Why the Mets’ investment in catcher Travis d’Arnaud is paying off

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MIAMI —  started to feel it around the 10th inning. His legs started feeling heavy as he crouched behind the plate. Teammates were helping their catcher down the dugout steps. 

D’Arnaud had already done plenty of running in the game, tripling in the second inning to drive in the Mets’ first three runs against the Miami Marlins. He was motoring around the bases again in the eighth when pinch-hitter  doubled him home from first base. He crossed the plate and tied the game, not knowing he’d still be going a few hours later. 

But around 1 a.m., the next morning, d’Arnaud teed off on a pitcher that was scheduled to start Friday night’s game, belting the go-ahead home run in the 16th inning. He made one more trot around the bases, this time with his legs feeling just a little bit lighter. 

“The emotions of the home run helped lift my legs a little bit,” d’Arnaud said. 

In the Mets’ marathon  on Thursday night, d’Arnaud came through in every way possible, with a career day at the plate and managing a bullpen that was maxed out and working overtime. 

There wasn’t really any way d’Arnaud could be replaced after a certain point. Rene Rivera was already playing first base and manager Terry Collins had planned to pitch him if Hansel Robles wasn’t able to go for a fourth day in a row. 

The Mets’ stars had all played like stars early in the game, but when nothing else was going, it was d’Arnaud and bullpen role players who turned in star-like performances when the Mets needed them the most. 

“They rose up, they hung in there,” Collins said. “They’re dog-tired. But it was a pretty impressive game to me.”

The Mets had to go to their bullpen in the fifth inning and they emptied it out. Bringing closer Addison Reed into a tie game on the road in the 10th inning might have seemed bold at 11 p.m., but an hour later it seemed smart. Reed pitched two innings, then handed the ball over to left-handed journeyman , who went three innings and isn’t even sure how he managed. 

“You have dig into places that you didn’t know you could dig into,” Smoker said. “That was the first time I had gone three innings in a long time.”

Smoker had some of his best stuff at the right time. A nasty slider fooled Christian Yelich for the third out in the 13th, leaving him slamming his bat and tossing his helmet. Pitching purely off adrenaline in the 14th, the Marlins’ two most dangerous hitters, Giancarlo Stanton and Marcell Ozuna, went down weakly while Smoker walked off the field fired up. 

Hansel Robles then pitched for the fourth night in a row.

“(Smoker) was gassed when he came out,” Collins said. “But he kept us in the game. And Hansel Robles did it for us at the end. We can say whatever we want about him, ‘Oh, Hansel makes a mistake here and there,’ but that’s four days in a row. And he called us and said he was available to pitch.”

Through it all, d’Arnaud helped keep them going. 

“I try to remind them to stay focused on what’s in front of them,” d’Arnaud said. “Live in the moment and take it pitch-by-pitch, little things like that.”

The beleaguered Mets pitching staff will reportedly get Sean Gilmartin in for the second game of the series and d’Arnaud will get a couple days off. He was already scheduled to get Friday off so Rivera could catch . 

The oft-injured catcher has taken heat in the past for lots of things: Everything from his injury history to his throwing and and hitting. The Mets have invested a lot in d’Arnaud this season, bringing in catching specialist Glenn Sherlock to work specifically with him. They see the potential of d’Arnaud in the lineup, a productive No. 8 hitter, and his ability to work with young pitchers. 

D’Arnaud’s legs won’t feel quite so heavy if he keeps hitting hefty numbers at the plate. 

Abbey Mastracco may be reached at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter . Find .



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