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Cano's RISP stats back to full strength

Cano's RISP stats back to full strength

ST. PETERSBURG -- Robinson Cano raced into third base with a two-run triple in the second inning of the Yankees' 11-4 win over the Rays at Tropicana Field on Monday, having ripped a bullet that eluded the right fielder and dented the wall.

The way Cano's fortunes were going last month, it was a drive that could have just as easily landed in the glove of the Rays' Gabe Gross. As for hitting with runners in scoring position, Cano is again enjoying a batch of better results, though there's no concrete reason why.

"I would say the adjustment is to swing at strikes and have good luck lately," Cano said. "Before, I was hitting it right at people. It started falling with runners in scoring position and with men on base."

Though he is having a solid all-around year, hitting .311 with 15 home runs and 54 RBIs entering play on Tuesday while playing Gold Glove-caliber defense at second base, Cano said he had trouble figuring out his skids with runners in scoring position.

It wasn't until Cano finally logged a two-run bases-loaded single on July 7 that he was able to say goodbye to a maddening 0-for-22 stretch with runners in scoring position -- the longest in the American League this season, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

"I don't think you're not human if that doesn't wear on you a little bit," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "You know it, and it can get frustrating when you make hard outs in those situations.

"It is something you're going to think about, but I think you're going to be able to block it out when you go up there every at-bat."

Impacted in large part by the 0-for-22 string, Cano's splits with runners in scoring position differ greatly from other numbers. He is batting .215 (26-for-121) with runners on second or third base, compared to .349 (73-for-209) with no one on.

"Every time I'm in that situation, I just think, 'C'mon, Cano, just do your thing,'" Cano said. "I don't remember if I'm in a slump. I just go by at-bat and forget about what happened the last game."

Cano acknowledged the importance of hitting with runners on base, calling it "the biggest thing in baseball," but he said he couldn't bang his head against the wall if he was putting good swings on the ball.

"As long as I hit it hard and I hit it right at people, I couldn't get frustrated," Cano said. "I knew I was swinging good and these things happen. I go up and down. You've got to be ready when you go through slumps.

"I would say sometimes it's just luck. You're going to have those days when you hit it right at people. You're going to have those slumps when you strike out with men on base. You've got to be ready and find a way to get out of it."

In fact, Cano believes that 2009 may be shaping up as his finest campaign to date, though he is reluctant to jinx it -- even offering several hard-knuckle raps to his Tropicana Field locker.

"You know what, the season is not over yet," Cano said. "To be honest, right now, this is the best year I've had in my whole career. I never had, by this time, 15 home runs and [123] hits. ... We've got a lot of games left."

Much of that progress has come lately. Cano's numbers have shown improvement since he was moved down in the batting order by Girardi. Cano has not batted higher than sixth since July 5, and over that stretch, he is batting .361 (26-for-72).

Girardi dismissed the lineup change as a reason for Cano's success, figuring that having the All-Star break to rest probably is playing a bigger part.

"I think the four days off probably helped him physically," Girardi said. "He's in a long stretch where he's playing every day, and he's played at a high level. He's played great defense all year and swung the bat well."

Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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