Did Robinson Cano ever need to come through in a situation like that!
Cano’s two-out, three-run homer to right-center off Randy Williams in the 10th lifted the Yankees to a 5-2 victory over the White Sox at Yankee Stadium on Friday, maintaining New York’s lead in the AL East at six games over the Red Sox.
For those interested, the Yankees’ magic number for clinching is 30, so they still have plenty of work to do.
It’s been a very strange year for Cano. His numbers look great: .313 batting average, 21 homers, 68 RBI with defense that has improved to the point where he can garner legitimate consideration for the Gold Glove (No Dave, I’m not saying Cano’s going to win the Gold Glove, just that his defense is worthy of being in the discussion).
But anyone who’s watched the Yankees on a regular basis knows Cano’s offensive numbers don’t tell the full story.
He has been miserable time in big, key, clutch situations. With runners in scoring position, he’s just 31-for-150 (.207) with three homers and 46 RBI. The 150 at-bats with runners in scoring position are among the league leaders, and his failures have many Yankees fans dreading when he steps up in a big spot.
And when Cano stepped to the plate with pinch runner Jerry Hairston Jr. at second and Nick Swisher at first, I know I was feeling pretty sure the game would be heading to the 11th.
In Thursday’s 7-2 painful loss to the Rangers and earlier in Friday’s game, Cano had three big opportunities to drive in key runs for the Yankees and failed.
Thursday, when the Yankees left a small army on base and managed only two runs against an ineffective Dustin Nipper, who was knocked out after 3-2/3 innings, Cano had two opportunities to break the game open. He came to bat in the first with the bases loaded and two outs, but his line drive down the left field line was caught by a well-positioned David Murphy. In the third he grounded out with runners on first and second and two outs, part of the Yankees’ 2-for-12 with RISP day.
And Friday he seemed to be enduring more of the same when he grounded out with the bases loaded and two outs in the fifth.
So when Hideki Matsui and Nick Swisher walked with two outs in the 10th, there really couldn’t be any legitimate reason to believe Cano would come through, other than he was simply due.
Cano worked the count to 2-and-2 when Williams put an 85 mph slider belt-high on the inner half that Cano jumped on crushed into the bleachers to set off the wild celebration and earn the whipped cream pie.
It was a great moment for Cano that hopefully will enhance his confidence and give a strong close to the season when he’s in clutch situations.
It also gave the Yankees a win on a night when CC Sabathia delivered yet another outstanding August start.
CC allowed two runs on eight hits and one walk in seven innings. He struck out 10 and threw 78 of 113 pitches for strike, but came away with a no-decision when he couldn’t escape the seventh with the lead.
Jermaine Dye led off with a double ahead of a walk to Carlos Quentin. Alex Rios followed with a double to make it 2-1. And when Alexei Ramirez lined out to second before Ramon Castro grounded into a fielder’s choice in which Alex Rodriguez gunned out Quentin at home, CC looked as if he might get out of the jam.
Jayson Nix, however, beat out an infield hit to load the bases for Gordon Beckham, whose single to right drove in Rios to tie it, with Castro being gunned out at the plate by Swisher.
The Yankees had built a 2-0 lead on leadoff homera by Derek Jeter and Johnny Damon in the first and third, respectively. And until the seventh, it looked as if that would be more than enough for Sabathia.
But the bullpen came on to pitch three outstanding innings, with Phil Hughes striking out the side in the eighth, Mariano Rivera retiring the side on 10 pitches in the ninth and Brian Bruney (4-0) picking up the win with a scoreless 10th that set the stage for Cano.
And for one day, Cano doesn’t have to worry about questions about his performance in the clutch.
He was the hero.
Runners In Scoring Position
Since A-Rod's Return May 8
Vs. Red Sox
Saturday vs. White Sox, 1:05 p.m., YES
Jose Contreras (5-12, 5.09 ERA) vs. Sergio Mitre (2-1, 6.82)
Expect this to be a slugfest, but if Mitre could ever give the Yankees at least five innings allowing no more than three runs, they’d be in great shape. Jake Peavy was supposed to make this start for the White Sox, but after getting hit in a rehab start, was scratched. Contreras was hit hard in his last start against the Red Sox Monday.