La Stella maintains even keel as bat cools

WASHINGTON – Tommy La Stella didn't get too geeked up when he hit over .400 in his first 2 ½ weeks in the major leagues, and the Braves' rookie second baseman didn't beat himself up over hitting 300 points lower in the week since.

“I’ve put some good swings on stuff lately, just kind of right at people,” La Stella said before Sunday’s series finale against the Nationals. “That’s baseball.”

La Stella was called up from Triple-A on May 28, had two hits in his debut that night at Boston’s Fenway Park, and went 23-for-56 (.411) in his first 16 games with two doubles, six RBIs, a .476 OBP and only five strikeouts. He had nine multi-hit games in that stretch.

Since then he was 3-for-27 (.111) in his past six games before Sunday, with a double, one walk and three strikeouts. If it was weighing on La Stella, he sure wasn’t showing it.

““I had a couple of bloopers that got through earlier,” he said with a shrug. “It just happens. As long as I keep swinging the way I’m swinging, stick to my approach, hopefully I’ll be fine. I think as long as I’m putting together those quality at-bats, not swinging out of the zone all that often, hopefully with the law of averages it should even out.”

After hitting in the eighth spot in the order in his first three games, then seventh in his next five games, and then either fifth, sixth or seventh in his next 10 games (but mostly seventh), La Stella was then moved up to the leadoff spot for the Braves’ past five games including Sunday.

La Stella was only 2-for-17 with one walk and two strikeouts in the leadoff spot before Sunday, but insisted that hitting atop the lineup hadn’t affected him. Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez shifted him when he moved Jason Heyward from leadoff to the fifth spot.

“I had a few line-outs last week, and we’ve faced some good arms,” La Stella said. “I don’t want to take anything away from those guys — we’ve faced some good arms.

“I don’t mind (leading off), I really don’t. I’ve never done it before, it’s kind of new to me.”