LOS ANGELES — Manager Dave Roberts stopped short of saying Austin Barnes would be the Dodgers’ starting catcher for the duration of the National League Championship Series.
Yet after an NLDS in which Barnes went 4 for 8 with a walk, a home run and a stolen base, it’s hard to envision him on the bench going forward.
Barnes started Games 2 and 3 as the Dodgers swept the Arizona Diamondbacks in the best-of-five series. Erstwhile starter Yasmani Grandal did not play after going 0 for 4 with two strikeouts in Game 1.
“He hasn’t played in a whole bunch of big games but just the way he plays and prepares, it was no surprise the at-bat quality he had, the big hits that he got, the way he handled the pitching staff,” Roberts said of Barnes. “It was certainly good for us to see it and more importantly for him to just gain that confidence, to do it on that stage.”
In his only prior postseason experience, Barnes made one plate appearance in last year’s NLDS and struck out. Thursday, he downplayed any confidence he might have gained on the postseason stage.
“I treat every game I play pretty seriously,” Barnes said. “I’ve treated the whole season like it was a playoff game. There’s definitely a little bit more emotion from everybody in those playoff games. They’re fun, intense – there’s a focus on every pitch.”
Grandal began the 2017 season as the Dodgers’ undisputed starter, and his playing time followed a predictable pattern. Only once did Roberts start Grandal in more than five straight games; Grandal never took more than two consecutive games off. There was never much of a “personal catcher” relationship between any Dodgers pitcher and catcher, though Barnes caught six of Rich Hill’s last eight starts.
The arrangement shifted when Grandal fell into a slump at the plate and Barnes did not. Grandal had a .275 batting average, .322 on-base percentage and .487 slugging percentage on July 29. From that point forward, his slash line…