Power hitting, bullpen continue to propel Yanks
Ever since returning from Kansas City where his ears were besieged by boos at the All-Star Game, Robinson Cano has generated the usual sounds of cheering at Yankee Stadium. It was Cano who started the Yankees toward their 29th come-from-behind victory with a two-run home run that erased the 2-0 deficit the Yankees faced at the start of the inning.
They used a familiar formula – power hitting and ensemble relief pitching – to continue their winning ways Saturday in a 5-3 victory over the Angels. Cano and Curtis Granderson supplied the power with two-run homers, and Robinson added a key tack-on run in the sixth with an RBI single.
The Stadium crowd of 47,789 loved it. They have regarded Cano exactly the opposite of how he was treated in KC. Cano stumbled somewhat coming out of the game this season, but ever since he heated up the sizzle hasn’t stopped. Even the one part of his game that continued to be questioned he had answers for Saturday. The second baseman entered the game batting .190 with runners in scoring position and proceeded to go 2-for-3 (.667) in those situations.
“Remember in the first few months people were asking about Robbie,” manager Joe Girardi said, “but he has turned it around.”
Has he ever? During a club-high, 17-game hitting streak, Cano has batted .391 with five doubles, six home runs, 19 RBI, 10 runs and nine multi-hit games in 69 at-bats. He has had the longest hitting streak for a Yankees player in each of the past four seasons (also 17 games in 2011, 17 in 2010 and 18 in 2009). Cano has hit 17 home runs in his past 45 games since May 22 after having hit four homers in his first 42 games. Of his 21 homers, 14 have come at the Stadium, including 10 in his past 17 games in the Bronx since June 6.
The first-inning homer off Angels righthander Jerome Williams was impressive. It was a drive to the opposite field with the ball hitting the top of the fence in left-center and carrying on the fly over the visitors bullpen and into the bleachers.
“That was big to bounce back,” Girardi said. “To answer quickly was very important.”
The blow allowed Freddy Garcia time to settle in, and the veteran righthander came through with a thoroughly acceptable outing from a fifth starter with five functional innings. In the third, Granderson reached the second deck in right for his 24th homer to put the Yanks ahead for good.
Cody Eppley, who has been a real find this season for the Yankees, took over for Garcia in the sixth and allowed one hit. Five of the six outs he recorded were in the infield and four on ground balls.
“He has good movement on his fastball and is good at getting ground balls,” Girardi said.
The manager could then go to his post-Mariano Rivera rotation for the late innings with David Robertson working the eighth and Rafael Soriano the ninth; two more scoreless innings from them and save No. 22 for Soriano in 23 opportunities.
“It’s hard to say where we would be without Soriano,” said Girardi, who also deserves credit for manipulating the relief corps so well. “It is hard if you don’t know what you have. My responsibility is to put them in spots where they can be successful.”
That success has given the Yankees the largest lead of any division winner in the majors and prompted a question to Girardi about where he would rank this team among the four he has managed since 2008.
“Well, we won 103 games in the regular season in 2009 when we won the World Series,” Girardi said, naming the obvious choice. “I have had clubs that hit more, but this team plays together as well as you can. Some individuals’ numbers could be better, but contributions have been coming from everybody”