La Velle E. Neal III has covered baseball for the Star Tribune since 1998 (the post-Knoblauch era). Born and raised in Chicago, he grew up following the White Sox and hating the Cubs. He attended both the University of Illinois and Illinois-Chicago and began his baseball writing career at the Kansas City Star. He can be heard occasionally on KFAN radio, lending his great baseball mind to Paul Allen and other hosts. Mark Rosen borrows him occasionally for WCCO-TV.

Three Twins postgame thoughts from LEN3: The Royals, Mauer power. Hendriks

Posted by: La Velle E. Neal III Updated: September 1, 2012 - 11:17 PM

Three quick thoughts after six hours of baseball on Saturday

1. The Royals. The long time Royals beat writer - and my first editor when I started at the Kansas City Star in 1989 - is Bob Dutton. He turned me on to an unbelievable stat. The Royals are 7-23 against the last place teams in the AL - the Twins, Blue Jays and Mariners. The Twins lead the season series 10-4. Whenever I watch the Twins play the Royals, it's clear the Twins are the better team. So how in the heck did the Twins begin the day 61/2 games back of them? Riddle me that.

2. Mauer power. I had to chuckle when Mauer stepped to the plate and took a strike right down the middle from Luke Hochevar with the bases loaded in the second inning. Hochevar's pitching GPS was broken but even he knew he could lay the first pitch down the middle of the plate against Mauer. But Mauer entered the game 13-for-26 against Hochevar in his career, and he made it 17-for-27 with a long home run to right for his third career grand slam. It also was the fourth home run Mauer has hit to right or right-center this season. Mauer has nine home runs, and I think he can hit three more this month. He has 72 RBI and I think he can get to 85, which is the second-highest total of this career.

3. Liam Hendriks. The man was on fire against Seattle on Monday but wasn't the same against the Royals. Hendriks had a six-run lead after two innings but nearly gave it all back. He got two outs in the fourth, then was done for the evening four batters later. Trevor Plouffe's error didn't help the cause, but Hendriks has to make a pitch and get out of that inning. "I felt really good on the mound, felt really strong," he said. "The fastball was down. A lot of those hits were decent pitches. A couple were up, but a lot were decent pitches." The hunt for Hendriks first win continues. There's going to be a celebration when that happens. "These are trying hard for that, believe me," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "They want to see him get it, and so do I. But he's going to have to earn it."

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