The San Francisco Giants are the majors' first team to 50 wins, and backup catcher Curt Casali's steady contributions have been a huge part of that success.
The fabulous fill-in did it again with his bat, hitting a game-ending double in the 10th inning as the Giants beat the Oakland Athletics 6-5 on Saturday night.
Casali started behind the plate for a second straight day for ailing star Buster Posey.
"He takes a lot of pride in kind of serving his team, serving the pitcher, serving Buster, serving all of us,” manager Gabe Kapler said. “Pretty selfless individual.”
Matt Chapman hit a go-ahead sacrifice fly in the top of the inning after saving a run with a brilliant throw home minutes earlier but Steven Duggar quickly tied it on a single in the bottom half against Burch Smith (1-1). Duggar scored from first on Casali's hit that bounced to the deep corner in left to end the 4-hour, 5-minute game.
The Giants took the Bay Bridge Series opener 2-0 on Friday and have either won or split their last 10 series dating to May 25, matching the Yankees for the longest such mark in the majors this year.
“Awesome!” pitcher Alex Wood said. “If you love baseball and are even a casual fan, watching our lineup every night, it’s just unbelievable.”
Brandon Crawford scored the tying run. He had singled sharply to left with two outs in the ninth but LaMonte Wade Jr. was thrown out at home on Chapman's relay.
Chapman's fly came against eventual winner Jake McGee (3-2).
“It sucks definitely losing that game. It’s been a fun two games considering the atmosphere. It’s nice to play in front of a lot of fans and I know how excited the Bay Area gets for this series,” Chapman said. “We’re playing a team that has the best record in baseball for a reason.”
Donovan Solano hit a tying homer in the eighth after Chapman's two-run drive put Oakland ahead the previous inning.
A's manager Bob Melvin was ejected in the eighth by plate umpire Lance Barrett trying to defend catcher Sean Murphy, frustrated by balls and strikes with Jake Diekman pitching.
Sergio Romo was pulled after a two-out walk to Wade in the seventh, Diekman replaced him and immediately plunked Mike Yastrzemski before Wilmer Flores' RBI single made it 4-3.
Wade hit a two-run homer in the fifth then A's pinch-hitter Mitch Moreland hit a tying single in the sixth.
Wood struck out eight over 5 1/3 innings and exited after allowing consecutive one-out singles to Matt Olson and Jed Lowrie in the sixth before Moreland came through against Dominic Leone, who then got Elvis Andrus to ground out on a nine-pitch battle. By the late innings, a mist swirled above the outfield on a cool Bay Area summer night.
Andrus singled leading off the third and later scored on a wild pitch for a 1-0 A’s lead.
Wood struck out the side in order in the second on all called third strikes.
A's starter Frankie Montas allowed two runs on two hits over five innings, struck out five and walked three.
The right-hander took a line drive from Wade in the first but was fine to stay in the game then escaped a bases-loaded jam in the second.
MEMORABLE FINAL AT-BAT
A's third base coach Mark Kotsay glanced toward the batter’s box before Oakland did pregame work and recalled his last career at-bat playing for the Padres in 2013. He struck out against ex-A's teammate Barry Zito, then with the Giants before they both retired after that year.
Kotsay looked at the pitcher at one point and said, "‘Really, it’s my last at-bat, too,’ but he had 35,000 people on their feet,” Kotsay said. “Nobody I’d rather punch out against to end my career."
Athletics: Melvin hinted that LF Mark Canha, who went on the 10-day injured list Friday with a strained left hip that has some tendinitis, will be tough pressed to return right on time when eligible. “It's going to be every bit of 10 days and then we'll see where we go from there,” Melvin said. “That's a tough one for us. You talk about stability in the leadoff spot and being acclimated to that role is not an easy thing to do and he's done it beautifully.” Canha exited in the third inning Wednesday in Anaheim. ... RF Stephen Piscotty is resting his sprained left wrist after receiving a cortisone injection. “I'm not sure what day he's going to start to do some baseball activity but I know the last couple days it seems like he's turned a corner in how it's feeling,” Melvin said.
Giants: Posey missed a second straight game after he was a late scratch Friday because of tightness in his lower back. Kapler hoped to have his starting backstop behind the plate Sunday afternoon. ... RHP Aaron Sanchez is rehabbing a right biceps injury with Triple-A Sacramento but was limited in his outing Friday by lingering blister problems. “I'm sure Aaron's very frustrated that he hasn't been able to get back on the field and compete at the level we're all accustomed to for him,” Kapler said.
LHP Cole Irvin (5-7, 3.98 ERA) pitches the series finale for Oakland opposite Giants lefty Sammy Long (1-0, 4.20). The teams play three more across the bay at the Coliseum from Aug. 20-22.
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