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Perkins, Suzuki named to AL All-Star Team

Playing in the shadows of the Midsummer Classic in Minneapolis, the Twins and Rays open the second half of their season with plenty of work to do.

On the heels of Target Field playing host to the All-Star Game and the Majors' best players, the ballpark on Friday will turn to hosting a series between two teams fighting to gain ground in their respective divisions.

"They nailed that ballpark. I love that ballpark," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "We like going up there to play. But in the aftermath of the All-Star Game, there should be kind of an exciting vibe going on with the city, and it's a great city."

There is building excitement for the Rays, who, after spending much of the season as bottom-dwellers in the American League East, are tied for fourth and within nine games of .500. The return to relevance in a winnable division came by posting the division's best record (20-11) from June 11 leading into the break.

On the final day of June, the Rays owned the Majors' worst record, but they have since surpassed eight teams. Sitting nine games back of the Orioles entering Sunday night, the Rays have a tall task ahead of them in the season's second half.

Since 1933, only eight teams have been nine or more games back at the All-Star break and eventually made the postseason.

"There's no letting up right now," Maddon said. "We have to keep winning series."

The Twins, meanwhile, are 10 1/2 games back in the AL Central. Only three teams since 1933 have made the postseason after being 10 or more games back at the break -- one of those teams was the 2006 Twins (11 games back).

Minnesota's 44 wins are actually a bright spot for a franchise that has fallen on difficult times in recent seasons. This is the best All-Star break record for the club since it went 46-42 in 2010. Yet the Twins have battled inconsistency in the first half with two five-, two four- and one three-game losing streak.

"Pitching and offensively, we've been too streaky and that's why you end up with those losing streaks of four, five or six games," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "You've got to stay away from those things, be a little more consistent, figure out a way to win series. We've been too streaky."

Rays: First half ends on high note at Tropicana Field
Tampa Bay's win Sunday continued its streak of 22 unbeaten home series against the Blue Jays (20-0-2), which includes a three-game sweep in Orlando in 2008.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, 22 straight unbeaten series at Tropicana Field (not counting the Orlando series) is the longest unbeaten streak by a team in its own ballpark against one opponent since the Rays went 25 series at Fenway Park without a series victory from 2002-08.

Twins: Day games rack up in season's first half
With an afternoon finale concluding the season's first half Sunday, the Twins head to the break tied with the Cubs for the most afternoon matchups this season.

In all, the Twins played 46 of their first 94 games during the day, going 22-24. The trend of day games will continue into the first homestand of the second half, as three of 10 games at Target Field immediately following the break are scheduled for the afternoon.

Worth noting
• Kevin Kiermaier's eight home runs with the Rays are more than he's hit at any stop in his professional career. He hit just 15 home runs in 1,448 Minor League at-bats.

• Two of former Rays outfielder Carl Crawford's records are likely to fall in short order after the break. Evan Longoria is four RBIs short of tying Crawford's Rays record of 592, while Ben Zobrist (214) and Longoria (213) are both close to Crawford's club record of 215 doubles.

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