CHICAGO -- Tommy La Stella entered Saturday's game with a .284 on-base percentage and OPS+ that put him nearly 30 points below league-average as a hitter, but Giants manager Gabe Kapler didn't hesitate in the morning. He once again threw La Stella atop his lineup, and when he was asked about it, he was all too happy to give a lengthy explanation.
With LaMonte Wade Jr. now in the heart of the lineup, Kapler continues to believe that La Stella is a good choice to lead off. Even when he's slumping, the veteran is still as much of a grinder as just about any hitter in the league, and Kapler pointed to that at-bat quality before the second game with the Chicago Cubs.
"We trust that the best version of Tommy is going to be an excellent leadoff hitter," Kapler said in the morning.
The manager didn't have to wait long for that version to show up.
La Stella was at the heart of a lot of what the Giants did right in a 15-4 blowout of the Cubs, their sixth straight win. He reached base three times, scored three runs and drove a three-run homer off the right field scoreboard that capped a six-run rally in the fifth inning that broke the game open.
La Stella said it was a challenge to stay with his approach in recent days. He was happy to finally see it lead to a big day, which included a career-high five RBI.
"Everybody always says it's the process, not the results, but like it or not it is a game of results," he said. "When they're not there it is frustrating, but the staff here, the hitting coaches, we're so consistent with the work that we put in. It's just trusting that it's going to show up."
La Stella's day started with a flyout, but even that partly validated Kapler's faith. He saw seven pitches from Kyle Davies while leading the game off, and he broke through after that. La Stella drove in a pair with a single in the second and added the three-run blast in the fifth. He later doubled and came around to score another run. It was exactly the type of day the Giants hoped for when they gave La Stella a three-year deal in the offseason.
"When Tommy is at his best he's the perfect fit for us at the top of the lineup because he grinds pitchers and sees pitches and fouls off pitches," Kapler said. "Even though the first at-bat of the game didn't end up with him on base, it was still a really high-quality at-bat and we've come to expect those from Tommy, and then he has surprising pop.
"He's really good when he's upright the way he was today. It allows him to kind of carry his full weight through the baseball and really drive it. At least to us in this clubhouse, it doesn't come as a surprise that he's kind of an optimal guy at the top to set the table, but then also to drive the baseball from time to time, as well."
La Stella has been around long enough to know that you can't get too high off of one game. The work on his swing will continue, but the Giants know he'll bring the same approach no matter the results, and that's what they're counting on. This is a group that trusts the process, and that means being patient. They're particularly happy to do it with someone like La Stella, who finds a way to contribute even when not reaching base.
"I've faced Tommy a lot over my career and when I saw that we signed him this year I was very happy, just (for) the fact that I don't have to face him anymore," said Kevin Gausman, who reached 200 strikeouts in the win. "He's a pest up there. He makes you work, he always has quality (at-bats), sees a lot of pitches, that's what he does well. That's his bread and butter. He's going to make you work and make a mistake, and then he'll also come out there and swing at the first pitch and hit a three-run home run. As a pitcher, you don't really know what you're going to get out of him."