If a seemingly out-of-nowhere player helps the Cubs beat the Los Angeles Dodgers, it could be Rob Zastryzny. But it won’t be Tommy La Stella creating that timeless October moment in this National League Championship Series.
The Cubs kept their playoff roster largely unchanged from the divisional round, except for adding a 12th pitcher in Zastryzny, a lefty who can throw multiple innings and neutralize a Los Angeles lineup loaded with left-handed hitters. That decision bumped La Stella, the mercurial bench player/left-handed hitter who initially refused to report to the minors in late July.
“I think Theo or Jed called him last night,” manager Joe Maddon said before Saturday’s Game 1 at Wrigley Field. “I haven’t spoken with him yet.”
Cubs executives Epstein and Hoyer had allowed La Stella to move back home to New Jersey, tolerating a three-week layoff before working his way back to the big leagues. Even Maddon acknowledged La Stella hasn’t been the same hitter before (.295 average/.846 OPS) and after (.209 average/.582 OPS).
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“He hasn’t had enough at-bats,” Maddon said. “It’s been hard to give him the number of reps. We tried in September – I tried to get them all out there. I don’t know that we’ve given him enough opportunity to become the same hitter, either.”
But this decision really revolved around a Dodger lineup that ranked last in the majors in batting average (.213) and OPS (.622) against left-handed pitchers during the regular season. Zastryzny made an impression at Dodger Stadium on Aug. 27, allowing only one hit across 3.2 scoreless innings after Maddon gave Jason Hammel the quick hook in a 3-2 loss.
Zastryzny also showed poise and composure for a 24-year-old rookie, allowing only two earned runs through his first 16 innings in The Show (though he hasn’t pitched in a game since Sept. 29).
“We thought Rob Z against this group could be beneficial to us,” Maddon said. “What he had done in L.A. is etched in your mind. And just in general, when you look at the Dodger team and their lineup, the ability to have pitching – everybody knows that. But that doesn’t mean it’s going to work or play. You’re just trying to make your best guesses right now.”