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Cano carries Yankees again, homers twice

The SportsXchange

NEW YORK -- With Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira, the New York Yankees have a total of 7,785 hits and 1,240 home runs on the disabled list.

But Robinson Cano proved once again Saturday that he's the one indispensable member of the Yankees.

Cano hit a pair of two-run home runs in support of David Phelps, who pitched a career-high seven innings as the Yankees beat the Toronto Blue Jays, 7-2, in front of an announced crowd of 45,577 at Yankee Stadium.

The Yankees (27-16) ensured they would spend an eighth straight day atop the AL East, a pretty impressive accomplishment considering Jeter, Rodriguez and Teixeira have yet to play a game this season and that outfielder Curtis Granderson only returned this week after missing the first 38 games because of a broken right wrist.

In anchoring a lineup that often resembles the lineup for a spring training B-squad game, Cano is the biggest reason why the Yankees, pegged by many to finish third or lower in the AL East this season, are in prime position to reach the playoffs for the 18th time in 19 seasons.

Cano is the only Yankee to start all 43 games and the only player this season with a two-home run game, and he also hit two home runs against Cleveland on April 8.

In addition, Cano leads the Yankees in almost every offensive category and ended Saturday's game tied the American League lead with 12 home runs.

"I'm glad that's not a moving part," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "That's really nice, another big day from him today. Robbie's so important to us, offensively, defensively, his presence in the lineup. He's not someone you can replace."

Cano's early performance has made him a legitimate candidate to win the American League MVP after he has finished in the top six in the balloting each of the last three years.

However, Cano said he's not thinking about anything but the next game on the schedule.

"I just go out there and just play the game, worry about who we're playing everyday," Cano said. "Right now, our focus is just to go out there and win games."

Cano produced his 12th game with two home runs in his career with two two-out blasts to right field off Brandon Morrow.

Cano's home run in the third capped a three-run inning and his blast in the fifth extended the lead to 5-1. He struck out in the eighth in pursuit of his first game with three home runs as a big leaguer.

"Cano makes a good living doing that," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "And he's tough too with that short porch in right. It's just like Fenway in left, you're always conscious that that's there."

Travis Hafner, who missed the previous five games because of a sore right shoulder, provided insurance later in the eighth with a two-run home run.

Brett Gardner hit an RBI single right before Cano's first home run.

Cano's two-run home runs were more than enough offense for Phelps, who continued to make a case to remain in the rotation once injured Ivan Nova returns by allowing one run on six hits and three walks. He tied a career high with eight strikeouts.

In 19 2/3 innings over his last three starts, Phelps has allowed only four runs and has a 2.84 ERA in four starts since Nova was injured on April 26.

"He's faced two tough lineups the last two starts, Cleveland and Toronto," Girardi said. "I'm really encouraged. He's giving us distance, he's doing a lot of really good things."

Phelps had only two 1-2-3 innings and gave up three doubles, but all three came with one out in an inning. Of the nine baserunners he allowed, seven reached base after he had recorded at least one out.

"I think one of the biggest things is getting the first out in an inning," Phelps said. "With one out, they're not going to try and bunt them over. They still need a hit to score."

Edwin Encarnacion hit a solo home run in the eighth, while Adam Lind had two doubles for the Blue Jays (17-26).

Toronto scored 36 runs in a four-game winning streak earlier this week but has scored only two runs in the first two games of the series in New York.

Lind scored Toronto's first run in the fourth when he doubled and scored on Colby Rasmus' two-out single to right. Granderson, making his major league debut in right, seemed to misread the ball off the bat.

Morrow, who hadn't started since May 5 because of to back and neck tightness, allowed five runs on seven hits with no walks and one strikeout in five innings.

NOTES: David Phelps had pitched 6 2/3 innings three times previously, including in his previous start on Monday at Cleveland. ... With 12 home runs each, Edwin Encarnacion and Robinson Cano are in a three-way tie for the American League lead with Mark Reynolds of Cleveland, who also hit a home run on Saturday. ... Before the game, the Yankees acquired infielder Reid Brignac from the Colorado Rockies in exchange for cash considerations. To make room for Brignac on the active roster, infielder Alberto Gonzalez was designated for assignment. The Yankees began the game with a shortened roster because Brignac was not yet in New York. ... Before this week, Curtis Granderson had not started anywhere in the outfield but center field since Oct. 2, 2005, when he started in left field for the Detroit Tigers. ... Blue Jays right-hander Josh Johnson, who has been on the disabled list since April 29 because of a right triceps injury, is scheduled to make his first rehab start for Single-A Dunedin on Monday. ... Toronto manager John Gibbons said right-hander Chad Jenkins will start Monday's series opener against Tampa Bay. He'll be followed Tuesday by right-hander Ramon Ortiz.

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