- Last Updated: 4:16 PM, September 13, 2012
- Posted: 3:22 AM, September 13, 2012
BOSTON — At the prime age of 29, it is Robinson Cano’s time. If he succeeds, the Yankees have a chance. If he doesn’t, the Yankees don’t have a prayer.
“We need him now more than ever,’’ Alex Rodriguez said Wednesday night as the Yankees beat the rancid Red Sox, 5-4 at Fenway Park. “In many ways, as he goes, so goes the team.’’
Cano’s importance to the team grew as the night went on because Derek Jeter aggravated a left ankle bone bruise in the eighth lunging at first base and had to leave the game. Cano’s two-run home run in the fourth, his career-high 30th, gave the Yankees a 3-1 lead. Cano also made a nifty double play in the sixth, after jamming his left hand diving for a ground ball on the previous play. Cano’s home run, plus two home runs from another lefty, Curtis Granderson carried the offense on a night the Yankees (0-for-13) struggled again with runners in scoring position.
When Jeter went down, Cano said he was concerned.
“I was worried,” he said. “That’s the last guy you want to see going down. Hopefully he’ll be back in the game [tonight].’’
Cano told The Post he is ready to take charge down the stretch. He came into the night batting .347 this season in Yankees victories and hitting .245 in Yankees losses. In the five-game loss to the Tigers last year in the ALDS, Cano batted .444 in the Yankees’ wins and .230 in their losses.
Control Cano, and you control the Yankees.
With Mark Teixeira already out with a calf injury, it is even more important that Cano produce. Of course, it’s easier to pitch around Cano with all the injuries.
Cano’s home run came against right-hander Aaron Cook. Cano came into the night batting .352 vs. right-handers. Twenty-four of his 30 home runs have come against righties. Cano is hitting .224 vs. left-handers.
“This franchise is all about winning and the first five or six years you learn from the guys that have been here a long time,’’ Cano said. “But I am ready now to do what I have to make this team win. This is my time. It’s time for me to get the job done. It’s time for me to step it up.’’
Those have to be encouraging words for Yankees fans, because in many ways, Cano is the engine of the Yankees’ offense.
Overall, Cano is batting .300 with 30 home runs, 38 doubles and 77 RBIs. In 2011, Cano hit .302 with 28 home runs and 118 RBIs. The Yankees and Cano have had trouble all season hitting with runners in scoring position. Cano came into the night batting .237 with runners in scoring position. That is an area he must improve and as he said, “Step it up.’’
The way the Yankees lineup is currently structured there has not been a lot of balance, so it is imperative Cano gets hot and stays hot down the stretch.
“There’s a lot of ways you can help the team,’’ Cano said. “You can do it on defense or offense.’’
Jeter’s injury was just another reminder last night how fragile these Yankees are. Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte, Rodriguez and Teixeira all have been knocked down by big injuries.
The Yankees don’t have much room for error. Last night’s one-run victory made them 18-22 this season in one-run games. They remain tied for first in the AL East with the Orioles, who beat the Rays, 3-2. Baltimore is 26-7 this season in one-run games.
This is the most important time of the season and the Yankees need their best hitter, Cano, to step up to the plate and come up with the critical hit.
The burden is on Cano to deliver down the stretch just like he did last night at Fenway, taking a pitch the other way for the home run. The fragile Yankees need him now more than ever. This has to be his time if the Yankees are to survive this AL East battle and do damage in the postseason.