Trevor Plouffe has a five-game hitting streak going, but he’s still playing on a sore right knee. With an off-day coming tomorrow, Paul Molitor sensed an opportunity.

    “We’ve give him a chance to calm it down today and tomorrow,” the manager said of his decision to bench his current cleanup hitter, despite his 6-for-20 stretch.

    It also gives Molitor a chance to get Eduardo Escobar back in the lineup, with too-hot-to-bench Eduardo Nunez moving to third base for a day. The Twins hope to generate a little more offense — they’ve scored a total of 19 runs in their last six games — even with Plouffe out of the lineup.

    Of course, the offense won’t matter much if they don’t get better pitching from Tyler Duffey, who owns an 8.47 ERA over his last three starts, including a 10-hit outing in just 4 2/3 innings last Tuesday at Oakland.

    “He’s still learning, on the days where he might not have his best stuff, [how to] find ways to get through and settle into some kind of rhythm,” Molitor said of the second-year righthander. “He needs fastball command to make his curveball, which we know is an outstanding pitch, more effective. In Oakland, he didn’t have that fastball command. [There were] a lot of hitter’s counts. So his mindset today is going to be more attack the zone early, try to get ahead, and hopefully be able to use his curveball to throw people off.

    The Twins need a victory to claim a split of the four-game series with Tampa Bay, and break a streak of four straight series losses at home. Here are the lineups for today’s finale with the Rays:

RAYS

 

Mahtook CF

Miller SS

Longoria 3B

Morrison 1B

Pearce DH

Dickerson LF

Souza RF

Conger C

Beckham 2B

 

Smyly LHP

 

TWINS

 

Nunez 3B

Dozier 2B

Mauer DH

Park 1B

Grossman LF

Escobar SS

Kepler RF

Suzuki C

Buxton CF

 

Duffey RHP

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