Beckett goes five innings in follow-up to no-no
Offense held in check by Liriano; Butera shines behind plate
LOS ANGELES -- Career performances aren't easily duplicated -- that's why they are known as career performances. Josh Beckett's encore wasn't bad, even if it didn't approach his no-hit masterwork five days earlier in Philadelphia.
Outdueled Friday night by Francisco Liriano, Beckett lasted five innings, with the Pirates taking a 2-1 decision in front of 47,503 at Dodger Stadium that gave them the first two meetings in a four-game series. This is the first time since September 2006 that the Pirates have won on consecutive days in Chavez Ravine. They haven't taken three in a row in L.A. since Sept. 4-6, 2000.
"Physically, I felt fine," Beckett said. "I think we're getting to that time. We have to start rolling a little bit better now. We need to pitch better, we need to hit better, we need to play better defense. We need to do everything better."
Subdued all night, the Dodgers' offense finally stirred in the eighth. Chone Figgins singled against reliever Mark Melancon, advanced on an out and scored on Hanley Ramirez's single to right-center. But Ramirez was left at second when pinch-hitter Adrian Gonzalez grounded out.
Liriano, who authored a no-hitter in 2011 with the Twins, had eight strikeouts in 5 2/3 innings and won for the first time in six decisions as Beckett fell to 3-2. Drew Butera, the catcher in each no-hitter tossed by Beckett and Liriano, threw some of the most impressive strikes of the night to cut down Pirates on the bases.
Five hitters into his start, Beckett yielded a single to Russell Martin, quickly ending notions of a repeat of the Johnny Vander Meer act of back-to-back no-hitters.
Martin didn't score -- he was caught stealing by Butera -- but the Pirates took the lead in the third on a hit batsman, walk and two singles, Neil Walker's bullet to right cashing in Clint Barmes. It could have been worse for Beckett if Butera hadn't erased Starling Marte wandering off second base.
With one big swing leading off the fourth inning, Ike Davis gave Liriano a two-run cushion with his fourth homer of the season.
"Fastball, he left up over the plate," Davis said. "Otherwise, he pitched a real good game. It's hard to score two runs and beat the Dodgers, so you've got to give all the credit to our pitchers."
Liriano allowed the leadoff man to reach safely in five of the first six innings but managed to frustrate the Dodgers with off-speed stuff behind his heater. Dee Gordon walked, singled and stole a pair of bases, giving him a Major League-leading 34, but the catalyst couldn't find his way home with the offense going 2-for-15 with runners in scoring position.
"You can't sit here and wallow in it," Gordon said. "You can't cry about it. We have a short turnaround [for Saturday's game]. You have to have a short-term memory in this game."
Liriano struck out Yasiel Puig and Ramirez to strand Gordon at second after a leadoff walk and steal in the first. Puig singled and advanced on Liriano's throwing error starting the fourth, but Ramirez and Matt Kemp struck out and Scott Van Slyke tapped out.
Puig has reached base safely in 30 consecutive games and is batting .404 with eight homers and 25 RBIs in 27 May games. He had a chance to make some serious noise in the fifth. Andre Ethier doubled leading off and took third on Gordon's infield hit, Gordon stealing second before Figgins' 11-pitch walk. Puig, lunging at a 2-2 changeup, popped out to Walker at second.
"I think we're all frustrated we can't sustain anything," Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. "We know what's left in this baseball season. We can't fall in that trap. It's baseball. We threw the ball well but didn't get key hits. We know we're capable, pretty confident of playing the kind of baseball we need to make a move."
Kemp is hitless in his past 20 at-bats. Gonzalez, given a night off Friday, is 1-for-14 on the homestand. But there was a positive note in the form of a pair of bullets to each gap by Ramirez, the focal point of the revival last summer alongside Puig.
"Hanley's been up and down all year -- kind of like us as a team," Mattingly said. "He hasn't been able to sustain a run; we haven't either. Last year we saw that as Hanley goes, we go -- with Yasiel, too. We know Hanley's going to swing the bat better. He's key for us. He's going to hit."
Following Ramirez's leadoff double in the sixth, a diving stab by Walker of a Kemp bullet heading toward center field saved Liriano a run. Liriano departed after striking out Van Slyke, followed by lefty Justin Wilson striking out Ethier to leave Ramirez at third.
After Ramirez's RBI single delivered Figgins in the eighth, the last five Dodgers hitters went down, with Jason Grilli nailing his seventh save.
"We haven't gotten on a roll," Beckett said. "I don't think anyone's expecting us to go 42-8 like these guys did last year. We've just got to get better."