Veteran catcher’s hits, wis­dom big for Braves

Chattanooga Times Free Press - - PAGE 2 BITS - BY CHARLES ODUM

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.”

AP PHOTO/ ERIC GAY

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.

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