Among the more frequently used adjectives to describe Robinson Cano’s swing when it is going right are elegant and smooth.
For the last month, that swing has returned and there is no further proof than the amount of pitches that the All-Star second baseman has sent over fences recently.
The latest instance was during yesterday’s 4-2 victory over the White Sox, when Cano turned on a full-count cutter from Gavin Floyd and sent the pitch into the right-center seats for a two-run home run in the bottom of the third inning.
“When he’s locked in, he can hit the ball all over the place,” Derek Jeter said “Robby knows how to hit. When you play this game you go through stretches where you feel good and you feel bad. When you feel good like he does right now, he’s pretty tough to pitch to.”
“He’s playing a lot of [good] baseball,” manager Joe Girardi said. “You can see why he’s one of the most dangerous hitters in the game, just because of what he’s able to do.”
Cano was reluctant to say what has caused him to be so locked in. He would only credit the work he does with hitting coach Kevin Long during early batting practice and taking advantage of getting pitches to hit.
“I work hard outside hitting in the cage,” Cano said. “I’m just taking advantage of pitches over the middle of the plate.”
Cano headed into June with eight home runs and 31 RBI and only after a surge toward the end of May when he slugged four homers in his final eight games of the month. That burst also coincided with the start of the Yankees’ current hot streak that has seen them win 27-of-36 games since May 22.
In June, according to the website hittrackeronline.com, Cano hit 12 home runs that went an estimated 4,403 feet. He ended the month by hitting one in Saturday’s 4-0 win that went 385 feet to the second deck in right field.
A day later, his 20th home run went a similar distance. It marked his ninth home run in his last 14 games as well as the Yankees’ 23rd in their last 11 games.
Besides giving the Yankees the lead, it also seemed to calm Phil Hughes. Hughes allowed two runs and six hits over eight innings with all but one hit coming in the opening three frames.
“He’s been terrific for quite a while,” catcher Russell Martin said. “He knows he’s got good stuff right now.”
His biggest outs occurred when not pitching with a lead.
He gave up two runs in the first, but struck out A.J. Pierzynski with a curveball for the final out. In the third, he had first and third after a single to Paul Konerko and a double to Alex Rios, but retired Pierzynski on a pop-up, starting a stretch in which he retired 16-of-17.
Hughes also had some luck in his favor in the eighth inning as he improved to 8-2 since May 6.
Kevin Youkilis pulled a fastball into foul territory in left field and Adam Dunn pulled a curveball foul down the right field line. Dunn’s foul ball preceded Mark Teixeira’s leaping grab of his line drive for the second out of the eighth.
“He got in some long counts,” Girardi said. “He got in a long count with Dunn, a long count with Youkilis, but he had gotten them out all day except for the first inning. He had an easy seventh inning, an easy sixth inning and I just said let’s see what he can do; I want to see it and it worked out well.”
Follow Yankees beat writer Larry Fleisher on Twitter @LarryFleisher.