Darvish struck out nine in his seven innings and walked none, and retired 21 of his 24 batters faced, allowing only a run on two hits.
“Yu was in complete control, with the cutter and the breaking balls. The tempo was very good. A lot of weak contact and fly ball,” manager Dave Roberts said. “Was it command perfect? Probably not, but the life that the ball had was a good sign. We saw some 97s and he was sitting in the mid-90s. It was good to see.”
“He did a great job,” said catcher Yasmani Grandal. “The ball was really moving tonight.”
“All his stuff was on. Every pitch, even from third you could see it breaking, and hitting Yas’s mitt,” said Logan Forsythe, who drove in a season-high four runs in the win. “For him to have that success and get that confidence up, it was fun to watch.”
The confidence hasn’t always been there since the Dodgers acquired Darvish. He struck out 10 batters in each of his first two starts after joining the team, but then allowed 16 runs in 18⅓ innings in a four-start stretch, including six home runs allowed. All that while going through modifications in his delivery, which he described as trying to re-learn muscle memory from earlier in his career.
“It didn’t start out great for him. There was a transition,” Roberts said. “But if you look at his last three starts, they’ve been very good. Right now, he’s in a pretty good place.”
Beginning with his Sept. 13 start in San Francisco, when he pitched seven scoreless innings to beat the Giants, Darvish said he finally felt the mechanical changes click, allowing him to free his mind.
In his last three starts, Darvish has allowed two runs — one earned — on nine hits in 19⅓ innings, with 21 strikeouts and just one walk, with no home runs allowed. Granted, those games were against three of the four lowest-scoring offenses in the National League — the Giants, Phillies, and Padres — but it’s still a step in the right direction for Darvish.
“Each of the pitches that I have, I really have good confidence in," Darvish said. "Maybe that’s because I don’t have to overthink about other stuff. I’m going in a good direction.
“I’m in a really good position physically and mentally.”
The weekend rotation in Coors Field hasn’t been finalized, but Darvish lines up for Sunday, which could put him in line to start Game 2 of the National League Division Series. Roberts said that Darvish in his final start would be more of a tune up outing, likely limited to no more than 75 pitches.
The Dodgers send Alex Wood to the mound on Tuesday night for the middle game of the series, another 7:10 p.m. PT start. With right-hander Dinelson Lamet starting for the Padres, the Dodgers plan to start Adrian Gonzalez at first base and Andre Ethier in left field.