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Matthew Leach

With nary a weakness, Cano plugs away

Leach: Nary a weakness, Cano plugs away

With nary a weakness, Cano plugs away
Dewayne Wise had a career night at Yankee Stadium on Monday. Robinson Cano just had another night. The end results were extremely similar.

Cano stayed torrid with his sixth homer in eight games, and his eighth multihit game in June, as the Yankees blitzed the Indians, 7-1, in the opener of a three-game series. The New York second baseman has roared back from a season-opening slump to get back to his usual levels of offense, and it took him only seven weeks to do it.

On the morning of May 6, Cano woke up with a .255 batting average, a .303 on-base percentage, a .355 slugging percentage and one home run in 110 at-bats. Since then, he's surged to a season line that fits right in with any of his recent vintages, sporting a .302/.369/.572 line at the end of Monday night.

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"I think it's just Robby being Robby, in a sense," said Yankees manager Joe Girardi. "He's another guy that can carry your club. You can hold him down for a while, but eventually he's going to get hot. That's who he is. He's just too good of a hitter not to."

Along with Girardi, teammates have noticed, opponents have noticed and apparently fans have noticed. Cano has ridden his hot streak to the top of fan balloting for the July 10 All-Star Game in Kansas City, putting himself in position for a third straight start for the American League at the keystone. It's deserved, even in a deep field that includes Ian Kinsler and the man on the other side of the diamond tonight, Jason Kipnis.

And yet even with the All-Star recognition, Cano is so good, so consistent, so dependable that you almost wonder if he's that rarest of creatures: an underrated Yankee. This is the fourth straight season that he's shredded AL pitching while playing just about every day, and yet only once has he finished in the top five in MVP balloting.

Not that anyone around here minds. They're just happy to have him in their lineup. Cano isn't the face of the Yankees, but he is their best player, and the most essential member of an offense that is starting to click like it was expected to from the start. New York has scored at least three runs in 23 straight games, totaling 118 over that span. That's more than 5.1 runs per game, an improvement over the first seven weeks, when the Yanks averaged about 4.5 runs per game.

"He's really been banging it," said teammate Nick Swisher, who also went deep on Monday. "It's just been a great week for us, a good month in general. I really kind of feel like we've hit our stride, and we just want to keep it going."

The surge isn't all due to Cano. But it's not entirely a coincidence, either. He's a complete hitter, able to hit for average and power with solid strike-zone judgment. He doesn't walk a great deal, but thanks to his high average, he gets on base plenty. He's topped 40 doubles in five of his seven seasons and is on pace for a sixth.

And now he's blasting home runs, to boot. Cano's shot in the third inning on Monday was his 17th of the season, which is only 12 short of his career high with 91 games to play. He's also on pace for career bests in runs and walks, all despite his slow start.

"I understand it's a long season, 162 games, 600 at-bats," Cano said. "You've got to understand when you struggle, you've just got to keep working hard, not put your head down and just keep fighting."

Cano even rates surprisingly well defensively, having posted average or better plus-minus ratings, according to the Fielding Bible, every year since 2009. And according to Total Zone fielding runs, as kept at BaseballReference.com, he's ranged from above average to slightly below over the course of his career.

That is to say, there are really no holes in Cano's game. He hits. He plays effective defense at a premium position. He stays in the lineup -- playing at least 159 games every year since 2007. And he does it in New York, in the toughest division in baseball.

He did it on Monday, and he's likely to do it again on Tuesday.

Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Obviously, You're Not a Golfer and follow him on Twitter at @MatthewHLeach. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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