Derek Jeter's instant impact on the Yankees is obvious. Look no further than his welcome-back moment on Sunday, a home run on the first pitch he saw in his return from the disabled list.
But Yankees manager Joe Girardi said Jeter's experience could prove to be just as important as New York attempts to make a playoff push. This year's Yankees squad lacks Jeter's experience in those kind of high-pressure games. They'll be tested Tuesday against a playoff-caliber opponent as they head to Los Angeles to meet the streaking Dodgers, fresh off a walk-off win on Sunday.
"Derek's been a winner his whole career," Girardi said. "He understands what it's like to play in these type of games down the stretch. So productive over his career in the top-of-the-order guy that scores a lot of runs and drives in runs and just does things the right way. And that's why I think he's so important to us."
These two games at Dodger Stadium certainly qualify as "big game" pitching matchups. Before Hiroki Kuroda and Clayton Kershaw square off Wednesday night, Andy Pettitte and Zack Greinke will take the mound in Tuesday's series opener.
Looking to climb back to .500 on the year, Pettitte is coming off a strong outing on Wednesday, when he allowed only two earned runs over six innings. That was a step in the right direction for the veteran lefty, who had allowed three or more earned runs in seven straight starts.
But Pettitte still took his eighth loss of the year, as the Yankees only managed one run against the Rangers.
"I feel good -- I can't take anything from it," Pettitte said after that outing. "When you lose, you can't take nothing from it. It's a loss, we need wins and it's frustrating."
Greinke, meanwhile, gave up four runs on six hits, including two homers, over seven innings against the Reds on Thursday en route to his first loss in more than a month.
"I made a lot of good pitches, but I made a couple of bad pitches and they capitalized on it," Greinke said Thursday after losing at Dodger Stadium for the first time as a member of the home team. "The damage they did was big damage, it wasn't just a single."
The good news for Greinke, seeking his 100th career win, is that he'll be pitching in Los Angeles, where he's thrived this season. The right-hander owns a 5-1 record and 2.56 ERA in eight starts at Dodger Stadium this year compared to a 3-2 record and 4.57 ERA on the road.
Yankees: Nix set to return
• New York will activate another infielder off the disabled list Tuesday, as Jayson Nix will rejoin the Yankees after spending 3 1/2 weeks on the disabled list with a strained right hamstring.
Nix began running on Tuesday, played three rehab games with Class A Advanced Tampa and returned to the Yankees' clubhouse on Sunday. Nix went 1-for-10 with a double and an RBI during his three-game rehab stint. The 30-year-old utility man is batting .236/.303/.304 with two homers, 20 RBIs and 11 steals in 73 games this season.
"I never had any kind of setbacks or any kind of days where I didn't feel that good," Nix said. "As soon as I started doing stuff, I felt great."
Infielder David Adams was optioned to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre on Sunday to make room for Nix's return.
Outfielder Curtis Granderson, working his way back from a fractured left pinky, went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts as the designated hitter for Tampa on Sunday. Granderson went 2-for-13 with two walks and five strikeouts in four games with Tampa and expects to play for Double-A Trenton on Tuesday before possibly rejoining the Yankees next weekend in San Diego.
"Everything across the board felt good," Granderson said. "Hopefully, things continue to move well and progress the way we hope they will, continue to play and feel good. It's a possibility. I'm glad that they're eager to get me back, and I'm excited to get back sooner than later."
Dodgers: Mattingly praises Rivera
• The Dodgers will honor Yankees closer Mariano Rivera in a pregame ceremony at some point during this two-game series, and the significance of Rivera's farewell tour is not lost on manager Don Mattingly.
"Everything he does, he handles himself well. He's well spoken. I think he's great the way he handles himself. He's just a genuine person. He's a great ambassador for the game," said Mattingly, who spent his entire 14-year playing career in the Bronx. "Just the whole thing around the league is pretty cool. People are recognizing how good this guy was. That's a testimony in itself to what kind of person this guy is. I think he seems to be enjoying it. He's handling it well.
Mattingly relayed a story from the Yankees-Dodgers doubleheader in New York on June 19 as an example of Rivera's character and his genuine passion for the game.
"He came over in New York in between games and he wanted to meet [outfielder Yasiel] Puig, which is funny because you wouldn't think those two would go together," Mattingly said. "But he loved the way Puig played."
• The Dodgers haven't lost a series since dropping two of three to the Pirates at PNC Park from June 14-16. Los Angeles has won eight of its last 11 series.
• The Dodgers' 25-6 run entering Sunday was not only the best record in the Majors during that span, it was also tied for the best 31-game stretch in Los Angeles Dodgers history, tying the mark set in 1962 (May 8-June 6), 1976 (April 20-May 23) and 1977 (April 12-May 17).
Since moving to Los Angeles in 1958, the Dodgers have only had one 32-game stretch like this one where they've been 20 games over .500, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. That came in '77, when the Dodgers went 26-6 from April 12-May 18 and went on to win the NL pennant before falling to the Yankees in the World Series
• Over his last 19 games, Robinson Cano is batting .318 (21-for-66) with three doubles, a homer, 13 RBIs, four runs and 12 walks.