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Twins Look To Split Series With Rays

(Sports Network) - Tampa Bay is the best road team in the majors and will try to show why when the Rays take on the Minnesota Twins in the finale of a four-game set at Target Field.

Tampa, which is currently two games behind the Yankees for first place in the AL East, comes into this matchup with an outstanding 27-14 ledger on the road.

However, taking the ball for the Rays this afternoon will be James Shields, who has dropped seven of his last eight starts, including his last two.

The last time Shields was on the hill he surrendered five runs in a loss to Boston. In the contest the right-hander only lasted five innings, allowing seven hits, while striking out six batters.

Shields has been mediocre at best on the road this season, posting a 5-4 ledger with a 4.00 earned run average in nine games.

This will be the veteran's seventh career start against Minnesota, and although he is 2-1 in those outings, he also possesses a lackluster 5.15 earned run average.

The Twins will turn this afternoon to Nick Blackburn, who snapped a five-game winless streak with a solid performance against Detroit. In the 11-4 win over the Tigers, Blackburn tossed seven innings, allowing four runs on seven hits, but he also struck out four batters.

Overall on the year Blackburn has been inconsistent, but at Target Field the right-hander has been sensational, posting a 5-0 mark with a 3.47 earned run average in seven starts at home.

However, the Rays have been a thorn in the side for Blackburn. In three career starts against Tampa, Blackburn is 2-1, but has a horrendous ERA of 6.28.

Yesterday, Matt Joyce's pinch-hit grand slam put the finishing touches on Tampa Bay's seven-run eighth inning, highlighting an 8-6 comeback win over Minnesota.

The Rays, who split the first two in this set, were stymied by Francisco Liriano through seven innings before rallying against the Twins' bullpen.

Carl CrawfordEvan Longoria and Willy Aybar each drove in a run during the game-shifting eighth. Crawford finished 2-for-5 with a pair of RBI in the win, which was credited to Randy Choate (1-2) for throwing a scoreless home seven.

The turnaround took Wade Davis off the hook after the starter surrendered four runs on eight hits in 4 1/3 innings.

Liriano threw seven innings of one-run ball but did not factor in the decision despite striking out 10 and allowing just four hits and a walk for the Twins, who had won three of four coming in.

Minnesota's Jim Thome went 3-for-4 with three RBI and hit a pair of home runs, the second moving him past Twins great Harmon Killebrew into sole possession of 10th place on the all-time home run list with 574.

These two clubs have split their six-game series in each of the last two years, with the Rays losing two of three at Minnesota a season ago.

Photographs by Micah Taylor, clairity, and Fibonacci Blue used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.