NEW YORK -- As Tommy La Stella grew up in New Jersey, just a short drive from Yankee Stadium, he knew all about Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera and the other Yankees that he and his father loved. But before this week, his only previous trip to the home of the Mets came when he attended a friend's childhood birthday party.
La Stella has certainly not buckled under the pressure of playing in front of the many friends and family members who have come to Citi Field this week to get their first in-person look at him as a Major Leaguer. The 25-year-old second baseman entered Thursday's finale having gone 4-for-12 during the first three games of the series. His steady hand has provided Atlanta's lineup the contact bat it lacked before he made his Major League debut on May 28.
"It's pretty cool that people get to bond over [baseball]," La Stella said. "That to me is the most humbling thing. When the kids grow up, your family is not together that often. But to hear everyone say, 'Oh yeah we're coming to the game,' that is pretty special."
La Stella hit .411 through his first 16 games and then .122 over a 13-game stretch that was marred by an ill-advised decision to briefly throw him in the leadoff spot. But while batting seventh in each of the past 11 games, he has hit .389 with a .511 on-base percentage. Consequently, his .297 batting average ranks first among all NL rookies who have compiled at least 130 plate appearances.
"Sometimes you get young players come up and they get 10 hits and they stop doing what they were doing," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "Then they go 0-for-20 and they say, 'OK, I know what I need to do.' [La Stella] does the same program every day, whether 3-for-3 or 0-for-4 the night before."
Kimbrel might get more multi-inning save chances
NEW YORK -- When Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez brought Craig Kimbrel in to notch the final four outs of Thursday night's 3-1 win over the Mets, he led many of his club's fans to think about how the dominant closer sat in the bullpen as the Dodgers completed their eighth-inning comeback during the decisive Game 4 of last year's National League Division Series.
But Gonzalez's postgame comments likely delighted those fans who are still haunted by images of seeing an irritated and agitated Kimbrel in the bullpen moments after Juan Uribe hit his game-winning homer off David Carpenter with one out in the eighth inning.
"The more he can do that, the more you feel comfortable using him in the postseason that way," Gonzalez said. "I don't feel comfortable yet using him two innings. But in the course of the year when the situation is right, where you have him pitching four or five days, maybe you go five outs and keep working him that way, but the pitch count is the biggest thing."
Working for the first time since July 4, Kimbrel need just 21 pitches to strand a pair of inherited runners in the eighth inning and then complete a perfect ninth inning. Consequently, he should be available to use during Friday afternoon's game against the Cubs.
"It was one of those things, just getting back out there and making sure I was throwing the ball over for a strike and things like that," Kimbrel said. "They asked before the game if I could go four outs, I said absolutely. It worked out tonight. If that comes around again, I'll be more than willing to go out and do it again."
Kimbrel has converted each of the multi-inning save opportunities he has had dating back to Sept. 5, 2012. His most recent one had been completed on June 6. Gonzalez said when the situations are right, he will likely attempt to give his All-Star closer a chance to get used to maintaining the necessary adrenaline between the eighth and ninth innings.
"I don't think you can do anything enough to get used to it," Kimbrel said. "It changes every single game. I've done it a handful of times. It was a situation that was there [tonight]. They asked me to pitch and I went in and did my job."
Second runner-up J-Up upbeat about support
NEW YORK -- Though he fell short of the vote total necessary to gain a spot on the National League's All-Star roster, Braves left fielder Justin Upton gladly accepted the consolation that came courtesy of the overwhelming support he received from fans and teammates as a candidate in MLB.com's Final Vote Sponsored by Experian.
There was a Chicago sweep as Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo and White Sox left-hander Chris Sale were this year's Final Vote winners in their respective leagues. Though Rizzo garnered more total votes than any of the five NL candidates, Upton received the most votes on Twitter, which provided a voting option from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. ET on Thursday.
"The last few days have been a blast," Upton said. "The support from the fan base and support all around has been awesome. I think we did a pretty good job. At the end of the day, I think everybody deserved to be there."
Thank you everyone. Give your thumbs a well deserved rest. Win or lose it was an amazing day. Thanks again for all the love. #VoteJUp- Justin Upton (@JUP_8TL) July 10, 2014
It was not surprising to see Braves fans make things interesting when the social media votes began to count on Thursday. They helped last year's Final Vote winner Freddie Freeman receive a record number of votes. And in 2012, they nearly made a winner out of former Braves center fielder Michael Bourn, who also fell short despite garnering the most votes on Twitter.
If Upton is not added to the NL roster as an injury replacement, he plans to spend the All-Star break unwinding and getting ready for the season's second half. He was named an All-Star in 2009 and '11.
"Being able to interact with everybody on Twitter and people asking for follows, I'm sure they had fun with it too," Upton said. "The whole experience was fun. At the end of the day, it's something I'll remember experiencing."
The final phase of All-Star Game voting will again allow fans to help choose the Ted Williams All-Star Game Most Valuable Player Award presented by Chevrolet. During the Midsummer Classic, fans will vote exclusively online at MLB.com and via Twitter in the 2014 All-Star Game MLB.com MVP Vote Sponsored by Pepsi, and their collective voice will represent 20 percent of the overall vote that determines the recipient of the Arch Ward Trophy.
MLB.TV Premium subscribers, for the first time, will be able to live stream the All-Star Game via MLB.TV through FOX's participating video providers. Access will be available across more than 400 platforms that support MLB.TV, including the award-winning MLB.com At Bat app. MLB.com will provide extensive online coverage of the All-Star Week festivities.
The 85th All-Star Game will be televised nationally by FOX, in Canada by Rogers Sportsnet and RDS, and worldwide by partners in more than 200 countries via MLB International's independent feed. ESPN Radio and ESPN Radio Deportes will provide national radio coverage of the All-Star Game. MLB Network and SiriusXM will also provide comprehensive All-Star Week coverage. For more information, please visit allstargame.com.
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.