By Morris Phillips
SAN FRANCISCO–Deceptive advertising, that’s what it is.
The Giants tout a cerebral hitting approach, a lineup of dangerous sluggers, and explosive offense delivered late in games, but when you get to the park they give you pitching, more pitching and shutouts.
Not that there have been complaints…
Curt Casali, the Giants previously unknown backup catcher signed as a free agent in January, grabbed a slice of big league history Thursday by being the starting catcher in a fifth, consecutive Giants’ shutout, 3-0 over the Marlins. The feat hadn’t been accomplished by any big league catcher since Francisco Cervelli did it in 2015, and it brings Casali within one of Ed Phelps’ (Pirates) major league record of catching six, consecutive shutouts. Only five catchers–including Casali–have achieved the feat since 1901.
But what sets Casali apart from the other notable catchers, says it all about the 2021 Giants: five different starting pitchers have participated in the streak, a first. And nine different relievers have participated in the streak, no record, but impressive nonetheless.
Simply, the Giants have quality pitching and a couple of capable engineers running the show behind the plate.
“Me and Buster have worked really, really hard behind the scenes,” Casali said. “It feels like, finally, it comes to the forefront. I’m pretty proud. Obviously l’m not the one throwing the pitches.”
The advertised offense simply needed a cameo appearance versus the Marlins, providing three runs in the first. All three runs came after the first two hitters were retired on a single, two doubles with a walk of Evan Longoria mixed in.
Donovan Solano was placed on the injured list before the game with a calf injury. Longoria departed Thursday’s game after one at-bat, due to tightness in his hamstring. And Brandon Belt and Brandon Crawford are dealing with various physical issues that kept both out of the starting lineup.
That’s the entire, Opening Day infield lineup out, and everything else the Giants had to offer in, yet they still made it work. Anemic batting averages, lessened defense at the corners, a travel-weary bunch returning from Philadelphia, but fortified with a bunch of quality pitches. That was the formula Thursday and Aaron Sanchez set the tone.
Sanchez allowed two hits, no walks in five innings, and did so with the speed on his fastball noticeably lacking. It mattered little as he induced ground-based and weak contact during his stint while lowering his ERA across four starts and nearly 20 innings to 1.83.
“My velo is down, but it’s been down,” Sanchez said. “It’s about getting outs, so I don’t really (reflect on) how hard I’m throwing.”
Gregory Santos followed Sanchez with his Major League debut and 98 mph fastballs mixed with 90 mph sliders made the occasion special. Santos struck out pinch-hitter Magneuris Sierra and leadoff man Jazz Chisolm, Jr. before inducing a ground out from Miguel Rojas on a 2-2 pitch.
With Santos and Camilo Duval, who debuted last week, the Giants bullpen has two, dynamic new arms. The catch? Both are extremely inexperienced, but talented, a gap that isn’t always bridged. But in these cases, the team’s willing to try.
The Giants’ 12-7 record is second only to the Dodgers among the 30 ballclubs. Achieving that mark with only seven home dates thus far is impressive, given the Giants have only lost once at Oracle Park.
On Friday night, Alex Wood faces Miami’s Sandy Alcantara at 6:45pm.