Robinson Cano key in Yankees’ streak versus Twins

MINNEAPOLIS — The seemingly depleted New York Yankees lineup is currently without Derek Jeter, Curtis Granderson, Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez.

That hasn’t mattered so far against the Twins, though. All the Yankees have needed has been Robinson Cano.

For the third straight night, Cano did his part to single-handedly top the Minnesota Twins. His two-run double in the sixth inning Wednesday tied the game, and he scored what proved to be the eventual game-winning run in the Yankees’ 3-2 victory.

After Cano homered twice on Monday, Minnesota skipper Ron Gardenhire said Cano was the one player the Twins couldn’t let beat them. Over the next two days, however, he’s done just that.

“He’s a great hitter,” Gardenhire said of Cano. “You’re trying to figure out different ways. The bottom line is you want him to chase. If you get pitches up in the zone, he’s killed it every time.”

That was the case Wednesday in the sixth inning. Twins starter P.J. Walters walked leadoff hitter Brett Gardner on four pitches and then gave up a double to Ichiro Suzuki. That put runners on second and third with no outs and Cano at the plate.

With first base open, Walters got a first-pitch strike to Cano before the Yankees second baseman fouled off a few pitches for a 1-2 count. On the fifth pitch of the at-bat, Walters hung a 77 mph slider to Cano, who hit it for a double to right field. That scored Gardner and Suzuki to tie things up and completely changed the complexion of the game.

“Obviously with a base open, you don’t want to let him beat you,” Walters said. “I just hung a breaking ball. It was a pitch I should have bounced. … If I walk him then oh well. Obviously, I hung it. That was not what I was trying to do there.”

Cano moved to third base on a single by Travis Hafner, who was the last batter Walters faced. Left-hander Caleb Thielbar relieved Walters, who was charged with his third earned run when Cano scored on a sacrifice fly by Lyle Overbay.

Before his big double, Cano singled with two outs in the first and drew a leadoff walk in the fourth. He nearly had his third hit of the night on a knuckling line drive to center field, but Twins outfielder Aaron Hicks made a diving catch to rob Cano of yet another hit.

Including his 2-for-3 night in Wednesday’s win, Cano is now 7-for-11 with eight RBI against the Twins this series. He extended his hitting streak to six games and has a multi-hit game each of the last five games against the Twins, dating back to September of 2012. He’s driven in multiple runs in each game of this series.

“He’s a good hitter,” Walters said. “He hits balls he knows you’ve got to throw over the plate. When you do, he doesn’t miss too many of them.”

Cano hasn’t missed many pitches so far in three games against Minnesota. Thanks in large part to Cano’s bat, the Yankees will have a chance for a four-game sweep on Thursday. Surely, the Twins’ pitchers will be glad to see Cano leave after the series finale.

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