Veteran catcher’s hits, wisdom big for Braves
After playing for three teams last year, Travis d’Arnaud felt sure he’d found a home when he signed with the Atlanta Braves during the offseason.
The fit was just right for d’Arnaud to deliver a postseason to remember — and it’s not over yet.
After homering in each of the first two games of Atlanta’s National League Division Series against the Miami Marlins, the 31- year- old catcher hit a tworun double in a four- run third inning Thursday that sent the Braves on their way to a 7-0 win and a three- game sweep of the series.
D’Arnaud was 6- for-10 with two home runs, two doubles and seven RBIs — the most by a catcher in a division series — to help Atlanta reach the NL Championship Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers, who completed their own NLDS sweep against the San Diego Padres later Thursday. The NLCS will be played at the Texas Rangers’ Globe Life Field in Arlington, starting Monday.
D’Arnaud hit a high fastball from Sixto Sánchez off the fence in right-center field for the tworun double.
“That was like old school right there, just tomahawking the ball,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “He just put an oldschool hack on that thing.”
Asked how he stayed on top of the high pitch, d’Arnaud said: “I’m still wondering, too. I just tried to put the barrel on the ball. I got rewarded with a double that scored two runs.”
With d’Arnaud behind the plate, Kyle Wright led the Braves to their fourth shutout in five games this postseason. Wright threw six innings, allowing only three hits but having to pitch out of trouble early in the game.
Though d’Arnaud’s hits were big, he said he was most proud of Wright, who turned 25 last week.
“The performance of the young kid, what he did, what he battled through when he didn’t have his best stuff,” d’Arnaud said.
D’Arnaud earned praise from Snitker for helping Atlanta’s young starters. Max Fried, Ian Anderson and Wright became a postseason strength when the inexperience of the staff looked like the weak spot of the team.
“I can’t say enough about that guy,” Snitker said of d’Arnaud. “He’s just been unbelievable for us with the big hits, and the hits overshadow the big job he did for us with those pitchers.”
It would have been difficult to predict d’Arnaud hitting cleanup in the 2020 postseason when he was cut by the New York Mets early in 2019 and then had his contract sold by the Dodgers for $ 100,000 to the Tampa Bay Rays. D’Arnaud said he focused on knowing other teams still believed he could play.
“It made me feel like I was doing something right, something was right in my mindset,” d’Arnaud said. “I just had to keep continuing to do that and keep moving forward.”
With the Rays, d’Arnaud revived his career and was signed by Atlanta to a $ 16 million, two-year deal on Nov. 24, 2019. He didn’t have to strain to learn about the organization — his brother Chase played for the Braves in 2016 and 2017 — and said he knew Atlanta had the potential to make a postseason run.
“Absolutely. I knew that this organization had it in them,” d’Arnaud said. “I knew playing against them, I was not going to bed until about 5 a.m. because I was worried about the next day. Now I can sleep a little better at night knowing that I’m on that team. To be a part of it and to see what truly happens behind closed doors and in the locker room is magical, and I’m thankful to be a part of it.”
D’Arnaud hit .321 with nine homers in the shortened regular season while sharing time with Tyler Flowers behind the plate.
“That’s my pick for the Silver Slugger as a catcher,” Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman said of d’Arnaud. “I don’t know if you can have a better season than he did, and coming up clutch, too.”
Atlanta catcher Travis d’Arnaud breaks his bat while hitting a single in the fifth inning of Game 1 of the Braves’ NL Division Series against the Miami Marlins on Tuesday in Houston. Atlanta swept the series.