Originally published by DodgerBlue.com
When the Los Angeles Dodgers were eliminated by the Washington Nationals in the National League Division Series last year, Austin Barnes was not part of the team’s postseason roster. His playing time waned, there was a stint with Triple-A Oklahoma City and for October the club went with Russell Martin and Will Smith.
Barnes endured another inconsistent regular season in 2020 as the backup to Smith. However, he has factored prominently in the Dodgers’ postseason run that has them two wins from ending the franchise’s World Series drought.
Both Barnes and Smith were in the lineup for Game 3 against the Tampa Bay Rays, with the former catching Walker Buehler a second consecutive time. While the battery again was in sync, Barnes’ additionally contributed at the plate.
He first dropped down a perfect bunt on a safety squeeze and later hit a solo home run to left-center field. “They ask you to do something, you need to do it. Being able to scratch across those runs are huge,” Barnes said.
“I had a feeling it was coming. Just had to execute. Runners on base did a great job selling it, and when you sell it, it’s a hard play to defend.”
Barnes became just the second player in World Series history with a squeeze bunt and home run in a single game. “It’s nice to be in these games, have a little control behind the plate and try to get these Ws,” he said.
Roberts trusts Barnes
Much of Barnes’ value comes in pitch framing, though Dodgers manager Dave Roberts has regularly voiced confidence in his ability to contribute in multiple facets.
“His ability to call the game, see the game behind home plate, his ability to receive and he gives you a tough at-bat. I just think we have two very good catchers in Will and Austin,” Roberts said after Game 3.
“It just shows how much we trust him in big games. He’s done it for us time and time again. He had a fantastic night. … Austin is a guy I really think the world of. He’s a tough competitor, he makes pitchers better, he makes me and the pitching coaches look good.
“I’m just really excited he did what he did tonight. The cherry on top was the homer.”
Have you subscribed to our YouTube channel? It’s the best way to watch player interviews, exclusive coverage from events, participate in our shows, and more!