Corey Kluber might have fallen short in the race to win the American League Final Vote, but that certainly doesn't take away from the excellent season he has produced in 2014.
As the All-Star break nears, Kluber leads the Indians in wins (eight), strikeouts (137) and has the best ERA (2.86) of any Indians starter -- all while emerging as the reliable centerpiece of a rotation that has seen plenty of changes since Opening Day.
The Tribe will look for Kluber to continue that performance on Friday, when he takes the hill for the first of a three-game set against the White Sox at Progressive Field.
Kluber's last outing was a reflection of his whole body of work. On Sunday, the right-hander held the Royals to one run over a dominant 8 1/3 innings, striking out 10 while surrendering just four hits and a walk.
"The tone of the game, the atmosphere of the game when he's on the mound, we never really have a question that we're going to win that game," fellow pitcher Trevor Bauer said. "He's going to go out there and shut the other guys down. That's what you look at out of an All-Star, someone who can take over a game."
One of the biggest factors working for Kluber this year has been his propensity for strikeouts. Through 19 starts, he has averaged 9.81 strikeouts per nine innings. Much of that been driven by his three heaters -- fastball, cutter and sinker. Opponents are hitting just .145 off Kluber's cut fastball.
"The movement on [his fastball] and the way he locates it," righty Josh Tomlin said of what makes Kluber effective. "He can throw it in when he wants to, throw it out when he wants to, throw a four-seamer when he wants to, cut the ball when he wants to. ... He commands the ball very well and he has the mentality that he's going to go as deep as he can in games."
The White Sox wound up splitting their last series with the Red Sox after losing Thursday's finale on a 10th-inning walk-off single by Mike Carp. Now 9-12 over their last 21 games, the South Siders will turn to Hector Noesi (3-6, 4.90 ERA) on Friday.
Noesi has been up and down since joining the White Sox rotation from the bullpen, and his last few starts have followed that trend. His most recent outing, however, featured a promising 6 2/3 scoreless innings and just five hits allowed, and it marked Noesi's first scoreless game since a four-out relief appearance on April 26.
"He's a tough kid. He's confident and he knows what he can do," White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. "Sometimes you get an opportunity and you run with it, and I think that's what he's done. Any time you go through the route that he's been out on and you get a chance to show what you've got, he's going to do it."
Both the Indians and White Sox have found themselves fighting to climb toward the top of the pack in the AL Central, which is led by the Tigers, with the Royals in second.
So far this season, the South Siders have taken seven of 10 from the Tribe, including a three-game sweep in Chicago when the two clubs last met in May.
White Sox: Sale captures Final Vote
Left-hander Chris Sale emerged victorious the AL Final Vote on Thursday, becoming the fourth White Sox winner in the competition's 11th year of existence.
Despite missing nearly a month with a strained flexor muscle, Sale led the group of five AL pitchers with 6.7 million votes. He has gone 8-1 with a 2.08 ERA over 14 starts, striking out 102, walking 16 and scattering 64 hits in another truly remarkable campaign for the young southpaw.
"He's as good as anybody," Ventura said. "I know it seems biased, but you start looking at pitchers around the league and you can tell by the at-bats and swings guys have. ... He's as good as anybody."
Indians: Perez makes debut
Rookie catcher Roberto Perez had a Major League debut to remember on Thursday.
With Yan Gomes receiving a much-needed day off after catching in Wednesday night's 14-inning loss, the Indians opted to give Perez the starting nod behind home plate. The rookie delivered by going 2-for-3 with a walk, including a two-run homer that was initially ruled a double before being overturned by a replay review.
"We've been sending Roberto out to the bullpen to catch the relievers just to get familiarity," manager Terry Francona said. "Roberto's got a reputation of being pretty quick getting the scouting report, and he's been watching the last couple days."
Across 53 games with Columbus this season, the 25-year-old slashed .305/.405/.517 with eight home runs.
• Tribe third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall finally garnered enough plate appearances to qualify for league-leader status after making six trips to the plate on Wednesday. Chisenhall is hitting .324, which ranks fifth best in the AL.
• The White Sox have now hit 18 homers over their last 13 games after Conor Gillaspie hit a pinch-hit, two-run homer off Boston's Koji Uehara in Thursday's 4-3 loss. The South Siders also fell to 36-20 when going yard at least once.
Alec Shirkey is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.