One of the Los Angeles Dodgers biggest surprises this season has been the emergence of catcher Austin Barnes, who went from almost not making the roster out of Spring Training, to being Yasmani Grandal’s backup, to starting two of the team’s three postseason games thus far.
Barnes went 4-for-8 with a walk and a key home run off Zack Greinke in Game 3 of the National League Division Series against the Arizona Diamondbacks. That Barnes started against a right-handed pitcher was a mild surprise.
“It’s always nice when your manager has that faith in you,” said Barnes after the Dodgers swept the Diamondbacks. “It was nice to be in the lineup and be able to contribute with the guys.”
His steady performance, coupled with Grandal’s slump, led to an increase in playing time for Barnes. His versatility also factored into that.
“With Austin, he’s really matured as a Major League player this year,” Roberts said. “Behind the plate, just the confidence that he’s had, he’s grown to have behind the plate. In the batter’s box, he competes every pitch, hits to all fields.
“He’s athletic, can play second base, and tonight just keeping Yu locked in. They were in kind of rhythm all night long, so it was fun to watch.”
Roberts will have an interesting decision to make moving forward into the NL Championship Series. Grandal offers more experience and a bigger bat, but Barnes has arguably been the more consistent hitter.
Grandal was 0-for-4 when he started in Game 1 of the NLDS and slashed just .154/.269/.369 in the month of September. So, Roberts will need to decide if he sticks with playing the matchup or the hot hand as the Dodgers march toward their first World Series since 1988.