"I've looked at it over and over again. It's not going to be easy," Gardenhire said of the second-half schedule. "It's going to be a grind, and we'll see how the young guys handle it."
Perhaps the biggest challenge in the final 77 games for the Twins is a 15-day, 14-game road trip that features a three-city West Coast swing followed by an off-day in Toronto and then three games against the Blue Jays. It's part of a stretch where the Twins will play 24 of 30 games on the road.
The stint will certainly be tough, but closer Joe Nathan feels that the team has already endured its share of difficult stretches this season.
"Our first half was as tough as it gets," Nathan said. "It's not so much the long road trips but that stretch of 40 games in 41 days. That's the ultimate in grinding through it. Mentally and physically, your body is just drained, and we were able to make it through."
A positive for Minnesota is that it won't have to travel in the second half to either Chicago or Detroit, the two teams that currently appear to be its foes this season in the division race. The Twins will host the White Sox for seven games, including a four-game stretch July 28-31, and the Tigers for a three-game series in early September.
"I think it's a huge advantage for us that the games we have left with Chicago are at our house now," Nathan said. "They've played so well at their place this year that any chance you can get them outside of their comfort zone and put them in a spot where we've played well is definitely a good thing for us."
Before the travel starts, Minnesota will open up the second half by hosting Texas for a three-game series at the Metrodome. The Twins have had a lot of success at home in the first half, going 32-18 there, and that's once again where Minnesota feels it will have to do well if it's going to contend.
"Hopefully, we'll have learned more and play better on the road," Gardenhire said. "We always say, 'Play .500 or better on the road and then you kill them at home.' It's what you shoot for."
TEX: RHP Kevin Millwood (6-5, 5.11 ERA)
MIN: LHP Glen Perkins (6-2, 4.14 ERA)
Perkins was one of the surprises for the Twins in the first half. The left-hander has provided nine quality outings in his 13 starts before the All-Star break. His ability to pitch inside and challenge hitters has been a welcome addition and Minnesota will need to see more of that in the second half. He'll face Texas in his first post-break start. He gave up two earned runs over 6 1/3 innings in his lone start vs. the Rangers this season.
The Rangers need an improved second half from Millwood, who didn't get past the sixth inning in any of his last four starts. Millwood allowed 10 hits and five runs in Saturday's 9-7 loss to the Chicago White Sox. Millwood had a nice break after struggling with a groin injury the past few weeks. He has struggled against the Twins the past three years, going 0-4 with a 5.59 ERA. Millwood has pitched better against Minnesota in the Metrodome, where he is 0-2 with a 2.81 ERA.
Justin Morneau ended the first half in the midst of a seven-game hitting streak. He went 14-for-26 (.538) over those seven games. ... Class A Fort Myers right-hander Cole Devries was named the Twins' Minor League Player of the Week for the week ending July 11. Devries went 1-0 with a four-hit complete-game win over Vero Beach. A native of Eden Prairie, Minn., who played at the University of Minnesota, Devries is 7-6 with a 2.45 ERA in 17 appearances (16 starts) this season. ... According to the Elias Sports Bureau, in Saturday's win over Detroit, Brendan Harris became only the second shortstop in the past 20 years to record an RBI in four or more plate appearances in a game. Alex Rodriguez did it in 2000. ... Nathan is 26-for-26 in save opportunities against Detroit, which according to the Elias Sports Bureau is the most saves without a blown conversion by any active player.
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Official game notes
Saturday: Twins (Livan Hernandez, 9-6, 5.44) vs. Rangers (Eric Hurley, 1-1, 3.57), 6:10 p.m. CT
Sunday: Twins (Scott Baker, 6-2, 3.47) vs. Rangers (Vicente Padilla, 10-5, 4.70), 1:10 p.m. CT
Monday: Twins (Nick Blackburn, 7-5, 3.65) at Yankees (TBD), 6:05 p.m. CT