D’Arnaud was 3-for-3 with two walks and four RBIs Tuesday, his seventh-inning homer to center field preceded by a run-scoring double in the third inning. His performance was another reminder, the loudest yet, of how the two-year contract the Braves gave him in November is paying off for team and player alike.
“Absolutely, this is what I had in mind: championship-caliber team, championship-caliber organization,” d’Arnaud said. “This is what I was thinking about all the offseason – to be able to play in the playoffs again. ...”
D’Arnaud, 31, is playing in his seventh career postseason series, including the 2015 World Series with the New York Mets. But early last season, he was released by the Mets and then discarded by the Los Angeles Dodgers, who traded him to Tampa Bay for “cash considerations” after he spent only five days on the L.A. roster.
He revived his career with the Rays before becoming a free agent after last season. Braves general manager Alex Anthopoulos “was calling me from the get-go” of free agency, d’Arnaud said Tuesday, “and I really appreciated the love and the reaching-out he did.”
D’Arnaud signed a two-year, $16 million contract, which actually paid him about $3 million this season after being prorated for the shortened schedule.
Tucked behind the attention-getting trio of Ronald Acuna, Freddie Freeman and Marcell Ozuna in the Braves' batting order, d’Arnaud had a .321 batting average (highest among MLB catchers), nine home runs and 34 RBIs in the 60-game regular season.
“I’m very lucky to be able to hit behind Freddie and Marcell and hit in front of Ozzie (Albies) and have (Nick) Markakis' brain here,” d’Arnaud said. “I’ve just been trying to pick his brain all the time. I’m surrounded by the right people at the right time, and I’m trying to take advantage of it.”
“He has been great for our club,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “He has gotten a lot of big hits over the course of this season.”
None bigger than Tuesday’s.
The Braves trailed 4-3 entering the bottom of the seventh inning. After Ozuna’s RBI single tied the score, d’Arnaud -- a career .169 hitter in the postseason before Tuesday -- came to bat with runners on first and second. On a 2-0 count, he attacked a slider from Marlins reliever Yimi Garcia, who until that moment hadn’t allowed a home run this season.
Two batters later, Dansby Swanson followed with a two-run homer off another reliever, capping a six-run inning that again underscored the depth of the Braves' lineup, which was shut down by Cincinnati pitching for most of two playoff games last week.
“It was nice to be able to have a breakthrough game today,” d’Arnaud said. “I think we all kind of knew we needed to focus a little more. The days (since last week’s series), we got our work in and got our mindset back to how much damage we can do."