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Apple jack: d'Arnaud makes up for lost time

Mets catcher hits moonshot homer, tags out Castro at home plate

NEW YORK -- After hitting what might have been the most important home run of his career during the sixth inning of Saturday night's 4-2 win over the Cubs, Mets catcher Travis d'Arnaud didn't even see it bounce off the big apple in dead-center field.

"I had my head down. I know center field is very deep here, so I was just running hard," he said about his second homer this postseason.

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The homer gave the Mets and Matt Harvey a 3-1 lead in Game 1 of the National League Championship Series and sent them on their way to a 1-0 advantage in the best-of-seven series. Game 2 is Sunday night (air time 7:30 p.m. ET, game time 8 p.m. ET on TBS) with Noah Syndergaard going for the Mets against Cy Young Award candidate Jake Arrieta.

Video: NLCS Gm1: d'Arnaud on key homer, Harvey's performance

:: NLCS: Cubs vs. Mets -- Tune-in info ::

When d'Arnaud was told the 431-foot blast off veteran Cubs left-hander Jon Lester hit the apple, sending it on its upward trajectory, he simply said: "Sweet. Pretty nice." He hadn't even seen the replay yet.

"I'm going to watch it here pretty soon," he said.

It hasn't been the best of years for d'Arnaud who had two stints on the disabled list during the first half of the season because of a fractured right hand and a hyperextended left elbow. He missed from April 19 to June 10 recovering from the hand injury courtesy of a pitch thrown by A.J. Ramos of the Marlins and went out again from June 20 to Aug. 1 after hurting his elbow on a freakish play, covering the plate.

"Oh, you know, it's part of baseball," he said. "You're going to get injured. You're going to slump at some point. It happens to everyone. You just have to remember to keep your eyes on the prize and stay focused as much as you can."

It might have been just desserts then in the fifth inning that d'Arnaud was able to stand his ground blocking the plate as Starlin Castro tried to score on a Javier Baez single to left. Yoenis Cespedes made one of his laser throws and Castro tried to elude d'Arnaud's tag to no avail by stepping around him toward the first-base side.

It was one of the big plays of the game. As big as the homer.

Video: NLCS Gm1: Cespedes throws out Castro trying to score

"It was a great throw. Cespedes can really throw," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. "Castro tried to avoid the plate, but he was unable to. It was just a good play [all the way around] on their part."

Before the second injury, d'Arnaud was a .296 hitter in his first 77 plate appearances, but he struggled to finish at .268 with 12 homers and 41 RBIs in just 67 games.

The hitting woes have continued into the postseason. He batted .158 (3-for-19) in New York's five-game victory over the Dodgers in their NL Division Series, but the three hits and the other homer all came in a big 13-7 Game 3 win in New York.

Video: NLCS Gm1: Collins on d'Arnaud's shot, Cespedes' throw

With a homer and a single in four at-bats Saturday night, there's now every possibility that he's starting to break out.

"He's hit at every level of the Minor Leagues," said Mets captain David Wright about d'Arnaud, a .339 hitter in four seasons at Triple-A. "You know he's one of those premier offensive catchers. So you hate to see him get hurt this year, especially after such a good start, because you know how dangerous he is offensively for a catcher.

"A lot of times you have a catcher who's a mediocre hitter. But he's a middle-of-the-order hitter who can drive the ball and drive runs in and, as you saw tonight, has a tremendous amount of power."

Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for and writes an MLBlog, Boomskie on Baseball. Follow @boomskie on Twitter.
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