Here are three thoughts following the Twins' 5-4 loss to Tampa Bay in Thursday

ROTATION NEEDS TO STEP UP: The Twins finished 6-4 on this road trip, but is sure wasn't because of strong starting pitching. Twins starters posted a 5.27 ERA over the 10 games, and that's not going to get them to where they want to go, Consequently, the bullpen entered Thursday having thrown the third-most inning in the AL since they began the trip. Only two starters - TWO - pitched more than six innings. Tyler Duffey's strong outing in Baltimore BY FAR was their best outing of the trip. ``Obviously as starters, we want to get at least six innings and we haven't been able to do that.'' The nice thing about a 10-game trip is that it is two full turns through the rotation. Here's how many innings each starter threw on the trip, in order of appearance:

Kyle Gibson: 10.2

Mike Pelfrey: 10.0

Erin Santana: 10.1

Tyler Duffey: 13.0

Tommy Milone: 10.2

That's right TYLER DUFFEY is the horse of the rotation right now. The Twins won't be a wild card holder with starts like that. How in the heck did the Twins go 6-4 on this trip? The Glen Perkins-less bullpen posted a 3.03 ERA and save four games, and the offense averaged 6.0 runs a game. Things go in cycles. The rotation suffered because offense and bullpen issues at times this season, so maybe this is the correction. But multiple starters need to step up.

BUXTON HAD A ROUGH ONE: Byron Buxton was pinch hit for in the ninth inning after striking out four times. ``It wasn't happening for him tonight,'' Twins manager Paul Molitor said, `` and I thought the best chance was to get someone else up there and give him some swings, given the way his night had gone.'' Molitor said it looked like Buxton was having trouble seeing the ball, and I agree. Buxton was swinging and missing 91-mph Drew Smyly fastballs as if he was facing a 21-year old Frank Tanana. And Buxton has been more dangerous against lefties. Twins outfielder Torii Hunter spoke to Buxton after he was taken out. ``I told him I've been there before and you don't have to like it,'' Hunter said. ``You try to make it your last one, although it's probably going to happen again. Don't worry about it.'' 

DOME BALL: Twitter lit up after Miguel Sano was given a double in the third inning on a ball that was headed to the Captain Morgan deck in left-center. Folks in the press estimated that the ball would have traveled 430 feet. ``I'm sure that over time they have concluded that the ground rules that are in place are best suited for the facility they have,'' Molitor said. The response on twitter was passionate. Twins fans, you have no right to complain after dozens of games in which Dome baseball broke your way. The blind spot down the left field line. The Mo Vaughn blast that was headed for I-94 but hit a speaker for a double. And the person in charge of turning on the fans when the home team batted. O.K.. I embellished a bit on that last one.


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