There are two things that I imagine every MLB team wants out of their final series before the All-Star break.
The first is in their control, and very obvious: some wins and some momentum.
The second is out of their control: home games, so they can limit travel at the break, and get started on their R&R early.
Check and check.
The schedule makers gifted the Giants a pair of home series to end the first half. Save for Buster Posey, Brandon Crawford, and Kevin Gausman — who will be headed to Coors Field for the Midsummer Classic — the Giants will get to go more than a week and a half between flights. That’s a nice luxury compared to, say, the Washington Nationals, who had to fly back across the country after the Giants beat them, and probably won’t land until past midnight local time.
By that time most of the Giants will be shaking the final drops out of a bottle of wine that costs more than what most people make in a week.
And they’ll be doing it with some momentum. Because, after looking like they were starting to slow down, the Giants kicked things into action to end the first half of the season, sweeping the Nats and finishing the first half on a four-game winning streak.
The Giants have won a lot of games with their battery over the last few decade or so. Tim Lincecum and Buster Posey were reasons 1A and 1B for a lot of wins. So were Matt Cain and Buster Posey. So were Madison Bumgarner and Buster Posey. So were Ryan Vogelsong and Buster Posey. So were ... well, you get the point.
On Sunday it was Kevin Gausman and Curt Casali.
The point I was trying to set up here is that this should have been obvious. If two years ago I told you that Gausman and Casali would be the star battery that led the Giants to a victory that sent them into the 2021 All-Star break with the best record in baseball, you would have totally believed me. It would have made perfect sense, right?
Okay, no need to humor my non-funny silliness. It is, as the title suggests, non-funny and silly. Let’s move on to what they actually did, then get back to the MLB draft.
Casali had the huge hit of the day, and the timing was perfect. The Giants put runners at the corners with no outs in the first inning, but Wilmer Flores popped up and Alex Dickerson hit a hard line drive right into a double play.
More RISP foibles. We’ve come to expect it.
So no one was particularly optimistic when the Giants put runners at the corners with one out just one inning later, especially since the No. 8 hitter was coming to bat, with the pitcher on deck.
But Casali starched one.
This is your pretentious reminder to not give up on backup catchers who have a long history of being quality players just because they were not doing well after 70 plate appearances. In mid-June, I fielded many a tweet and comment from Giants fans asking the team to designate Casali for assignment and promote Joey Bart. But in his last 15 games, Casali is hitting 17-39 with 4 home runs, 5 doubles, 1 triple, and 6 walks.
And he called a brilliant game, as he has so often, while his All-Star pitcher pounded the zone with stylish swing and miss picks. Gausman only pitched 6 innings, and needed more than 100 pitches to get there, but he also earned 17 whiffs and struck out 9 Nationals hitters with just 7 baserunners allowed. It put a bow on one of the best halves of a season that a Giants pitcher has had in a long time.
He did need help though. Gausman came out for the seventh inning but walked two batters and gave up a single. Just like that, the bases were loaded with no outs, and the 3-0 lead didn’t look so lovely anymore.
Enter Dominic Leone or, as someone so eloquently put it in my mentions, “Dominant Leone.” Leone got what should have been a double play ground ball, but ended up just being one out after LaMonte Wade Jr. committed an error on the back half. One run in, two batters still on, just one out.
No worry, as Leone worked a shallow fly ball and a strikeout to get through the inning with a 3-1 lead.
Tyler Rogers and Jake McGee held that lead down, and sent the Giants into the break in sweeping fashion.
They’re 57-32. They’re 2 games ahead of the Dodgers. They’re 6 games ahead of the Padres. They’re 9.5 games ahead of the Reds, who are the first team on the outside of the Wild Card race.
Life is good for the Giants.