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Robinson Cano stayed red hot, with his three-run homer helping the Yankees to a 4-2 victory over the Diamondbacks in front of 34,107 at the Stadium Tuesday night, when every player in the game wore No. 42 in honor of Jackie Robinson.
"He's the guy who opened the door for us,'' said Cano, who is named in honor of the iconic Brooklyn Dodger who broke baseball's color barrier in 1947. "It's amazing to get a chance to wear No. 42 for a day.''
The Yankees (7-5) trailed 2-0 going into the fourth when Cano, 11-for-22 with three homers and eight RBIs in his previous five games, stepped to the plate against Brandon McCarthy, like Nova not a model of pitch efficiency this night.
With two on and the count full, Cano ripped an 84-mph changeup into the bleachers overlooking the Yankees' bullpen in right-center to give the Yankees a 3-2 lead. Cano finished 2-for-4 with a walk, raising his average to .327.
"Robbie got going and we got going as a team,'' said Girardi, whose team has won six of its last seven. "It seemed like when he got hot, our offense took off.''
Nova, his pitch count soaring almost from the start, wasn't sharp over five innings. He threw 94 pitches but he did allow only two runs, seven hits and two walks. Nova (1-1) was bumped from his scheduled start last Wednesday in Cleveland, meaning he hadn't started since April 5 in Detroit, when he lasted 42/3 innings and gave up four runs and five hits.
"He had to be a little rusty, there's no doubt about it,'' Girardi said. "But I thought he did a nice job getting us through five.''
A well-rested bullpen threw four scoreless innings, with Boone Logan, Joba Chamberlain and David Robertson providing a sturdy bridge to Mariano Rivera, the last active player wearing No. 42. Rivera, set to retire after this year, recorded his third save in as many tries this season with a perfect ninth.
Before the game, Cano had a message for Rivera. "He's the right guy to be wearing 42,'' Cano said.
Rivera called the night "special,'' though typically he was quick to credit Logan, Chamberlain and Robertson. "Everybody did a tremendous job,'' Rivera said. "We've been pitching better and we want to keep it that way.''
McCarthy (0-2) made it through four innings, allowing those three runs and nine hits. He was at 59 pitches after two innings and ended up throwing 102. The most memorable of those turned out to be the changeup to Cano, who was walked intentionally in the second after a first-inning single.
"We pitched around him earlier in the game and we got away with it,'' Arizona manager Kirk Gibson said. "We had no way out of it this time. He bit us.''
Cano's 3-for-25 start this season quickly has been shoved into irrelevance, surprising no one with the Yankees.
"You make a mistake with a guy like that,'' Rivera said, "and you're going to pay.''
For Cano, the night had broader significance than continuing his hot streak. Any day he gets to wear No. 42, a baseball tradition established five seasons ago, is a meaningful one.
"It's amazing being named after a guy that opened the door for all of us and changed the game of baseball,'' Cano said. "You don't realize it until you [get older] and understand all the things he went through. If it wasn't because of him, we wouldn't be here right now.''