leagues
among pitchers with at least 80 innings pitched with an xFIP of 3.04! He also
pitched well the first time he faced the Royals this year allowing two runs in
seven innings with six strikeouts and not a single walk, so we will forgive his
July 2nd outing against them in lieu of Sunday’s nice start.

The Royals are coming off of a four-game split vs. the New York Yankees, although they are
probably disappointed as they lost on Wednesday and Thursday after
winning the first two games of the series
. Kansas City is now turning to the southpaw veteran
Chen, who was considered the ace of the Royals’ staff a couple of years ago but is now making
his first start of the year after 19 relief appearances, taking the rotation spot of an ineffective Luis Mendoza.

Then again Chen seems like a logical choice to fill that rotation spot.
After all, he is a veteran of 203 Major League starts and he earned this
opportunity by pitching well out of the pen this year, going 3-0 with a 2.41 ERA
over 33.2 innings. It was Chen that took over for the struggling Mendoza on
Sunday vs. the Oakland Athletics, tossing 3.1 effective innings, and his first
start comes vs. a Cleveland offense batting just .237 vs. left-handed pitchers
at home this season.

Look for Chen to prove serviceable in his first start of 2013 and for Kluber to return to
the fine form he had early in the year following his very good outing vs. the Tigers, resulting
in an ‘under’ on Friday.

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