HOUSTON -- The Yankees needed an extra run in the late innings of Saturday's game against the Astros, but not nearly as badly as Robinson Cano needed a big hit.
Benched for a game as a last-ditch effort to shake a lingering slump, Cano logged his first hit of the road trip in the eighth inning, lining an RBI pinch-hit single to center field off Houston reliever Geoff Geary.
The hit gave New York a two-run cushion in its eventual 8-4 victory, and perhaps more importantly, it lifted a huge weight off Cano's shoulders.
"Oh yeah," Cano said. "I was 0-for-17. Geez. Wake up, Robbie."
The Yankees tried a similar approach two months to the date of Saturday's game, when Cano was benched for an April 14 contest against the Rays at St. Petersburg. Cano watched a slugfest unfold before him and then jumped into the party, slugging a game-winning solo home run as a pinch-hitter in the eighth inning.
It's no coincidence, Cano said. While he watched the first seven innings of each game unfold, Cano paid particularly close attention to the left-handed batters in both orders, trying to pick apart swings and apply certain techniques to his own game.
Cano said he watched Jason Giambi, Lance Berkman, Michael Bourn and Melky Cabrera, giving him a nice cross-section of what works for various big league hitters.
"It's not just that I got a hit, it's watching the other guys," Cano said. "I was watching all of the lefties. Sometimes people can tell you what you're doing wrong, but you don't realize until you see another guy do it."
Now batting .220 with four homers and 21 RBIs in 68 games, Cano's respite was short-lived. Yankees manager Joe Girardi re-inserted him into New York's lineup for the series finale on Sunday as the Yankees looked to complete a three-game sweep of the Astros at Minute Maid Park.
"The thing about Robbie is, no matter how it's going, he always has a smile on his face," Girardi said. "He's a wonderful kid and it has never affected his defense. You have a hard time giving Robbie two days off just because of the kind of player he is. I wanted to get him right back in there."
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.