Casali's catching shutout streak at 5 games

April 23rd, 2021

SAN FRANCISCO -- The Giants have recorded five shutout victories this year, and they all have one common thread: .

Casali was behind the plate as the Giants blanked the Marlins, 3-0, in Thursday night’s series opener at Oracle Park, marking the fifth consecutive start in which he’s caught a shutout.

Casali became only the fifth catcher in the Modern Era (since 1900) with a shutout streak of at least five games, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. The longest such streak belongs to Ed Phelps, who caught six straight shutouts for the Pirates in 1903.

Remarkably, Casali has caught five different Giants starters over that span: Johnny Cueto, Anthony DeSclafani, Alex Wood, Kevin Gausman and , who held the Marlins to two hits over five scoreless innings to pick up his first win of the year on Thursday.

“As a catcher, I pride myself on being defense, game-calling and receiving-first,” Casali said. “That kind of gets my hitting spat on a little bit, but for it to finally come to fruition and get a little bit of recognition is pretty cool. I always say that catchers are kind of like the offensive linemen of baseball. Me and Buster [Posey] have worked really hard behind the scenes, and it feels like, finally, it comes to the forefront. I’m pretty proud of it. Obviously, I’m not the one throwing the pitches, but five in a row is pretty sweet.”

Casali’s contributions weren’t limited to defense, as he also delivered a two-run single off Marlins left-hander Daniel Castano to cap the Giants’ three-run rally in the first inning.

“That was a weight off my shoulders,” said Casali, who entered Thursday batting .095 through his first nine games of the year.

In Posey and Casali, the Giants have two veteran catchers who have helped guide the pitching staff to a 2.93 ERA, the fourth-lowest mark in the Majors. San Francisco’s arms have carried the club to a 12-7 start to the season, the second-best record in the National League behind the rival Dodgers.

“I was kind of joking on the bench that tomorrow is a tough decision between the best catcher in Giants history and the guy who is certain to catch a shutout,” manager Gabe Kapler said. “I have my work cut out for me. A lot of what Curt does is work with pitchers in a really thoughtful way. I think he sets them up for success by the way he positions himself behind the plate. I think he calls a great game and develops a strong rapport with our pitching staff. Luckily for us, we have two catchers who do those things.”

The Giants’ catching situation has come a long way from 2020, when they were forced to lean on inexperienced backstops after Posey elected to sit out the pandemic-shortened, 60-game season. Joey Bart was thrust into the starting role after being called up last August, but the 24-year-old prospect endured significant growing pains, which ultimately convinced the Giants that he could benefit from more development in the Minors.

With that in mind, the Giants went into the offseason seeking a veteran catcher who could complement Posey and help share the load behind the plate in 2021. That led them to Casali, who joined San Francisco on a one-year, $1.5 million deal in January.

Casali’s experience paid dividends on Thursday, when he shepherded five pitchers with distinct arsenals to the Giants’ 10th win in their last 14 games.

Kapler said Sanchez, who is coming off right shoulder surgery, is “not at his physical best right now,” and it showed after the 28-year-old right-hander’s four-seam fastball averaged 86.7 mph, down from 90.5 mph in his first three starts of the year. Despite the diminished velocity, Sanchez remained effective and managed to generate plenty of weak contact that led to nine groundouts.

“My velo is down, but it’s been down,” Sanchez said. “It’s about getting outs, so I don’t really [care] how hard I’m throwing.”

Sanchez departed after throwing 67 pitches and was replaced by Gregory Santos, who struck out two and worked a scoreless sixth in his Major League debut. The 21-year-old Santos, who became the youngest Giants player to debut since Madison Bumgarner in 2009, topped out at 98.9 mph and flashed a nasty slider that led to all three outs in the impressive 16-pitch outing.

Casali capped his night by catching slider specialist Matt Wisler, submariner Tyler Rogers and closer Jake McGee, a veteran left-hander who relies on a steady diet of mid-90s fastballs.

“Honestly, it was kind of a perfect recipe of mixing velos,” Casali said. “Going from [Sanchez] to Santos, who throws 100; back to Wisler, who’s throwing 88 mph sliders; Rogers even slower; and then back up to McGee in the ninth. I can’t take that much credit for it. It was actually planned perfectly.”