I’m flying to Detroit this morning, and when I get there, I’m going to host a chat starting at 2 p.m. (we were shooting for noon, but my flight keeps getting delayed). Stop by if you can. I’m sure some of you have plenty to say. Until then…
What’s wrong with Robinson Cano?
Alex Rodriguez has been benched and pulled for pinch hitters. Curtis Granderson has swung and missed so often that some prefer a center fielder with three Major League at-bats since April. Nick Swisher’s postseason struggles have reached a point that even his fans in the right field bleachers are booing him.
But the most unexpected problem — and perhaps the most damaging problem — in the Yankees lineup is Cano.
The team’s best hitter, who seemed primed to carry this offense after his monster performance down the stretch, has set a franchise record for the longest hitless at-bats streak in Yankees postseason history. He’s gone 26 at-bats without a hit.
“When things don’t go your way and you start to struggle a little bit, you feel added pressure,” hitting coach Kevin Long said. “I’m sure he feels some added pressure. It’s my job to make sure that we kind of go through his at-bats, go through his approach, make sure he’s understanding what’s happening and go from there. And we will.”
Cold at the wrong time
In his final nine games of the regular season, Cano hit .615/.628/1.026 to help the Yankees clinch the division. In the 2010 and 2011 postseasons, Cano hit .333/.367/.737 with six home runs in 14 games. It’s hard to make a case that Cano simply doesn’t handle the pressure of big games. Hitters go through peaks and valleys — we all know this — and Cano’s obviously hit the bottom at the worst time.
“This game, it’s a very cruel game sometimes,” Mark Teixiera said. “When you’re hot, it’s fun and you enjoy it and the team’s winning and you’re putting up your numbers. When you’re cold it stinks. I’ve been cold plenty of times and it’s not a fun feeling. Robbie just, he’s been a little unlucky too. Let’s not (forget), he’s hit some balls hard this series.”
Hitting into bad luck
Players and coaches say this all the time, and there’s usually a bit of truth to it, but it’s not the sort of thing anyone wants to hear. Yes, Cano has hit some balls awfully hard this postseason. It’s easiest to point to that ball off the pitcher on Saturday night, but there have been some balls driven to the outfield as well.
“(Saturday) was a prime example of a guy who I thought swung the bat really well and got nothing,” Long said. “He got nothing, guys. He lined out to left, he lined out to left, he hit a ball hard off the pitcher, and he hit a ball hard to first. What did he get, 0-for-6? And what does that look like, he stunk? He didn’t stink (Saturday). Some things have to go his way too.”
Make your own luck
Cano can be a free swinger. That’s always been the case. He’s going to take some hacks at some bad pitches, but that approach has worked for him. He’s probably heading toward a third straight season finishing Top 10 in MVP voting. But we’ve also seen that approach lead to some slumps like this. When Cano goes cold, it can be all the more maddening because of how good he can be when things are going right.
“It is odd,” Joe Girardi said. “You know this is a really, really good hitter that is struggling right now, and he’s not getting a lot of pitches to hit. So it’s odd to me because this guy’s really a good hitter.”
Nothing to do but keep swinging
Cano doubled in each of the first two games of this postseason. He had three RBI, reached base three times and never struck out in those first two games. He’d been hotter at the end of the regular season, but those two games in Baltimore weren’t cause for extreme alarm. As bad as the overall numbers are at this point, it really does come down to five hitless games. Cano’s not going to be benched for that, and his talent is too great to take him out of a key spot in the order. The Yankees need him to hit, and the’re going to keep giving him chances.
“There’s no explanation for that (hitless streak),” Cano said. “All you can say is forget about what happened in the past few games, be positive and ready for Tuesday. … You just have to keep swinging. You keep playing the game, and that’s the only way you can turn it around.”
Associated Press photos