05/04/09 7:23 PM EST
Cantu named NL Player of the Week
First baseman led the league with 14 RBIs
By Alden Gonzalez / MLB.com
Not only did they enter it with a six-game losing streak, but they were slated for seven tough road games against the Mets and Cubs, and star shortstop Hanley Ramirez was barely available.
Cantu -- bad hand and all -- didn't let them down.
Florida's first baseman hit .346 while leading the National League with 14 RBIs, and on Monday, he was named NL Player of the Week presented by Bank of America, for the first time in his career.
"The award is an honor," Cantu said. "It gets you hungry to keep playing hard every week, and it's individual satisfaction."
But Cantu doesn't buy into him specifically carrying the Marlins.
"We need nine guys to win a ballgame, regardless," added Cantu, whose team went 3-4 on its recent road trip. "That's how we look at it around here. We don't see any other player as better than the other one. This is a great team, this is a great, fighting team."
Cantu racked up 22 total bases and was tied for the top mark in the NL with four home runs. While going 9-for-26, the 27-year-old added six runs scored and put up a .433 on-base percentage.
During the week, the Texas native had three multi-RBI games and tied a career-best while driving in five against the Mets on Tuesday.
The Marlins needed him that game perhaps more than any other.
With his team nursing a seven-game losing streak and Ramirez out after also getting hit in the hand, Cantu came through at Citi Field with two home runs -- one a three-run blast in the top of the seventh that put the Marlins ahead and led to a 7-4 win.
"I think he's just a [heck] of a hitter, and he grinds out at-bats," said Marlins manager Fredi Gonzalez about Cantu, who also went deep on Wednesday and Thursday for a three-game homer streak. "You don't give at-bats away. Throughout the course of a 162-game season, you see guys [when we're] up by 10 just kind of roll over or whatever. Not him. No matter what the score is, he's going to grind [at-bats] out."
Last year, Cantu resurrected his career after two injury-riddled seasons, when he batted .277 with 29 home runs and 95 RBIs while playing in 155 games. This year, he's proven so far that it wasn't a fluke, as he goes into the opener of a four-game homestand against the Reds and Braves batting .333 with seven home runs and 25 RBIs.
"He kind of picked up where he left off last year," Marlins left fielder Jeremy Hermida said. "It's not so much the numbers and stuff, it's the timeliness of his hits. He's had some big-time clutch hits for us in clutch situations -- hits that have given us the lead and put games away for us. And we've needed him big-time."
Cantu, who was drilled in the back of his left hand during the third game of the season by Nationals starter Daniel Cabrera, has missed five games this season with the injury and said it still hurts him -- especially when he swings and misses.
But it takes a whole lot to keep Cantu out of the lineup.
"He's one of those guys who, when he comes in and says, 'I can't go,' you look for a bone sticking out, because this guy likes to play the game," Gonzalez said. "If you're thinking about not playing because you have a headache, you better check on Cantu, because he's in there with a bad wrist."
Said Hermida: "If it is still affecting him, I'd like to see what it would be like when it isn't."
Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.