Girardi, who had earlier in the day said his players needed to step up with Alex Rodriguez on the disabled list, added that Cano went "a couple rungs up the ladder" on Sunday.
Cano came to the plate in the fifth with the Yankees clinging to a 1-0 lead and the bases loaded, courtesy of an intentional walk to Mark Teixeira. Facing left-hander Luke French, Cano launched the first pitch, a slider, into the bleachers in right field. The slam was the Yankees' 10th this season, which ties a franchise record set in 1987.
"I was just, 'OK, just get a good pitch that I can hit,'" Cano said of his reaction to seeing Teixeira walked intentionally. "That's the approach every at-bat."
It was the fourth time this season that Teixeira has been intentionally walked; on three of those occasions, the following batter has hit a grand slam. In the four innings in which Teixeira has been intentionally walked, the Yankees have scored 18 runs. Since he joined the Yanks, Teixeira has been intentionally walked to load the bases 10 times, with the subsequent hitter going 7-for-8 with four home runs and 25 RBIs.
"It just shows you how deep our lineup is," Girardi said. "You can pitch around Tex, and there's someone behind Tex that can really make you pay. It makes it tough on the other clubs."
"It's kind of a pick your poison kind of situation there," Seattle manager Daren Brown said. "You're just looking to get one pitch to get out of that inning."
An inning later, Teixeira was again walked -- this time unintentionally -- to load the bases for Cano, who lined a two-run single into right.
In his 12 games this season subbing for Rodriguez in the cleanup spot, Cano is batting .375 (18-for-48) with six home runs and 19 RBIs.
"I like that. That's a situation where you want to be there because the team trusts you," Cano said. "The guy who was there before is having a heck of a year, 100 RBIs. I want to do the job with men on base."
Cano has certainly done that all season. He leads the team in average, on-base percentage, slugging and hits. He's batting .302 with runners in scoring position and .615 with the bases loaded. With the other cogs of the Yankees' lineup sparring with injuries and slumps at various points throughout the season, Cano has remained the constant.
"My thoughts on Robby as a player -- and not just this year and not just today -- he's a great player," said CC Sabathia. "He makes pretty much every play you can make."
Cano wasn't the only consistent contributor showcased at the Stadium on a rainy Sunday. Sabathia submitted his 16th consecutive quality start, although this was the first of those in which he did not pitch into the seventh inning. The blame for that must be put on nature, with a 57-minute rain delay interrupting the action in the middle of the sixth and preventing Sabathia from continuing despite having thrown only 76 pitches.
"It's an ace being an ace, and being extremely consistent and having a good feeling for what he's doing every time he goes out there," Girardi said. "The consistency is unbelievable."
Sabathia didn't allow a hit until Franklin Gutierrez's leadoff double in the fifth. Two batters later, on Adam Moore's sharp single to right, Nick Swisher threw out Gutierrez at the plate -- even though replays showed Jorge Posada tagged Gutierrez while the ball was in his other hand. Swisher's eighth outfield assist of the season protected the Yankees' one-run lead in a play Sabathia called "huge."
Cano hit the grand slam a frame later, and the outcome of the game was more or less decided. Sabathia hasn't allowed more than three earned runs since before Memorial Day.
Sabathia allowed three hits in the six innings while striking out eight and hitting a batter. His consistency has grown to the point of becoming commonplace. Only six innings? Three whole hits? The left-hander himself was, at best, muted in his self-evaluation.
"[My stuff] was pretty good," he said. "My fastball command was all right, the two-seamer was good."
Pretty good and all right -- the descriptors of choice for the American League's leader in wins with 17.
Sabathia further extended his regular-season unbeaten streak at home to 20 games, during which he's 15-0 with a 2.17 ERA. The streak stretches back to July 18, 2009 and is the longest by a Yankee since Ron Guidry won 16 decisions in a row from 1985-1986. In Sabathia's two seasons in pinstripes, the Yankees are 41-20 when he starts.
"You can give my wife credit for that -- her cooking," Sabathia joked. "It's one of those things that can't be explained."
Sunday was proof, then, that even as the Yankees juggle their starting rotation and their lineup because of injuries and ineffectiveness, there remain the two constant pillars of Cano and Sabathia -- consistent in their excellence, and excellent in their consistency.