Travis d'Arnaud nearly missed the team bus to Yankee Stadium on Monday, and the Yankees probably wish he had.
The Tampa Bay Rays catcher has suddenly emerged as a new Yankee-killer in the past month. D'Arnaud has four home runs in his last eight at-bats against the Yankees, which include a walk-off home run and a ninth inning, three-run go-ahead shot on Monday night off Aroldis Chapman that doomed the Bombers in a 5-4 loss.
D'Arnaud was responsible for driving in all five of Tampa Bay's runs, with two solo home runs off James Paxton, finishing the night 3-for-3 with a walk. He became the first catcher to hit three home runs in a game out of the leadoff spot, per Elias Sports Bureau.
"This is the coolest night ever," d'Arnaud said after the game. "I mean, one and two with the walk-off home run last week, but top two, for sure. As far as regular season goes."
D'Arnaud fell behind in the count to Chapman, 1-2, but worked it full when Chapman left a slider over the outside part of the plate. The Rays catcher used the Yankee Stadium dimensions to his advantage as he skied it into right field.
"I figured I was out or it was a home run," he said. "[Aaron] Judge was there but it was far enough out of his reach."
Chapman also admitted he was not sure if the ball would go out, but also said that he did not locate the pitch the way he wanted.
"All night my slider had been working for me, I was trying to surprise him there with a slider down and away," he said. "It was a little higher than I wanted and he took advantage of it."
D'Arnaud seems to have found a second life with the Rays after failing to live up to expectations with the Mets. The catcher was pedestrian at best in seven years in Queens, and after missing almost all of 2018 due to Tommy John surgery, d'Arnaud returned this season for just 10 games, collecting just two hits, before the Mets decided to place him on waivers.
He was signed by the Dodgers and five days later, he was traded for cash considerations to the Rays.
"Who knows?" d'Arnaud said, when asked if a change of scenery has helped him. "I know after 50 at-bats I started feeling more comfortable. I don't know why, but that was the number."
For now, d'Arnaud appears to be playing a key role in the midst of a pennant race as the Rays trail the Yankees by five games in the AL East and lead the AL Wild Card by two games.
"Big win. Huge win," he said. "Not bad for a day I almost missed the bus."