ATLANTA — If hitting a home run in the World Series is the stuff kids dream of growing up, then Travis d’Arnaud’s Friday was doubly good. Not only did he wallop his second home run of this Series at a key moment in the eighth inning of Game 3, but his day had started with a family trip for doughnuts.
“We got 15 doughnuts,” d’Arnaud said after his 437-foot homer produced the final run to ice Atlanta’s 2-0 win. “We got a bunch of chocolate bars, chocolate twists, cinnamon twists, cinnamon rolls, apple fritter, a lot of doughnut holes.
“Yeah, it was good, too.”
At 32 and playing in his second World Series, d’Arnaud is in the sweet spot of his career, playing with a team he loves. Now with his fourth organization in nine years, he signed a two-year, $16 million extension in August that likely will keep him in Atlanta through 2024. He’s caught three shutouts this postseason — two against Milwaukee in a division series and Friday’s game that looked like it could be a no-hitter until pinch-hitter Aledmys Diaz dumped a base hit onto the outfield grass to start the eighth.
Offensively, he is hitting .417 (5 for 12) in this World Series. An unexpected key has been using teammate Joc Pederson’s bat. After hitting .167 against the Brewers in the division series and .211 against the Dodgers in the National League Championship Series, he started using Pederson’s bat in the World Series and things turned around.
“I picked it up and I said, ‘Joc, this feels pretty good,’” d’Arnaud said. “He said, ‘It’s yours, big guy.’ I said, ‘I’m going to keep using it.’”
And he has, all three games.
“D’Arnaud’s been a pain in our side this whole series,” Houston Manager Dusty Baker said. “And he was kind of a pain against other teams I was on.”
Twice he’s been traded for pitchers who have won the Cy Young Award: He was drafted by Philadelphia but shipped to Toronto in the deal that brought the Phillies Roy Halladay in 2009. Then the Blue Jays traded him to the Mets in 2012 in a deal that sent R.A. Dickey to Toronto.
General Manager Alex Anthopoulos has acquired him twice and traded him once. Anthopoulos was running the Blue Jays when they completed the Halladay and Dickey trades. He was in charge in Atlanta when he signed the catcher as a free agent after the 2019 season.
“That was a fun phone call when he said, ‘Hey, we’re thinking about picking up Travis in the off-season, what do you think?” said Sal Fasano, Atlanta’s catching coach who managed d’Arnaud in Toronto’s system at Class AA New Hampshire in 2011. “And I’m like, ‘Please?’
“He had a few options because he had a pretty good year with Tampa Bay. We talked on the phone a little bit and the next day he ended up signing. So it was pretty exciting.”
Like many at his physically demanding position, d’Arnaud has had his share of injuries, including a sprained thumb ligament this year that sidelined him from May 2-Aug. 11. Atlanta wound up using seven different catchers to make it through the summer.
“It was a grind when he was out,” Fasano said. “We were searching. When we got him back it was like having your woobie back, having your warm blanket back. Because you knew he was invested into the pitchers. He has such a nice relationship with those guys. He’s not a big rah-rah guy. He’s very calm and pretty cerebral.”
Conditions during Game 3 added to the evening’s challenge. It was 49 degrees at game time and a thick mist fell off and on throughout. Though he doubled in the second, d’Arnaud struck out with the bases loaded to end the third. And he bounced to first with two on to end the fifth.
Then, after his pitching staff’s attempt at a no-hitter was broken up, Jose Siri pinch-ran for Diaz, stole second and d’Arnaud was charged with an error when his throw bounced into center field, allowing Siri tp scramble to third. It was the only time Houston put a base runner on third all evening.
That’s when the doughnuts came up. In the postgame interview room, he was asked about his eventful day. He said he was feeling good following the doughnut run with his wife, daughter (3) and son (two months), sounding like a man who wasn’t going to let anything, including an error, ruin his day.
“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.”
He did that in Game 3 to help push Atlanta to a two-games-to-one series lead. And after moving around quite a bit, he appears to have found a home for himself.
“I love this city,” he said. “They’ve treated my family and me very well. I’m so thankful that I even had an opportunity to come here with Alex.”
And it’s not just Anthopoulos. It’s the pitching staff he works so well with, it’s the rest of his teammates and it is a certain catching coach that has known him the longest of all of them.
“Let me phrase it this way: When you have an opportunity to coach somebody in the big leagues that you helped develop, it might be one of the most warming feelings that you have as a coach,” Fasano said. “Because you saw all the hard work you put in in the younger days, and to see what he’s blossomed into, it’s pretty awesome. I know that word gets overused, but it really is pretty awesome.”