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Casali's historic run continues as Giants blank Marlins

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Gregory Santos jogged in slowly from the center field gate before the bottom of the sixth inning, as a small crowd at Oracle Park buzzed in anticipation. The 21-year-old reached the mound and found 32-year-old backup catcher Curt Casali waiting, along with coach Nick Ortiz, who interprets during mound visits that involve Spanish-speaking pitchers. 

Casali wanted to make sure nothing was lost in translation, but his message wasn't complicated. Casali congratulated Santos -- the youngest Giant to make his debut since Madison Bumgarner in 2009 -- for reaching the big leagues, and he told him to enjoy the moment. Then he passed along another message. 

"The second part, I can't really say on television," Casali said as he sat down for the postgame show after a 3-0 Giants win. 

After a little prodding, Casali gave in.

"I told him to strike those you-know-whats out," Casali said. "He almost did all three. I was very proud of him. What a cool debut, and I feel fortunate to be the one to catch his debut. I remember mine. It was so special, and for him to do what he did tonight, he's got to be over the moon."

Santos pitched a perfect sixth, but he wasn't the only one glowing. Casali caught a fifth consecutive shutout, becoming the fifth catcher in MLB history to pull that off and the first to do it with five different pitchers. Casali didn't attempt to hide how much the feat meant to him.

 

"As a catcher, I pride myself on being on defense and game-calling and receiving first," Casali said. "For it to finally come to fruition and get a little bit of recognition is pretty cool. I would say that catchers are kind of like the offensive linemen of baseball. Me and Buster work really, really hard behind the scenes and it feels like finally it's coming to the forefront. 

"I'm pretty proud of it. Obviously I'm not the one throwing the pitches, but five in a row, it's pretty sweet."

Casali didn't throw any pitches, but he guided five different pitchers through a two-hitter, and he couldn't have had a more interesting group. Aaron Sanchez kicked it off with five shutout innings despite the fact that his fastball never topped 90 mph. Manager Gabe Kapler said Sanchez's arm isn't bouncing back as it should, but the veteran worked with Casali to find a different way to baffle the Marlins. 

RELATED: What we learned in Giants' shutout win over Marlins

Next came Santos, who topped out at 98.9 mph and threw a 91 mph slider while striking out two in a perfect frame. 

Matt Wisler pitched the seventh, leaning almost entirely on his slider, as he usually does. Submariner Tyler Rogers had a quick eighth and left-handed closer Jake McGee dialed it back up in the ninth, overpowering the Marlins and picking up his seventh save by striking out the side. 

"Honestly, it was kind of a perfect recipe of mixing velos," Casali said. "I can't take much credit for it. It was actually planned perfectly."

The Giants, under Kapler and his large coaching staff, have prided themselves on out-preparing opponents, and they certainly had this game locked down. The catchers are a big part of that, though, and Sanchez credited Casali for leading the way, saying "he's always just a step ahead."

Casali had been a beat behind at the plate, but he dug out of a big early slump by lining a two-run single in the first. Darin Ruf drove in the other run and that was more than enough on another strong night for the pitching staff, and a catcher who very rarely has to watch an opponent cross the plate in front of him. 

The Giants were confident they were getting a good backup for Buster Posey when they signed Casali to a one-year deal. Through three weeks, he has been better than advertised. 

"I was kinda joking on the bench that tomorrow's a tough decision," Kapler said of his lineup, "Between the best catcher in Giants history and a guy who is certain to catch a shutout."

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