"Still, to go five innings and strike out 10 says how good he is," manager Dave Roberts said after Darvish became the first pitcher to record 10 strikeouts in his first two Dodgers starts since rookie Karl Spooner in 1954.
Darvish struggled to establish his sinker command, falling behind in counts repeatedly en route to 106 pitches and an exit after five innings. He allowed two runs -- a leadoff walk in the third inning cashed in on David Peralta's infield single, and then a one-out homer to J.D. Martinez in the fourth inning.
After that, pitching coach Rick Honeycutt suggested to Darvish he mix in some breaking balls, and in his final inning, he struck out the side, including the third strikeouts of the game of A.J. Pollock and Paul Goldschmidt.
"I was wondering where it was four innings prior," Roberts said, suggesting that he and Honeycutt might have a conversation with Darvish about that soon.
Darvish said he was just sticking with the game plan, even though it wasn't working so well.
"It was a battle throughout the game," he said. "I had trouble getting first-pitch strikes. The last game I was able to mix it up. Today, maybe I was being too aggressive with the fastball, and Honeycutt came to me said let's mix it up and that's when I went to the curveball. Felt really good coming into the game. The sinker was feeling good, maybe I was overthrowing it early in the game and got off the rhythm. Maybe I felt too good."
Darvish -- who will make his Dodger Stadium debut on Wednesday on his 31st birthday -- posted back-to-back 10-plus strikeout performances for the first time since May 4 and May 9, 2014. He's 8-9 overall this year and 2-0 with 20 strikeouts in 12 innings for the Dodgers.
Roberts remained impressed with what he saw.
"He had to labor tonight, but the changing of speeds, manipulating the baseball -- so good, so good," he said. "The slider, he has the ability to keep it in the hitting zone for a long time and at the end the bottom falls out of it. When he's not at his best, five innings and 10 punches, still very encouraging. We'd like him to go deeper, but it was a good win."
The short start necessitated five relievers picking up the final four innings. Brock Stewart and Brandon Morrow allowed two runs each, but Tony Cingrani stepped up with back-to-back strikeouts of left-handed batters Gregor Blanco and Peralta to set up Kenley Jansen's 30th save. Tony Watson, in his rematch from Tuesday night's grand-slam disaster, retired Jake Lamb on a comebacker that deflected off his left ankle, but he was not injured.
Ken Gurnick has covered the Dodgers for MLB.com since 2001. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.