After going the entirety of 2020 without shutting out an opponent, the San Francisco Giants have already done it five times, with one common link in all of them: backup catcher Curt Casali.
Casali’s caught his fifth consecutive shutout on Thursday night as the Giants topped the Miami Marlins 3-0, calling the game for Aaron Sanchez and four relievers, including rookie Gregory Santos, who dazzled in his debut.
“I was joking on the bench that tomorrow’s a tough decision between the best catcher in Giants history and the guy who’s certain to catch a shutout,” Gabe Kapler said following the game.
Not only was Casali sharp behind the plate yet again, he also drove home two of the Giants’ three runs with a two-out single to left off Marlins starter Daniel Castano in the first inning.
“That was a weight off my shoulders,” said Casali, who entered the night just just 2-for-21. “Being able to do that in my first at-bat felt pretty good, and hopefully that’ll be a sign of good things to come in the future.”
The Giants scored all three of their runs with two outs in the first, with the first coming on a scorching Darin Ruf double over the head of left fielder Corey Dickerson.
Though the shorthanded offense would fail to add on any more the rest of the way, San Francisco (12-7) wouldn’t need any more runs. The Marlins gathered just two hits on the night and none after the second inning. Their only baserunner after the first two innings was Jesus Aguilar, who walked against Matt Wisler to lead off the seventh but was quickly erased when Adam Duvall grounded into a double play.
Wisler had struggled to begin the season, including an outing against those same Marlins last Friday that resulted in a loss on his record. He had entered the week with an unsightly 12.60 ERA but has pitched scoreless innings in each of his last two outings, handling the seventh inning on Monday in Philadelphia and again on Thursday night at home.
While Wisler’s outing of the year was certainly important, it was nowhere near as mesmerizing as what Santos did. A 21-year-old from the Dominican Republic who was assigned the number 78, Santos came in for the top of the sixth and promptly struck out the first batter he faced, freezing pinch-hitter Magneuris Sierra with a slider after a series of fastballs in the upper 90s. He also struck out Jazz Chisholm Jr., who’s been one of the few offensive bright spots for Miami (8-10), before getting Miguel Rojas to ground out.
Rojas is one of the more seasoned veterans on an otherwise young Marlins team, with Thursday night marking his 700th Major League game. That still didn’t give him the upper hand against Santos, whose appearance on Thursday was his first outing above Single-A. Considered a throw-in from the Boston Red Sox in exchange for Eduardo Nunez in 2017, Santos had never even pitched in High-A for the San Jose Giants, but his first taste of the bigs went without a hitch.
Santos’ velocity was certainly impressive, but Sanchez made it work without lighting up the radar gun. In five innings, Sanchez didn’t throw a single pitch that topped 90 miles per hour but made it work with a heavy dose of curveballs and changeups, which accounted for 37 of his 67 pitches.
“It’s just the ebbs and flows of coming back from major surgery,” said Sanchez, who underwent shoulder surgery in 2019.
After a leadoff Chisholm Jr. single, he hit Rojas squarely in the back to put the first two men on base but induced a double play from Aguilar and got Duvall to fly out to end the inning. The only other Marlin to reach against Sanchez was Jon Berti, who singled with two outs in the second. He struck out just two of the 17 batters he faced but managed to keep the ball on the infield, with nine groundouts.
In all, Giants pitchers induced 13 grounders on the night, even with a ragtag defense playing behind them. With Brandon Crawford battling side tightness, Brandon Belt dealing with a quadriceps injury and Donovan Solano being placed on the injured list earlier in the day with calf tightness, San Francisco started Mauricio Dubon at shortstop, Tommy La Stella at second base and Wilmer Flores at first. Evan Longoria was at his usual post of third base but left after four innings with tightness in his left hamstring, forcing Flores to third and Ruf to first. Still, the Giants managed to play errorless baseball for the 14th time in 19 games.
“It’s a testament to the work that (infield coach) Kai (Correa) has done with our infielders to get them ready to move around the diamond,” Kapler said.
None of the Giants infielders stayed at their same position for the entire game, with Crawford entering as a pinch-hitter in the bottom of the seventh and staying in at shortstop, allowing Dubon to slide over to second base. Flores and Ruf each handled grounders to help Tyler Rogers through a clean eighth, but the infielders were merely spectators for the ninth as Jake McGee struck out the side for his seventh save. He got pinch-hitter Garrett Cooper to wave at a slider before fanning both Chisholm Jr. and Rojas on fastballs to end the game, fittingly closing it out with the ball in Casali’s glove.
“As a catcher, I pride myself on defense, game-calling and receiving first,” Casali said. “For it to finally come to fruition and get a little bit of recognition is pretty cool.”
Thursday’s shutout made Casali the fifth backstop since 1900 to catch shutouts in five consecutive games, with the most recent before him being Francisco Cervelli, who did it with the 2015 Pittsburgh Pirates. Casali is the first to achieve the feat with five different starting pitchers. Two of the five shutouts in the streak have come at the Marlins’ expense; the Giants also shut Miami out last Sunday in Florida to avoid a sweep. Tonight, the Marlins played without outfielder Starling Marte, who fractured a rib in the last inning of that prior shutout, and third baseman Brian Anderson, who was placed on the injured list earlier Thursday with a strained oblique. They also lost catcher Jorge Alfaro earlier in the week with a strained hamstring. That left the Marlins with a depleted lineup, with five hitters entering the night with batting averages under .225. The Giants showed no sympathy, picking up their fourth win in five games in a brief two hours and 26 minutes.