Curt Casali lofted a ball down the left field line and immediately broke from the box, running as quickly as the catcher's legs would allow in the ninth inning. When the ball dropped just out of the reach of a diving Andrew McCutchen, Casali cruised into second for a double and then visibly exhaled.
When you're 1-for-20 to start a season, you'll take that second knock any way you can, but Casali probably doesn't need to worry about his job security for a while. The Giants brought him in this offseason because he has been a pretty productive hitter in recent years, but mostly they wanted his skills behind the plate.
In his eighth big league season, Casali gives them a trusted veteran behind Buster Posey while Joey Bart gets more minor league reps, and right now he's giving them a very good reason to let Posey's bruised elbow fully heal. With Monday's 2-0 shutout of the Phillies, Casali accomplished something a Giant hasn't done in 120 years.
Casali has been the starting catcher for four consecutive shutouts going back to April 11. He is the first Giants catcher since Broadway Aleck Smith in 1901 to catch shutouts in four consecutive starts, and the first big league catcher to do it since Francisco Cervelli was behind the plate for five straight Pittsburgh Pirates shutouts in 2015.
"He's a pro's pro," starting pitcher Kevin Gausman said. "He's caught every pitch you could imagine from righties to lefties ... I think he just does a good job of mixing pitches up."
During this streak, Casali has been paired with Gausman, Johnny Cueto, Anthony DeSclafani and Alex Wood. He helped guide rookie Camilo Doval through his first two appearances the last two days and worked seamlessly with the bullpen in the late innings Monday as Gabe Kapler locked up his 200th win.
Kapler said before the game that Posey is doing better, and the Giants backed that up by optioning Chadwick Tromp -- added over the weekend as a third catcher -- back to their alternate site roster before Monday's game. But until Posey is fully ready, Casali will carry a heavy load, and he continues to get strong reviews.
Gausman threw to Casali in Cincinnati, and after pitching six shutout innings Monday and getting through multiple jams, he credited his battery mate for helping him have the confidence to throw his go-to splitter in every tough spot.
"There were a lot of splits I threw that were really tough pitches to block, and that's part of the game that he takes great pride in and works on constantly and you see it pay dividends," Gausman said. "I'm out there trying to make pitches and throwing splits in the dirt with guys on third and second and he just blocks them like it's nothing.
"He just has a bulldog mentality. He wants to win every night. That's all you can ask for in a backstop."