The debate about Robinson Cano hitting second will continue as opponents weigh the pros and cons.
One claim proponents can use is that Cano watching Brett Gardner from the on-deck circle gives him a decent look at what the opposing pitcher is throwing.
Cano had a good look at the changeups Brandon McCarthy was throwing Gardner with two on and one out in the bottom of the fourth inning. And six pitches after Gardner struck out on the pitch, Cano slugged a three-run home run that made the difference in last night’s 4-2 win over the Diamondbacks.
Cano has spent most of the last two weeks batting second since manager Joe Girardi moved him there following a 1-for-8 start in two losses to the Red Sox. The early results were not good as Cano went 2-for-15 in the first four games of the experiment.
However, starting with a three-hit, two-homer performance in Cleveland on April 8, Cano is 16-for-43 (.372) with four home runs and 11 RBIs in five games hitting behind Gardner.
“Robby got going and we got going as a team,” Girardi said. “It was a big three-run home run tonight and it ends up being the game-winning hit. It seemed like when he got hot, we got hot and our offense took off.”
Behind Cano, who did not hit his fourth home run last year until May 18, the Yankees won for the sixth time in seven games. They have hit 13 home runs in that span and are hitting .321 as a team.
“I haven’t realized that,” Cano said of his hot stretch coinciding with New York’s surge. “I’m in the top of the lineup and you want to get on base for your guys. The team has been really good lately.”
“It means a lot when you hear it from your manager. Those are the kinds of things that I come here and be ready to play the game. That’s what you want. You want to be here and the guy that they can count on.”
Although he struck out twice in three at-bats against McCarthy, Cano had the opportunity to watch 16 pitches. Four of them were changeups, including the pitch on the corner Gardner swung at.
“That’s what you want,” Cano said. “Not only is he a guy that sees a lot of pitches, he’s a guy that can hit and has good numbers. That’s what you want to be. You want a guy like him [ahead of] you.”
Cano got ahead of McCarthy on two cut fastballs and a changeup. After taking a changeup for a called strike on the outside corner and fouling off a curveball, Cano saw another changeup. But this one was over the middle of the plate and it was crushed into the lower rows of the right-center field bleachers behind the Yankee bullpen.
“I think he has the ability to hit the ball to all fields,” Girardi said. “Robby’s never been a guy that’s just been strictly a pull guy. So he’s not afraid to hit the ball out the other way on a fastball. We saw him do that a few times in Cleveland. So I think that allows him to cover a variety of pitches because he doesn’t sit fastball and say I need to pull it, I’ll hit it the other way and I think he’s able to adjust to pitches better.”
Cano’s first home run at Yankee Stadium this season enabled Ivan Nova to pick up his first win after rainouts in Cleveland caused his turn to be skipped. In his first start since April 5, Nova gave the Yankees five innings while allowing two runs and seven hits.
Nova threw 71 pitches over his first three innings as he struggled with fastball command. He threw 23 to the final eight hitters as his fastball grew better and then four relievers combined on four scoreless innings.
Follow Yankees beat writer Larry Fleisher on Twitter @LarryFleisher.