DENVER -- By the time he came to bat in the third inning of Thursday's game against the Colorado Rockies, the New York Yankees' Robinson Cano was in the midst of what for him constitutes a slump. He had been hitless in his first nine at-bats of the series, and six of those outs were grounders to second base. Two others were strikeouts.
So when he reached base in the third inning on an infield single, it was more than a milestone -- his 1,500th major league hit -- it might also have been the beginning of a hot streak. Because the next time he came to bat, more than two hours later due to the long rain delay that cut the game into two sections, he crushed a fastball into the Rockies' bullpen to provide the insurance run in what would become a 3-1 Yankees victory.
That hit, too, was a milestone, the 186th home run of his career -- all as a Yankee -- a total that moved him ahead of Paul O'Neill on the club's home run list.
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But Cano wasn't done there; a play he made in the field in the seventh inning might have been just as important to this victory as the home run, when he effortlessly plucked a throw from pitcher Preston Claiborne that seemed headed for center field and turned it into a crucial double play. The play did more than erase a leadoff baserunner -- when the Rockies followed with two singles, it looked as if it might have prevented them from tying the game, as well.
Cano, to his credit, did not laugh off the suggestion that perhaps he had been in a slump coming into the game.
"Yeah, I been chasing everything, swinging at everything," he said. "That’s not what you want to do in the games. I had time to sit down with [hitting coach] Kevin Long between the games, and we took a little bit of everything. We just agreed that I’ve just got to get deeper and get your pitch."
It was the kind of overall effort the Yankees have come to rely on from Cano, especially with their roster so injury-depleted Joe Girardi was forced to use Vernon Wells at third base on Wednesday night.
Cano will have a lifetime to savor his final numbers, but he did acknowledge that reaching 1,500 hits -- he is the sixth active member of the Yankees' roster to have attained that number -- was special to him.
"It means a lot," he said. "I would say it’s one of my dreams come true. When you get to the bigs, you want to be successful. And this is one of the things that I told myself could come if I just keep working hard every day. You just forget about that now, and just keep playing."