July 6, 2022

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Casali's power leads Giants to 11th straight win over Rockies

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DENVER — Curt Casali prides himself on his defense behind the plate, but he’s been making big contributions with his bat lately, too. 

Casali went 3-for-4 with two home runs and four RBIs as the Giants extended their winning streak over the Rockies to a franchise-record 11 games following their 7-6 victory in Monday night’s series opener at Coors Field. 

Mike Yastrzemski, Casali’s former Vanderbilt teammate, delivered the decisive blow for San Francisco, hammering a 420-foot blast off Colorado closer Daniel Bard to snap a 6-6 tie with two outs in the ninth inning.

The Giants have now won each of their last seven games at Coors Field, their longest winning streak at this venue. The last time they defeated the same opponent 11 consecutive times was from September 1964 to May 1965, when they dominated the Astros.

“We’ve got a lot of respect for that group over there,” Casali said of the Rockies. “Their lineup is as good as any. This is just a really tough place to play. Suppressing runs is really difficult here. You’ve got to get lucky — a big hit here or there usually is the deciding factor. It’s just one of their streaks that’s been going our way.”

Casali, who batted ninth, drove in each of San Francisco’s first four runs of the night en route to delivering only the sixth multi-homer performance by a Giants catcher since 2010.

Casali launched a 438-foot solo shot — his longest homer since Statcast began tracking distances in 2015 — to tie the game, 1-1, in the third before adding a three-run blast that gave the Giants a 4-1 lead in the fifth. It was the third career multi-homer game for Casali, who notched his first two in back-to-back games during his rookie season with the Rays in 2015.

“For me, historically, [homers] have come in streaks,” Casali said. “It’s something I’m trying to work on to not be so streaky, but for the moment, I’m just trying to ride the high and get as much out of it as I possibly can.”

Both of Casali’s home runs came off Rockies left-hander Ty Blach, who took over in the third after Antonio Senzatela was forced to depart with a lower back strain.

“We needed some production at the bottom of the lineup tonight,” manager Gabe Kapler said. “With Senzatela coming out of the game and changing things for both clubs, it meant that we were going to need to get some production from a right-handed batter. It happened to be Curt. I thought he saw the ball well and early and took really nice swings throughout the night.”

With rookie Joey Bart hitting a rough patch at the plate — he’s 6-for-47 (.128) with 24 strikeouts over his last 16 games — the Giants have been distributing more playing time to Casali, who has now started 14 of 35 games this year.

The 33-year-old veteran also endured a slow start offensively, but he’s begun to heat up this month, going 10-for-21 (.476) with three homers over his last eight games to boost his batting average from .154 to .298 on the season. In addition to receiving more consistent at-bats, Casali said he’s made a few tweaks that have helped him find his rhythm, including moving his hands out a little bit over the plate and adding a slight bend to his front knee.

“It’s one of those stretches where I feel good at the plate right now,” Casali said. “I’m just really happy to contribute to the team offensively. I work hard on defense, that’s always a constant for me, and then try to sprinkle in some offense here and there. It’s nice to drive some runs in and score some runs. It’s fun.”

Casali’s offensive potential was one of the reasons the Giants targeted him two offseasons ago, though he struggled to consistently produce in 2021, when he hit .210 with a .663 OPS while battling lingering discomfort in his surgically repaired left wrist. He finally appears to be hitting his stride this year, which could earn him more looks behind the plate moving forward.

“In Cincinnati, we saw quite a bit of this,” Kapler said last week. “We saw it from time to time last year. Certainly the best version of Curt was a good offensive player in Tampa, as well. It’s why we identified him as a good partner for Buster and why we thought he would be a successful partner for Joey for this season.”

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