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Cano's bat heats up

Cano's bat heats up

NEW YORK -- Afternoon skies didn't always invoke sunny feelings in Robinson Cano. The Yankees second baseman used to melt in day games, his average plummeting as the sun was rising.

He can't pinpoint exactly how, or why, or when his daytime troubles ceased. But abruptly, they have -- and if there was any doubt of that, Cano erased it with the two solo home runs that sparked the Yankees' offense in Thursday afternoon's 5-0 win over the Red Sox.

"It feels good today," said Cano after the Yankees pulled within five games of the American League East-leading Red Sox. "I just keep working hard and forget about the bad days."

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He jolted away memories of the bad days with his two long balls, the first coming on Sox starter Curt Schilling's first pitch of the third. That one was a fastball right down the middle, and Cano muscled it on a line over the left-center-field wall.

Two innings later, he led off again, this time pushing an outside splitter to nearly the same spot. Cano saw four pitches in total from Schilling over his first two at-bats, and drove two of them over the opposite-field wall -- more a sign of strength than anything else.

"This kid is pretty special," said manager Joe Torre. "He has that type of power where he can hit the ball the other way. Schilling didn't make bad pitches. Anytime you make somebody hit the ball to the opposite field, you certainly can't second-guess yourself. But it was a big game to have a big game."

It's no small note that Cano's offensive explosion came during the day. Prior to the All-Star break, he was hitting just .189 in matinees. Perhaps it was youth. Perhaps it was glare. Perhaps it was just plain bad luck. But whatever it was is now in the past.

Cano's two homers upped his afternoon average to .421. He has 24 hits during the day since that second week of July, after amassing just 22 over the preceding three and a half months.

He insists there's no change -- other than the results, of course. But there is a difference, and it has little to do with his personal stats. When Cano is hot -- and he's certainly hot now, batting .354 overall since the Midsummer Classic, with 10 of his career-high 16 home runs -- New York's lineup becomes cyclical. There's no weakness at the bottom, with Cano every bit as capable of driving in runs as the power threats up top.

So it's no surprise that the Yankees are winning games -- and that means during the day, as well.

"Oh yeah, you enjoy it," Cano said. "When you win, you have fun."

Anthony DiComo is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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