Liriano holds off Dodgers, notches elusive 'W'
Lefty snaps 14-start winless drought; Davis launches deep HR
LOS ANGELES -- The pregame intrigue, naturally, revolved around Josh Beckett, the Dodgers right-hander who had fashioned a no-hitter his last time out, Sunday in Philadelphia.
Consecutive no-hitters aren't very likely, so, just as naturally, Beckett fell only 23 outs short.
However, an event almost as improbable did occur Friday night in Dodger Stadium: The Pirates won a second straight game here, 2-1, and did so behind Francisco Liriano.
Asked whether consecutive wins here was a big item on his apocryphal to-do list, Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said, "Absolutely. We'd won my first game here [on May 9, 2011] and not another until [Thursday] night.
"If we play well wherever we are, we have a better chance to win. This was another good night for Pirates baseball."
It was a great night for Liriano to bare his knuckles. Winless in 11 starts this season and in 14 dating back to last year, he worked his way out of back-to-back harrowing jams on his way to 5 2/3 shutout innings.
"It's been a long time. It's a great feeling to get the first out of the way," Liriano said. "It was a battle out there. I was determined to not worry about the next guy, just stay focused on the next pitch."
"Frankie pitched a big league ballgame," said Hurdle, invoking that highest of baseball praises, the understatement. "A good mix of pitches throughout the evening. The changeup worked real well. He never gave in. He was aggressive."
This was truly 2013 vintage. The Bucs made two runs hold up, and the guy with the biggest role in that was Liriano. Then it was Shark Tank feeding time.
After relievers Justin Wilson and Tony Watson sustained Liriano's southpaw magic for another 1 1/3 innings, the Dodgers were delighted to see a right-hander come out of the Bucs' bullpen.
Chone Figgins began the eighth with a leadoff single off Mark Melancon, and scored on Hanley Ramirez's one-out hit. Ramirez moved to second as Matt Kemp bounced back to the box for the second out, setting up Melancon's showdown with Adrian Gonzalez, pinch-hitting.
Gonzalez hit the ball hard -- but right at Clint Barmes, and the shortstop easily threw him out to end the inning.
Jason Grilli tossed a scoreless ninth for his seventh save of the season.
On Saturday night (7:15 p.m. ET), then, the Bucs will be trying to make it three straight at Dodger Stadium for the first time since Sept. 4-6, 2000.
Beckett's encore dreams faded after four outs, on Russell Martin's single, and his shutout ended the next inning. Neil Walker's single scored Barmes, who had walked and moved up on Josh Harrison's single.
In extending his hitting streak to 11 games, Walker also stretched the Bucs' streak of two-out runs to all seven scored in this series up to that point.
Ike Davis changed that the next inning, leading off with a 453-foot homer to right-center.
"He left a fastball up over the plate, but otherwise pitched a good game," Davis said of Beckett. "It's hard to score two runs and beat the Dodgers. Our pitchers were outstanding. You've got to give all the credit to them."
Sensitive to the 128 pitches demanded by Beckett's no-hitter, Dodgers manager Don Mattingly hooked him after 88. Beckett was solid, allowing five hits and two runs in five innings, with a walk and five strikeouts.
Liriano also gave up five hits, and fanned eight while walking two. In particular, his off-speed pitches were lethal, getting Dodgers batters to repeatedly flail weakly on their toes.
"Their guy definitely had us chasing. A lot of balls seemed out of the strike zone," Mattingly acknowledged. "That usually means a guy has good movement, late movement. This guy's had success in the past. He has good stuff. We kind of know what he does."
"The change was good. I was able to keep it down," Liriano said.
Added Hurdle, "The change was a big pitch to right-handed batters in the middle of that lineup. He got a lot of swings and misses. He got eight strikeouts, and a lot of them came in those situations, with a man on second."
Liriano gave notice that the leaf had turned in the fourth by not letting misfortune again unravel him. Yasiel Puig led off by topping a ball 20 feet in front of the plate, and Liriano's haste to get the speedster led to a throwing error that also gave Puig second.
Liriano responded by fanning both cleanup man Ramirez and Kemp, then induced another topped dribbler from Scott Van Slyke, handled surely by his catcher, Martin.
Remarkably, Liriano traversed a similar -- but much higher -- tightrope the very next inning, in which the Dodgers loaded the bases on Andre Ethier's leadoff double, Dee Gordon's two-out infield single and a walk of Figgins.
Figgins' triumph in that 11-pitch battle brought up Puig and brought down the house. Nonplussed, Liriano got him to pop a 2-2 change to Walker at second.
"Just a classic matchup," Hurdle raved, "on a Friday night in front of 47,000. Good stuff. It was a big situation, and he knew what he wanted to do. Puig is seeing the ball as well as any hitter we've run into this year, and we were able to make good pitches to him."
Two innings of intense, high-leverage pitches brought Liriano's count through five to 89 -- one more than Beckett's total. Yet, he was back on the mound for the sixth -- the third straight inning begun by Los Angeles' leadoff batter reaching second, this time via Ramirez's double.
The resolution was identical, too. Except, after getting the first two outs himself, Liriano relied on Wilson to finish it off. Wilson's strikeout of Ethier accomplished it.
"I think we're all frustrated we can't sustain anything," 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."