NEW YORK (AP) — Robinson Cano and Hiroki Kuroda have both rebounded from slow starts, two big reasons the New York Yankees are on such a merry roll.
Cano homered and drove in three runs to extend his recent tear, Kuroda took a shutout into the eighth inning and New York beat the Cleveland Indians 7-1 on Monday night.
Nick Swisher and Dewayne Wise also went deep for the homer-happy Yankees, who opened a seven-game homestand against the top two teams in the AL Central with their third consecutive victory and 13th in 16 games. After winning an intense Subway Series across town against the Mets over the weekend, New York roughed up Josh Tomlin (3-5) early and breezed the rest of the way.
“Everything’s just real chill right now,” Swisher said. “Everything’s just real mellow. We’re having a good time.”
Cano hit a tiebreaking homer in the eighth inning Sunday night at Citi Field and picked up right where he left off in this one. He smacked a two-run double in the first inning and a solo homer in the third to the short porch in right.
“It feels good. Everything is connecting,” said Cano, who raised his batting average with runners in scoring position to .164.
After slumping early this season, Cano has hit six of his 17 homers in the last eight games while increasing his overall average to .302. Earlier in the day, the three-time All-Star moved ahead of Texas second baseman Ian Kinsler in fan balloting for the American League squad.
“You can hold him down for a while, but he’s going to get hot,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said.
It was a painful night for catcher Carlos Santana and the Indians, who dropped their third in a row following a four-game winning streak. Despite wearing a protective guard, he drilled two foul balls off his right foot during a three-pitch span in the fourth, leaving him on the ground in anguish.
Later, he took a foul ball off his glove hand.
“It was a bad day, but I’ll be all right,” Santana said.
The scuffling Indians were held to one run for the third straight game, getting outscored 22-3 during that span, after managing a 2-0 victory Friday in Houston.
“Josh didn’t have it and Kuroda did,” Cleveland manager Manny Acta said. “From the get-go, you could tell Josh didn’t have command of his pitches. … Everything was up and this is the wrong place to pitch behind in the count, up in the zone. Wrong place, wrong team.”
Wise added an RBI triple in a rare start and Cano made one of several fine defensive plays to back Kuroda (7-7), who improved to 4-1 with a 1.93 ERA in his last six starts.
The 37-year-old right-hander was rarely in trouble besides the fourth, when he walked the first two batters and still escaped unscathed. He easily handled a lineup loaded with nine left-handed bats, giving up five hits while walking two and striking out seven.
Kuroda was lifted after allowing a single and double to start the eighth, walking off to a warm ovation from the crowd of 42,290.
“It’s a great feeling and I’m glad I was able to pitch as I did,” Kuroda said through a translator. “The fans expect that.”
Jason Kipnis hit a sacrifice fly off Clay Rapada. The effervescent Swisher jogged off the field with a big smile after all five balls in the inning were hit to him in right field, sending him sprinting to both his right and left as the roar from the crowd increased with each play.
“You can always debate whether winning causes fun or fun causes winning,” Swisher said. “I feel like we have both of that right now, and when we come to the ballpark we feel we’re going to be successful every single day. And it’s just a great feeling to have right now.”
Swisher followed Cano’s homer with one of his own, an opposite-field drive that tucked into the left-field corner. Swisher also connected Sunday night, a three-run shot off a knuckleball from previously untouchable R.A. Dickey.
Wise, making his eighth start of the year, hit a long two-run shot in the second for his first homer with the Yankees. He played center field, where Curtis Granderson had started the first 71 games this season.
Granderson was the designated hitter, and third baseman Alex Rodriguez was given the night off.
“I was just happy to walk in today and see my name in the starting lineup. To be honest, I think the team was more happy than I was,” Wise said. “I know my role. These guys in front of me have to play every day. I just need to stay ready.”
NOTES: The Bleacher Creatures chanted ex-Yankee Johnny Damon’s name when he took his position in left field for Cleveland. Damon (2,750 hits) went 1 for 4 with a double. He said he’d like to reach 3,000 hits but isn’t sure he’d try to hang on just to do it. He said bouncing from one team to another every year is getting difficult. … Yankees SS Derek Jeter turns 38 on Tuesday. … Yankees 1B Mark Teixeira was hit by a pitch on his right hand but remained in the game and said he’s fine. … The Yankees began their annual Hope Week by celebrating Flying Manes, a therapeutic horse-riding program for special-needs children. The team’s weeklong charity and community initiative is in its fourth year and includes the organization’s minor league affiliates for the first time this season.
(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)