In September, players kick it into overdrive in an attempt to push their teams into the playoff hunt. When there's something more on the line -- say, a batting title perhaps, or a division championship -- athletes will excel even more.
Robinson Cano has maintained that he wasn't concerned about being the best hitter in baseball, he was just happy to be able to contribute. That didn't stop the Yankees' second baseman from turning on the heat in September, batting .373 (41-for-110) to win American League Player of the Month accolades.
"I think someday [Cano] will hit a lot of home runs," manager Joe Torre said. "He uses the whole field, and I don't know if there's any one way you can pitch to him to get him out consistently."
The 23-year-old started on a tear on Sept. 4, against the Royals, when he went 4-for-5 with a double, a home run, three RBIs and two runs scored in the 12-5 win. Before the month was through, Cano had hit safely in 25 of 28 games, including a 12-game streak from Sept. 18-30. In September he racked up 11 doubles, seven homers and 28 RBIs, and boasted a .664 slugging percentage.
"I'm seeing the ball pretty good and getting the hits at the right time," said Cano after the Sept. 14 game, in which he drove in the game-tying and winning runs. "That's what you need."
On Sept. 11, Cano hit a three-run double during a 9-6 victory over Baltimore that put the Yankees 30 games over .500 for the first time in the season. He then drove in three runs on Sept. 14 to help New York finish a three-game sweep of Tampa Bay, which pushed it to the cusp of an AL East championship. Through it all, the sophomore remained cool and calm, refusing to read too much into his success.
And that's a lot coming from a guy with 13 multihit games in September, and seven multiple-RBI outings as well.
Though Cano's .342 season average wasn't quite enough to earn a batting title (he finished third, behind Minnesota's Joe Mauer and teammate Derek Jeter), it went a long way in making New York the team to beat heading into the playoffs.
"We don't have a soft spot in the lineup," Torre said on Sept. 14 after Cano went 2-for-3 with five RBIs in an 8-4 win over Tampa Bay. "Now, with [Hideki] Matsui in there, we don't have any shortage of productive people. We have a lot of good energy right now."
This was Cano's first Player of the Month Award. He edged out Oakland's Frank Thomas (.265, 10 homers, 31 RBIs) in the voting, as well as Twins outfielder Torii Hunter and teammate Alex Rodriguez.
Dawn Klemish is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.