(Sports Network) - The New York Yankees have won five world championships in the past 14 seasons. Four of them were led by the man who will be sitting in the opposing dugout when the Bronx Bombers visit Los Angeles for a high- profile three-game interleague series with Joe Torre's Dodgers that begins tonight.
Torre put together a remarkable 12-year run as the Yankees' skipper from 1996-2007, amassing a 1,173-767 regular-season record and guiding the club to six American League pennants and World Series titles in 1996, 1998, 1999 and 2000. New York reached the postseason in all 12 years of his tenure.
The relationship between Torre and the Yankees didn't end well, however, with the two-time AL Manager of the Year rejecting the team's offer of a reduced salary following an early exit in the 2007 playoffs. Shortly afterward, the Dodgers signed Torre to a three-year deal to serve as their manager.
"I can't escape it," Torre told the Dodgers' official site of being the center of attention of the series. "Obviously I'll be busy, but it will also be fun to see a lot of people. Long before I was a Yankee, that uniform was something special. I always had that mindset. It meant something to beat the Yankees."
Friday's game will also be the first against the Yankees for Dodgers hitting coach Don Mattingly, who spent 14 seasons as a player in the pinstripes from 1982-1995 and served on Torre's staff from 2004-07.
While this series has obvious importance to Torre on a personal level, it's also big for the Dodgers due to the team's struggles in recent weeks. Los Angeles has dropped nine of its last 12 contests and endured a season-high six-game losing streak before breaking out with a 10-6 victory over the area- rival Angels on Thursday. The skid has moved the Dodgers from first to third in the National League West, three games behind San Diego for the top spot.
The Dodgers had mustered just four runs over their last three defeats of the slide, but scored five times in the fourth inning en route to last night's win. Rafael Furcal, playing his second game since missing a week due to the death of his father, keyed the big frame with a two-run double that snapped a 1-1 tie.
Manny Ramirez added a pair of run-scoring singles later on for the Dodgers, while both Jamey Carroll anCasey Blake collected three hits on the evening.
"Putting the five-spot up in the fourth was big and it was nice that we continued to score," said Torre. "We were aggressive on the basepaths. We had a lot of life [Thursday]."
While the Dodgers have been slumping, Torre's old team enters Chavez Ravine having won four of its last five tilts and currently owns the best record in baseball at 45-27. The Yankees are 11-5 since June 6 and have opened up a two- game lead on Boston and Tampa Bay in the AL East race.
New York began this six-game Western trip by taking two of three tests from Arizona, including an extra-inning win in Wednesday's rubber match. Curtis Granderson accounted for the deciding run in the 6-5 triumph after leading off the bottom of the 10th with his seventh homer of the season.
The Yankees trailed 5-4 entering the ninth before scratching home a run to tie the score. After Derek Jeter andNick Swisher drew consecutive walks against Arizona's Aaron Heilman, Mark Teixeira advanced both runners with a ground out before Jeter crossed the plate on Alex Rodriguez's sacrifice fly.
Rodriguez drove in two runs on the night, while Granderson finished 3-for-5 to help New York to its second straight victory of the series.
Granderson's blast made a winner out of Mariano Rivera (1-1), with the legendary closer holding theDiamondbacks scoreless over the final two innings. He ran into some trouble in the bottom of the 10th, though, allowing Arizona to load the bases with none out before retiring the next three batters and keeping the potential tying run at third.
"I've seen him do it because you know he has the ability to strike people out," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said of Rivera's escape. "You know he can get the job done. He's done it so many times in his career. Mo is unbelievable."
CC Sabathia was awfully good for the Yankees as well in his last appearance, one the big left-hander will try to duplicate when he takes the mound in the opener. The 2007 AL Cy Young Award recipient yielded just four hits and fanned six in eight scoreless innings during Sunday's 4-0 verdict over the fellow Big Apple-resident Mets.
That win was the fourth in a row for Sabathia and improved him to 8-3 with a 3.68 earned run average in 15 starts this season. The durable hurler has worked at least seven innings and allowed three runs or less in each of those four starts.
Sabathia also excelled in his only career matchup with the Dodgers, although it didn't result in a win. The California native held Los Angeles to one run and struck out 10 in a seven-inning no-decision at Dodger Stadium in 2008, while then a member of the Cleveland Indians.
Torre will send out Vicente Padilla tonight for the veteran's second start since being activated from a two month-long stint on the disabled list. The right-hander was reached for four runs and gave up a pair of homers to the Red Sox this past Saturday at Fenway Park, and did not get a decision after pitching 5 1/3 innings.
Padilla had been sidelined with an inflamed radial nerve in his throwing arm and went 1-1 with a subpar 6.65 ERA in four starts prior to being shelved.
The 32-year-old has faced the Yankees four times previously, including a 3 2/3-inning stint while with Texas last season in which he was battered for seven runs on seven hits. Padilla is 1-2 with a 7.65 ERA lifetime against New York.
These two storied franchises have opposed one another 11 times in the World Series, but their only regular-season meetings occurred from June 18-20, 2004 at Dodger Stadium. Los Angeles won two of the three tilts.