(AP) — Robinson Cano is swinging the bat so well right now that his struggles against the Toronto Blue Jays this season may not matter.
Coming off a strong homestand, New York’s All-Star second baseman looks to help the AL East-leading Yankees to a third straight victory in the opener of a three-game set with the Blue Jays on Monday night at Rogers Centre.
Among the major league leaders with a .325 average, Cano was 9 for 24 with four home runs and 13 RBIs in the last six games of the Yankees’ 5-2 homestand against Detroit and Seattle.
A possible MVP candidate, Cano matched his career high of 25 homers with a grand slam and six RBIs in New York’s 10-0 win over the Mariners on Sunday. Cano went 9 for 21 in five games in the cleanup spot on the homestand, replacing injured slugger Alex Rodriguez (calf strain).
The Yankees (77-47), who matched a franchise mark with 10 grand slams in 2010, are 12-0 this season without Rodriguez.
“Now it’s time for me to step it up and help the team win games,” said Cano, who feels an increased responsibility to produce until Rodriguez returns. “That’s his spot, not my spot.”
New York, however, is 4-5 against Toronto (64-59) this year and dropped two of three at Rogers Centre from June 4-6.
Though Cano is having another strong year, he is 5 for 36 against the Blue Jays this season. He’s 4 for 15 against Toronto’s scheduled starter Brandon Morrow (9-6, 4.45 ERA), who has not lost since June 29.
The right-hander is 4-0 with a 3.16 ERA in his last five starts. After throwing a 137-pitch one-hitter against Tampa Bay on Aug 8, Morrow allowed two runs and walked three while throwing 80 pitches in four innings of a 6-2 loss at Oakland on Tuesday.
“This kid is going to be part of our future and we’re looking out for him,” manager Cito Gaston told the Blue Jays’ official website. “Sometimes you lose a game and win some more down the line if you do the right thing.”
Morrow is 2-0 with a 3.82 ERA in five starts against the Yankees, including 1-0 with a 5.40 ERA in three this season.
Jorge Posada, who has homered in each of the last two games for New York, is 5 for 10 with a double against Morrow.
Averaging 7.5 runs in their last six games, the Yankees hope to continue their offensive surge in support of 23-year-old Ivan Nova (0-0, 0.00) on Monday.
The right-hander will make his first major league start in his second stint with the Yankees after allowing four hits in three innings over two relief appearances in May. He went 12-3 with a 2.86 ERA in 23 starts for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.
“This is a big opportunity for me,” Nova said. “But you’ve got to be able to relax and enjoy it.”
Nova faces a Toronto team that has hit 103 of its major league-leading 188 homers at home, but is coming off a 5-0 loss at Boston on Sunday to conclude a 4-5 trip.
Jose Bautista, who had two of Toronto’s six hits Sunday, has hit four of his major league-high 38 homers against the Yankees this season. The All-Star outfielder is batting .353 with nine RBIs versus New York in 2010.