Jacks for Jackie: Cano powers Yanks
On Robinson Day, Bombers drop Angels to take series
NEW YORK -- Robinson Cano beamed as he recounted the greeting he'd enjoyed before taking the field at Yankee Stadium on Thursday. That embrace from Rachel Robinson had already made the evening special, even before the young slugger stepped up and belted a pair of home runs.
Named in honor of the barrier-breaking legend, Cano made Jackie Robinson Day memorable in more ways than one, accepting Mrs. Robinson's well-wishes and slugging two homers to lead the Yankees to a 6-2 victory over the Angels.
"I wish she came here every day," Cano said. "It's special for me. He's a guy who opened the doors for us. If it wasn't for him, who knows where I'm going to be now? I would say the world should be proud of Jackie."
With Yankee Stadium serving as the centerpiece for Major League Baseball's celebration of the 63rd anniversary of Robinson's historic debut in Brooklyn, Cano homered in the second and fifth innings off Angels starter Scott Kazmir.
The showing helped pace the Bombers in front of an audience that included Rachel Robinson, who accepted a bouquet of flowers from Cano and told him this: "I don't get to wish you good luck every day, but at least I can wish you good luck tonight."
Also present were Robinson's daughter Sharon and grandson Jesse Simms, who also enjoy a solid relationship with Derek Jeter, who lined a homer into the right-field seats and had an RBI double.
"It's a wonderful family," Jeter said. "I've gotten close to them over the years. I first met Mrs. Robinson in '96, so I've known them for some time. Anytime that they can come into the stadium, it makes you feel good. It makes it feel special."
Cano's name is a tribute from his father, Jose Cano, a former pitcher who played with the Astros in 1989. He wanted his son to carry the name of the man who had opened the avenues to the big leagues for all.
"I'm sure it was a big thrill for him to do it on this day," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "Especially that's who he's named after. He always has a smile on his face when he hits homers, but I'm sure the smile was a little bit bigger today."
Cano has hit safely in all nine of the Yankees' games this season, making Girardi's decision to utilize him as the fifth hitter in the lineup seem like a sharp one.
"For me, Robbie was the guy that I wanted to hit there," Girardi said. "I always believed that he could do it."
Even though Mark Teixeira (0-for-2, .091) and Alex Rodriguez (1-for-3, .263) have been largely quiet, Cano's hot start has helped the Yankees win all three of their series thus far.
"Robbie can hit, man," Jeter said. "I don't care where you put him. He has a great approach at the plate and the thing that separates him from a lot of people is how well he hits the ball the other way. He's tough to pitch to.
"Robbie's always a tough out, because he can hit a lot of pitches, even when they're not strikes. He seems to get better each and every year."
With a pair of Curtis Granderson triples also supporting the cause, Yankees starter Phil Hughes was solid in his first start of the season, limiting the Angels to two runs and two hits through five-plus innings while tossing a career-high 108 pitches.
Making his first start of the season after winning a spring battle to be New York's fifth starter, Hughes surrendered a solo home run to Hideki Matsui in the effort, as last year's World Series MVP was applauded rounding the bases after depositing the pitch into the Yankees bullpen in the second inning.
Hughes hung tough, helped by Matsui's slow baserunning in the fourth, when Granderson's two-hop throw to home plate cut down the designated hitter. Hughes exited with six strikeouts but also five walks and a balk, giving him something to build off even as a crowd of 44,722 serenaded him with long chants of his last name.
"Overall, I felt like everything was pretty close where I want it to be," Hughes said. "I still feel like it could be a lot better. It wasn't really a great outing, but to be able to walk off with the lead, the reaction was great."
The Yankees' patient approach wore out Kazmir, who was chased after four-plus innings when he served up Cano's second homer, also making his season debut after beginning the year on the disabled list.
The Angels added only a Howard Kendrick run-scoring groundout in the sixth off Dave Robertson that was charged to Hughes. From there, Girardi entrusted a three-man bullpen sequence that got the ball into the ninth inning for Mariano Rivera's one-out save opportunity.
It was a fitting ending, drawing the only remaining active player wearing No. 42 into the game. Rivera got Bobby Abreu to roll a harmless grounder to second base, where -- who else? -- Cano fielded the ball and completed an evening that had his inspiration written all over it.
"Tex was joking with me and said, 'Robinson, who are you named after?'" Cano said. "He said, 'This is your day.' He was joking around, but you know what? Last year I hit a home run on this day. Now I've got two."
Bryan Hoch is a reporter MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.