04/30/10 12:23 AM ET
Red-hot Cano, commanding A.J. carry Yanks
By Bryan Hoch / MLB.com
It's been that way for Cano, who is continuing to make plenty of noise in his red-hot April. The second baseman homered twice and contributed a sterling defensive play behind starter A.J. Burnett, and the Yankees posted a 4-0 victory over the Orioles at Camden Yards to complete a nine-game road trip.
"It feels good -- not because I'm having a great season but because the team is winning," Cano said. "I get on base for my teammates. What matters here is just winning games."
Having already entered the evening as the Major Leagues' leading hitter, Cano nudged his average up to .407 with the sixth multihomer game of his career, slugging a solo shot in the fourth inning off Brian Matusz before belting another in the eighth off Alberto Castillo.
Five of Cano's eight home runs this season have come off left-handed pitching, and the Yankees are elated to see him so locked in after believing him to be a solid replacement for the No. 5 lineup slot.
"His April has been great," manager Joe Girardi said. "And it's not just his offense. His defense has been great; his baserunning has been very, very good. I'm very proud of the way he's playing."
Even Baltimore catcher Matt Wieters wanted to know if Cano is for real.
"The first home run, Wieters was like, 'We need to check that bat, because it sounded really, really loud,' " Marcus Thames said. "I was like, 'It's been that way ever since Spring Training.' "
Cano also contributed a sixth-inning double and scored when Thames followed with an RBI double. Cano went 8-for-13 with three homers during the three-game stay in Baltimore's Inner Harbor.
"We couldn't get him out, and the way he's hitting right now, no one in the American League is getting him out," Orioles manager Dave Trembley said. "He's a quality player."
Derek Jeter singled and scored a first-inning run on an Alex Rodriguez sacrifice fly, and it turns out that early knock against Matusz would have been enough support for Burnett, who remained unbeaten this year and started 3-0 for the first time in his career.
"I think strike one was huge for us tonight," Burnett said. "I kept pounding the strike zone, and it opened everything up. It gives you confidence that you don't have to strike everybody out -- here it is, hit it."
Again without the use of his curveball, Burnett rolled over an Orioles lineup that managed just three hits and a walk in eight innings.
"That guy has so much talent, when he has a day like this, it's hard," Orioles third baseman Miguel Tejada said. "He was on his game today. He threw everything he wanted, where he wanted. I don't think he missed a pitch. Today was his day."
Keeping the ball on the ground, the right-hander leaned on the gloves in the field, recording four strikeouts before Mariano Rivera hurled the ninth in a non-save situation.
"I'm trusting my defense," Burnett said. "I've got Hall of Famers behind me playing everywhere. I just throw the ball. ... Tonight it was just nice and easy, and it went pretty much where I wanted it to."
The Yankees got a snapshot of that in the third inning, when Cano showed off his strong arm on a play destined for the highlight reels.
Cano's showcase action up the middle to take away a Nolan Reimold single was the talk of the clubhouse after the game, as Cano had ranged to his right, flagged down the hard-hit ball and thrown across his body to deliver a no-look strike to Mark Teixeira at first base.
"He's in one of those zones right now, it seems like," Jeter said. "Every player wants to be in it, but they come few and far between. It seems like everything he's doing right now is perfect. He's playing as well as I've ever seen him."
Girardi said that Cano "makes that play better than anyone I've ever seen."
Burnett raised his hands on the mound after the play and called it "amazing" -- not only because Cano got the out, but because Burnett didn't even need to back up first base.
It wasn't nearly as easy as Cano -- who had earned praise from Girardi as a graceful player before the game -- made it look.
"It's really hard, because I didn't turn all the way through," he said. "I only turned halfway. I've been blessed, making that play. It's a good thing that I have a good arm."
Matusz, who pitched seven sharp innings against the Yankees in a winning effort last Sept. 12 in New York, allowed nine hits in six innings, walking none and striking out two.
With the victory, the Yankees put a bow on a three-city, nine-game road trip that also included a visit to the White House to meet President Barack Obama in celebration of their 2009 World Series championship.
A 5-4 road trip isn't cause to toss confetti in the clubhouse, but it provides a step in the right direction as the Bombers headed home to finally sleep once again in their own beds.
"[The road trip] feels like a month already," Cano said. "But we always go here with the same goal and the same mentality -- to win the games. The most important thing is winning series."
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.