NEW YORK – When Robinson Cano no longer believed it would be wise to finish the inning with a welt on his thigh and awfully near his knee, not for an exhibition game, he stepped past Matt Harvey, who said, "My bad."
Three pitches into the 84th All-Star Game, Cano had hobbled to first base, Harvey had tried to say he was sorry, the New York Yankees were very close to having their entire infield out, the New York Mets were gaining on the whole Clemens-Piazza thing, Scott Boras' client had wiped out Jay-Z's client and by then there'd been about 40 fly-overs, 39 of them of the commercial airliner variety.
It was a pretty eventful three pitches in the AL's 3-0 victory on Tuesday night.
Cano actually hung around first base for another five, the last being a 92-mph slider from Harvey that struck out Miguel Cabrera. That's when Cano decided enough was enough, that the muscle where he'd been hit was tightening even in this heat, and that Yankees general manager Brian Cashman probably needed some emotional closure. Cano would have to pass the mound on his way off.
As he did, the notion that just as Harvey's start here represented all that's out there some day for the Mets, a severe injury to Cano could mean the end of the season for the already decimated Yankees, who are barely holding to competence.
So Harvey this time got Cano's attention, asked if he was all right and took responsibility. "My bad," he said. "No problem," Cano said. Harvey's catcher, St. Louis' Yadier Molina, had requested a fastball in on Cano, Harvey went along, and when the four-seamer left his hand, Harvey said, "I could kind of feel it, that I cut it a little bit."
Cano coiled, kicked, dropped his right leg, then realized that fastball was huntin' him. Of course it was far too late by then, what with that fastball coming at 96. He took it just above the knee, fortunately just above the knee, though nobody but him knew it at the time. He hopped and bent over and AL manager Jim Leyland came out with an athletic trainer, and you could almost hear the Yankees' death wheeze from Queens. Down A-Rod, down Teixeira, perhaps down Jeter for a bit longer, the Yankees hardly could go even an afternoon without their most potent bat. Indeed, when a Yankees official was asked recently about picking up a bat at the trading deadline, the official said, "How about 10?"
Cano was hustled in for an X-ray, which was negative. He spoke on the phone with Cashman and also Yankees trainer Steve Donahue. He was prescribed ice and rest. Asked if he would be available Friday, when the Yankees open the second half against the AL East-leading Red Sox in Boston, Cano said, "Yeah, hopefully, yeah."
The Yankees are this fragile.
"Well, that never went through my mind," Cano said. "My mind was not something like bad, that you can miss some of the season's games. Like I said, just get it X-rayed, came out negative, and it's a little bruise."
Harvey almost surely hopes so. His All-Star experience had been seamless before, and would be after. Only the fifth pitcher to start an All-Star Game less than a year after his major-league debut, he followed the first-ball ceremony, which was carried out by Tom Seaver, as Dwight Gooden watched from the stands, and every Mets fan expects the skip-a-generation trend to continue with Harvey. He loved meeting the game's best in his clubhouse, and watching the Home Run Derby, and hearing the chants of "HAR-VEE!" as he warmed up behind the American flag.
So it was with some discomfort – his, Cano's – that he whipped a fastball off the leg of the AL's second hitter, with Mike Trout already at second base and Miguel Cabrera standing in the on-deck circle, and Chris Davis and Jose Bautista coming after that.
"Obviously, that was the last thing I wanted to do, was go out there and possibly injure somebody," Harvey said later. "I apologized and made sure that he was OK. You know, I think he understood that, you know, it wasn't intentional, obviously."
Composed, Harvey struck out Cabrera. Davis flied to center field with not much of a swing. Bautista struck out on the same kind of slider that got Cabrera. Mets fans stood and cheered, and hoisted fists over their heads. This seemed important to them, that one of their own, the next Seaver or whoever he will be, represented the franchise with power, poise and authority. And Harvey's second inning went smoother. David Ortiz flied out, Adam Jones struck out, Joe Mauer lined out.
So it wasn't Carl Hubbell in 1934 at the Polo Grounds, blowing away Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Jimmie Foxx, Al Simmons and Joe Cronin, in a row, before they'd all go to the Hall of Fame. It wasn't Pedro Martinez in 1999 at Fenway Park, striking out Barry Larkin, Larry Walker, Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire, in a row. But neither were they 24 years old, and 29 starts into their major-league career, and lugging a franchise behind them like a stalled tractor.
But he was good. He was powerful. A clumsy moment had not dissuaded him. He'd survived the big, traffic cone-colored cleats he wore. Afterward, a text from teammate LaTroy Hawkins told him, "You look like you're walking in the park."
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And so he was. Done after two innings, the local crowd stood and cheered what he'd done, and who he was, and what he could be.
"I wish I had kind of stayed in the moment a little bit and gave a head-nod or whatnot," he said. "But the thanks was there. … I'm very thankful."
As for that one little issue, and what it could mean for the Yankees from here, Harvey had already covered that.
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