Thursday, April 11, 2013

Cano - Cleveland - Kapow

No one was more annoyed at Robinson Cano than the Dominican-born star himself. A 3-23 start helped contribute to a 2-4 Yankees record and the second baseman realized very quickly that he was trying to do too much at the plate.

Cano is a smoother operator than the subject of Sade's 1984 hit song. So when things go wrong, fans, media, etc. say he doesn't care, he's not trying..yada yada yada. (I'll save the stupidity of Colin Cowherd's "Robinson Cano plays harder for the Dominican Republic than for the Yankees" for another time. Kudos though to ESPN's Pedro Gomez for pointing out the silliness of that statement.)

Cano cared very much after those first six contests against the Red Sox and Tigers produces no extra base hits, runs, or RBI. He knows that with the plethora of injuries that have beset the Yankees, he is now the go to guy. Even without the injuries, he's the go to guy. The team's best hitter, the player that will secure the #3 spot in the order, a leader by example if not by words. The added pressure of playing for a new contract certainly couldn't have helped.

So when the Yankees came to Cleveland on Monday, Cano relaxed and stopped chasing pitches out of the zone, and started to crush the baseball.  After hitting into a right side shift earlier in the week, Cano started to drive the ball with authority the other way. The result was back to back Yankees wins in which Cano went 7-10 (.700) with 3 HRs, 7 RBI, and 3 doubles. His OPS went from .330 to 1.028 in two days and the Yankees won 11-6 and 14-3.

A Wednesday night rain out hopefully won't slow Cano and the Yankees, who have won three straight, down. (Thursday night's game is currently in a rain delay at the 7:05 EDT start time.)

What's everyone else up to?

Not to be overlooked the Yankees pitching has stepped up in the streak.

CC Sabathia is still working his way back to full strength, but he blanked the Tigers for seven innings Sunday to salvage the finale of the three game series in Detroit.  Hiroki Kuroda and his bruised finger struggled on Monday's opener in Cleveland, but he gutted his way through 5.1 innings to give the Yankees their first winning streak of the season.

Andy Pettitte, who was solid in an eight inning performance in the lone win of the three game set with Boston to start the year, was strong again Tuesday night with a seven inning victory.

After a woeful start offensively, just about everyone picked it up in the finale in Detroit and the first two games in Cleveland. For a team not supposed to hit home runs,  Cano (3 times), Kevin Youkilis, Brennan Boesch, Lyle Overbay, Ichiro Suzuki, Jayson Nix, and Travis Hafner all went deep during the winning streak.

Hafner got a huge ovation when he was introduced in his return to Cleveland on Monday, which was also the team's 2013 home opener. Like any good Yankees hater though, the fans booed when Hafner came up to bat the first time. He quickly reminded them of one of the reasons they loved him when he slugged a 3-run home run.

Another reason for the Yankees slow start was the inability of Brett Gardner to get on base. The team's table setter was just 5-30 through the team's first seven games, but had four hits and a walk on Tuesday. He also knocked in a pair of runs, scored three times, and had two doubles.

The Yankees need their second table setter at the bottom of the order to get going as well. Ichiro Suzuki has not swung the bat well since the season opener. He did have two hits and in RBI in Monday's win, but was just 1-5, albeit the one hit a line drive home run, on Tuesday. He's just 5-27 for the season with a .530 OPS.

As for the bullpen, things have been up and down. Shawn Kelley and Joba Chamberlain have been dreadful (at least Joba shaved off his equally dreadful mustache.) Adam Warren, who I thought should have been released at the end of Spring Training, has done an outstanding job in the long man/mop up role.

Mariano Rivera has one save and appeared in just two ball games thus far. That's all we've seen from David Robertson as well, both scoreless appearances. Left-hander Boone Logan has been inconsistent and remains the lone lefty in the pen.

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