SAN FRANCISCO -- Since any milestone worth having is worth working for, it seemed fitting that Santiago Casilla took a longer path than usual to secure his 100th career save in the Giants' 5-4 decision Monday over the San Diego Padres.
Casilla recorded the final four outs, exceeding the basic one-inning appearance that has been the staple of closers for decades. It was only the sixth career save of four outs or more for Casilla, who last toiled overtime to secure a save on April 13, 2013, at Chicago.
For the Giants, the fitness-conscious Casilla possesses the strength, and thus the adaptability, to pitch longer when necessary.
"I'm ready in the seventh, eighth or ninth," he said.
Casilla not only worked longer to put away the Padres, but he also worked harder. He struck out pinch-hitter Jose Pirela, the first batter he faced, with two on, two outs and two runs in to end San Diego's eighth-inning rally. He fell behind on the count, 3-0, to Jon Jay, San Diego's leadoff batter in the ninth. In characteristic fashion, Casilla recovered by firing three consecutive fastballs past Jay, who took all of them for strikes.
Matt Kemp's two-out single prolonged the inning, and tension rose in the Giants' dugout when Casilla fell behind Melvin Upton Jr., 2-0. Casilla proceeded to even the count before slipping a slider past Upton for strike three.
"He earned his 100th save, I'll say that," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said.
The 35-year-old right-hander notched four of his saves in 2007-08 as a member of the Oakland A's. If and when Casilla reaches 100 as a Giant, he'll become the sixth reliever to reach that mark, preceded by Robb Nen (206), Rod Beck (199), Brian Wilson (171), Gary Lavelle (127) and Greg Minton (125).
"We have all the confidence in the world in him," said Giants left-hander Madison Bumgarner, whose victory Casilla preserved. "He's nasty. He knows what he's doing; he's got command. Pretty much every time, he comes through for us. There's a hiccup here or there, but you can say that with anybody. Nobody's gong to be perfect."
Casilla's effectiveness can be partly attributed to his simple approach.
"He doesn't care about the notoriety," Giants left-hander Javier Lopez said. "He just wants to get three outs."
For much of his career, Casilla might not have seemed primed to climb such a statistical ladder. But he has steadily improved with the Giants after a rocky stint with the A's.
"I've seen him evolve from a seventh-inning guy to a setup guy to assuming the closer role and watching the closer role get taken from him and regain it," Lopez said, tracing the arc of Casilla's progress since he joined the Giants in 2010. "Never once did he doubt his ability to get the job done on this level. It's a testament to him.
"It's not easy to close out games. Statisticians will tell you that those last three outs aren't always the hardest outs, statistically speaking. Mentally, I think there's stress. There's nobody behind you warming up most of the time. You are the guy. He's done really, really well, and it's a credit to him to stay consistent in an inconsistent game. And we get to reap the benefits of that."
Chris Haft has covered the Giants since 2005, and for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter at @sfgiantsbeat and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.