It's not going to be easy for Josh Beckett to top his last start when he takes the mound Friday night inside Dodger Stadium.
That's because it will be the first start for Beckett (3-1, 2.43 ERA) since he no-hit Philadelphia on Sunday. The Majors' first no-no of 2014 put an exclamation point on Beckett's early-season renaissance. A year after being limited to just 43 1/3 innings and no wins due to shoulder problems, the 34-year-old has won three consecutive starts for the first time since August 2011 while with Boston.
The three-time All-Star's excellence has surprised many, including Beckett. He's not complaining, though.
"Especially when you get to this point in your career, I figured those days were behind me," Beckett said of the two days of no-no euphoria that carried cross-country, from Philadelphia to L.A.
He'll look to continue his newly rediscovered success against Pittsburgh, a franchise he's seen very little of during his 14-year career. He has not faced the Pirates since July 5, 2004, while with the Marlins. Beckett is 1-1 with a 1.54 ERA in two career starts against the Bucs.
Beckett threw a career-high 128 pitches in the no-hitter. Asked how he felt the next day, Beckett wasn't too concerned.
"Pretty normal," Beckett said. "A pretty common day after a start. Certainly, when I was younger, I would feel a little bit better the day after."
So, what's pretty normal?
"Like I got hit by a truck," Beckett quipped.
Manager Don Mattingly isn't worried about his pitcher's heavy workload, saying Beckett hasn't experienced any problems this week.
"He threw a bullpen, and he doesn't always do that," Mattingly said. "He didn't feel that he got overtaxed. I pretty much expect him to be Josh [on Friday], at this point."
Dodgers: Kemp in unfamiliar territory
With a left ankle sprain relegating Carl Crawford to the 15-day disabled list, Matt Kemp started in left field for the second consecutive game on Thursday.
The back-to-back starts mark the first time Kemp has played in left field since he appeared there in eight games during 2006, his rookie year.
"I think he looked good out there [Wednesday]," Mattingly said. "I thought he looked comfortable out there. I'm sure he's not quite comfortable yet, but he looked comfortable."
Kemp is hitting .248 with five home runs and 13 RBIs through 45 games this season.
Pirates: Offense looks to (finally) support Liriano
Beckett will be opposed on the mound by Pittsburgh's Francisco Liriano (0-5, 5.06 ERA), whose recent trajectory has been the reverse of Beckett's.
Liriano had a surprisingly outstanding 2013 campaign, compiling a 16-8 record with a 3.02 ERA. It was the first time since 2010 that Liriano finished a season with a sub-5.00 era.
Thus far in 2014, last year's success looks like an aberration for the lefty.
Liriano has surrendered at least four runs in six of his 11 starts this season. But while he has been a detriment to his own success, he hasn't received much help from his teammates, either, as the Pirates have provided Liriano with just 3.54 runs per start and have scored just 10 runs with Liriano in the game.
"I'm not doing my job at all," Liriano said. "I'm not going deep into the game, and I'm not keeping the team in the ballgame."
Manager Clint Hurdle acknowledged the lack of wins is causing his southpaw to put extra pressure on himself.
"The trying-too-hard thing, we've discussed," Hurdle said. "He's well aware of that. The frustration part is one Frank is well aware of. He's been around; he's got experience to deal with it."
• Drew Butera, who caught Beckett's no-hitter, is expected to be behind the plate on Friday. Coincidentally, Butera also caught Liriano's no-hitter on May 3, 2011, when they were with the Twins.
• Dodgers pitcher Chad Billingsley took a sizable step forward on Thursday in his recovery from Tommy John surgery, throwing a two-inning simulated game in Dodger Stadium prior to the Dodgers' game against the Pirates. The right-hander threw 30 pitches. Billingsley has not appeared in a Major League game since April 2013.
• The City of Angels hasn't been very heavenly to the Pirates, who won for the first time in 10 games at Dodger Stadium on Thursday, 6-3. Though, in 2014, anywhere besides Pittsburgh has been unkind to the Pirates, who have the worst road record (8-16) in baseball.
Ryan Hood is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.