ATLANTA (AP) — Manager Fredi Gonzalez says Tommy La Stella is playing as if he is looking for another promotion. That's how comfortable the rookie second baseman has looked in his first three weeks in the major leagues.
La Stella had three hits, including a two-run double in Atlanta's four-run sixth, and the Braves beat Hector Santiago and the Los Angeles Angels 7-3 on Sunday night.
La Stella is hitting .411 with at least two hits in nine of his 16 games.
"I think La Stella thinks there's another league, the way he carries himself," Gonzalez said. "So it doesn't surprise me that he feels this comfortable right away."
La Stella has put a lock on the second base job with strong defense and his impressive start at the plate.
"I wouldn't say surprised," La Stella said when asked about his continued strong hitting. "Anytime you have a shot, especially in the big leagues, you want to start off on the right foot. I've been able to do that and hopefully I can keep going."
Evan Gattis and Justin Upton also had run-scoring singles in the sixth as the Braves rallied against Santiago (0-7). Jason Heyward homered in the seventh and made two strong defensive plays in right field to take hits away from Mike Trout.
Trout had three hits, including a homer. Erick Aybar also homered for the Angels before leaving the game with a sore left hip.
Manager Mike Scioscia said he hopes Aybar can play Monday. He said Aybar first hurt his hip in Saturday night's game.
Anthony Vavaro (2-1) had three strikeouts in two perfect innings for the win.
The Braves moved back into first place in the NL East by winning two of three from the Angels, who remain in second in the AL West.
David Carpenter gave up a single to Trout before hitting Albert Pujols with a pitch with one out in the ninth. Craig Kimbrel struck out Josh Hamilton and Howie Kendrick for his 20th save.
Santiago, trying for his first win of 2014, allowed only two hits through five innings before fading in the sixth. He was charged with four runs and five hits in 5 1-3 innings.
"Hector, really, for five innings was really on top of things," Scioscia said. "Things unraveled a bit but I still think Hector pitched a really strong ballgame."
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