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Tuesday, December 14, 2021

Ex-Met Travis d’Arnaud shines at the bat and behind the plate

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ATLANTA — Mr. d’Arnaud’s wild ride began, as the best days often do, with some donuts.

“We got a bunch of chocolate bars, chocolate twists, cinnamon twists, cinnamon rolls, apple fritter, a lot of doughnut holes,” Travis d’Arnaud detailed early Saturday morning. “Yeah, it was good, too. It was good.”

His day concluded with a ball sent deep into the October night, 437 feet from its origin, and a World Series lead. And, for fans of a top Braves rival, perhaps some regret.

Yes, the former Met contributed his share, if taking a circuitous route there, to Atlanta’s 2-0 blanking of the Astros in Game 3 of this Fall Classic on Friday night at Truist Park, the first finals game in this city since the Yankees and Braves faced off in Game 2 of the 1999 World Series at Turner Field. The home team nearly made some serious history, coming six outs short of a combined no-hitter. It settled for one step closer to more conventional history, its series advantage now at 2-1.

If the Braves were all smiles in the postgame news conferences, the contest itself featured more stress than a vaccine mandate at a police department. The Braves passed up many opportunities to boost their slim lead and nearly faced a tie game after Tyler Matzek permitted Houston’s first hit, a leadoff single to pinch-hitter Aledmys Diaz to start the eighth inning. And d’Arnaud found himself in the middle of pretty much all of it.

“There’s a lot of pressure that could come just thinking that you’re in a World Series game,” d’Arnaud said. “So I just try to stay calm and take it pitch by pitch. If I get a hit, cool. If I get an out, whatever. It’s more about catching a winner.”

Travis d'Arnaud celebrates after hitting a solo homer in the eighth inning of the Braves' 2-0 Game 3 win over the Astros.
Travis d’Arnaud celebrates after hitting a solo homer in the eighth inning of the Braves’ 2-0 Game 3 win over the Astros.
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As Braves starter Ian Anderson bobbed and weaved his way through five no-hit innings — “effectively wild” as Houston manager Dusty Baker described it — d’Arnaud guided him.

“He’s caught every single one of my postseason outings,” Anderson said afterward with a nod toward d’Arnaud, when asked to explain the secret of his 1.26 postseason ERA over eight career starts. If the Braves had deposited more than one run out of their third-inning rally, during which they loaded the bases with one out after grabbing the 1-0 lead, then perhaps manager Brian Snitker might have let Anderson go a little longer in a quest for history.

However, after Adam Duvall failed to deliver so much as a sacrifice fly, fouling out to Yuli Gurriel at first base, d’Arnaud struck out against Astros starter Luis Garcia. The catcher stranded two more teammates in the fifth, grounding out to Gurriel to leave runners at first and second, and Snitker, mindful of how hard Anderson had worked to that point (76 pitches, only 39 of them strikes), turned to lefty reliever A.J. Minter to start the bullpen parade.

After Matzek followed Diaz’s base hit with a pair of outs, pinch runner Jose Siri stole second during Michael Brantley’s at-bat, and d’Arnaud’s throw skipped into center field, his error advancing the tying run to third, just 90 feet away. But Matzek retired Brantley on a pop to Austin Riley. In the bottom of the eighth, d’Arnaud came up with two outs for the fourth time, this time with the bases empty. His home run to center field off Kendall Graveman doubled the home team’s lead and provided a cushion for Braves closer Will Smith.

“Oh, that’s huge to be up 2-0 instead of 1-0 going into the ninth against that team,” d’Arnaud said.

It has been huge, too, for d’Arnaud to wind up with the Braves. His Mets tenure produced too many injuries and not enough production, and then the Mets bailed on him in the dumbest manner possible, releasing him in 2019 when he was still recovering from Tommy John surgery. He revived his career shortly after leaving the Mets, and the Braves have him signed through 2023.

“Yes, I love this city,” d’Arnaud said. “They’ve treated my family and me very well. I’m so thankful that I even had an opportunity to come here with [Atlanta general manager] Alex [Anthopoulos].”

His wild ride ended with him safe at home, more baked goods — and good times, he hoped — surely awaiting him Saturday.


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