Amazin’ Ten of 2014: #8 – June 24


One of the biggest wild cards for the Mets in 2014 was Travis d’Arnaud. The original centerpiece of the R.A. Dickey trade, d’Arnaud’s major-league cameo in 2013 was nothing to write home about. His slow start as full-time catcher in April was even more disconcerting. As trade-mate Noah Syndergaard grabbed the headlines and fellow catching prospect Kevin Plawecki’s stock rose like yeast, d’Arnaud was in danger of become an afterthought less than a year after his big-league debut. All of that changed after the biggest wake-up call of his life.

Jul 5, 2014; New York, NY, USA; New York Mets catcher Travis d

#8 – D’Arnaud’s Return Sparks Thrashing of Kazmir (June 24)

Through his first 39 games of the year, Travis was hitting .180 with a .544 OPS and just six extra-base hits. Completely lost at the plate, New York gave him a road map back to Las Vegas, hoping he would rediscover himself in Triple-A. D’Arnaud passed his so-called rehab with flying colors (.436 BA, 1.384 OPS, 14 XBH in 15 games), and two and a half weeks later he got his second chance at making the next grade.

The Mets were back at Citi Field on something of a hot streak, winners of four of their last five, including three of four in Miami. Making the visit to Queens were ex-phenom Scott Kazmir and the Oakland A’s, who were still soaring at the top of the American League. D’Arnaud and company were not about to let Kazmir have a happy homecoming.

Down 1-0 in the bottom of the second, Eric Campbell laced Kazmir’s first pitch into right field for a double. Two pitches later, Curtis Granderson activated the hit towels with a line drive over the old Mo Zone for his 10th home run of the year. Up next was Chris Young, who kept the towels a-waivin’ with a solo dinger of his own. In the span of seven pitches, New York held a 3-1 lead.

The third inning saw that lead balloon. Daniel Murphy singled and David Wright doubled. A pair of groundouts only brought one home, and Chris Young’s walk brought up the man of the hour. Travis d’Arnaud had struck out feebly in his first at-bat, but now he was facing his first clutch situation of his return. With one swing, he made it his rebirth: d’Arnaud jumped on a Kazmir changeup and launched a rocket over the Great Wall of Flushing for a three-run homer. They weren’t the go-ahead runs, but they were the knockout punch on what became a 7-1 advantage for the orange and blue.

Chris Young turned out not to be finished on the night, as he connected on a fifth-inning curveball for his second longball of the night (it turns out a quarter of all his Met home runs came on this night). RBIs by Murphy and Wright in the sixth gave New York 10 unanswered runs and gave the game its 10-1 final margin

Behind that flurry of offense, d’Arnaud’s battery mate Bartolo Colon was able to cruise against his former team, tossing eight innings of one-run, four-hit ball, with just two hits coming after the first inning. He walked one and struck out eight on 112 pitches. Vic Black needed just 11 pitches to get through a 1-2-3 ninth.

From that moment on, Travis d’Arnaud gave living proof in a new kind of Las Vegas Recovery Center. Travis raised his batting average 35 points through the All-Star Break, socking three home runs and five doubles to boot. The hot streak continued through the rest of the season: in his 69 games after Vegas, he hit .272 with 10 home runs, 32 RBIs, and an .805 OPS. Just as significant were his mere 39 strikeouts in 257 at-bats. Even though Jacob deGrom took home top rookie recognition, d’Arnaud got a look from a few voters, finishing seventh in NL Rookie of the Year voting (one spot ahead of teammate Jeurys Familia).

With Kevin Plawecki still breathing down his neck, d’Arnaud should look to 2015 as another chance to establish himself as the Mets catcher of the future. If he keeps the heat turned up, he could reach the 25 homer plateau and give New York another power threat to complement Michael Cuddyer, Lucas Duda, Curtis Granderson, and David Wright. The Mets’ power surge may have been delayed by a year, but the Travis d’Arnaud renaissance means it’s finally coming to a ballpark near you.

June 24: the 8th most Amazin’ game of 2014. We’ll be back on Monday for #7.

Amazin’ Ten of 2014

#10 – DeGrom’s Finale Shuts Down Braves (September 21)

#9 – Duda Dings Dodgers (August 24)

#8 – D’Arnaud’s Return Sparks Thrashing of Kazmir (June 24)

#7 – A Grand(y) Walk-Off (April 25)

#6 – Bronx Bombing (May 12)

#5 – Wheeler’s Beach Party (June 19)

#4 – DeGrom Outduels Peavy (or: “Oh wow!”) [August 2]

#3 – Lagares Silences Doubters for Good (May 17)

#2 – Bartolo Colon, Rally Maker (or: “Let’s watch him run!”) [June 18]

#1 – Milestones and Momentum (September 28)