d'Arnaud cementing his role in five-spot

d'Arnaud cementing his role in five-spot

SAN DIEGO -- Not only is he finally establishing himself in the big leagues, catcher Travis d'Arnaud is beginning to do so in a specific offensive role. His recent success, including a go-ahead single in the ninth inning on Friday, has entrenched him in the fifth spot in the lineup, where he once again started on Saturday against the Padres.

"When he stops doing damage, we've got to find somebody else to put in that spot," manager Terry Collins said. "But right now he's been the guy, and we're very, very happy. We've played well with him hitting fifth. He's gotten big hits. It seems like almost every game he plays, he's come through in a big situation."

Batting d'Arnaud fifth, Collins said, has also given cleanup hitter Lucas Duda the type of protection he lacked for most of the early season. And that's precisely what the Mets envisioned when they traded for d'Arnaud two offseasons ago, believing they'd found a middle-of-the-order bat for years to come.

Though d'Arnaud does not boast elite power, he does possess the ability to hit the ball to all fields -- something he has showcased with regularity over the past few weeks. He is batting .318 with three home runs and a .357 on-base percentage in 17 games since returning from Triple-A Las Vegas, compared with .180 with three home runs and a .271 OBP in 39 games to start the season.

"This game is about today and tonight; tomorrow always brings something different," Collins said. "But he's swinging the bat very, very well. He's been driving in runs. He's been hitting some homers. Therefore, he protects."

Anthony DiComo is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDicomo. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.