Giants begin another title defense in Arizona

( – The defending World Series champion San Francisco Giants
will open the 2015 campaign on the road Monday in the opener of a three-game
series against the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Winners in three of the last five Fall Classics, the Giants are again
frontrunners to make another deep postseason run and will also visit the San
Diego Padres for four games later this week.

The Giants seem to have it all with great pitching, defense and hitting, which
is why manager Bruce Bochy’s job is secure the next few years. Bochy and
general manager Brian Sabean were recently rewarded with contract extensions.

“Brian and Bruce form the foundation on which all three championship teams
have been built,” said Giants president and CEO Larry Baer. “The strength and
stability of Giants baseball is a direct reflection of the strength and
stability of the partnership of these two men. My top priority this offseason
was to ensure that this partnership and our outstanding baseball organization
remain intact for years to come.”

Three parades in five years will make any organization content.

Third baseman Pablo Sandoval went for greener pastures and more green in his
pockets when he signed with the Boston Red Sox. Casey McGehee was brought over
from Miami to fill Sandoval’s shoes on the hot corner in exchange for minor
league pitchers.

Catcher Buster Posey is back to lead the offense and emotional outfielder
Hunter Pence broke his arm in early March. He is expected to miss 6-to-8 weeks
after being hit on the wrist by a pitch in spring training.

Tonight’s starter Madison Bumgarner is arguably the best pitcher in the
National League, a topic LA’s Clayton Kershaw and St. Louis’ Adam Wainwright
would enjoy discussing. Mad Bum earned two wins over Kansas City in the World
Series and also finished off the seven-game triumph with a five-inning save on
two days’ rest in the finale.

The 25-year-old lefty has 67 regular-season wins and has been a part of three
World Series championships. In 36 career World Series innings, Bumgarner is
4-0 and holds all-time records for lowest ERA (0.25), fewest hits per nine
innings (3.5) and fewest walks plus hits per inning (0.528).

Bumgarner has a 6-4 record in 18 career games (17 starts) with a 2.70 earned
run average against Arizona. He made four starts against the D-backs last
season, going 2-0 with a 2.22 ERA.

Bumgarner was 11-4 in 18 road assignments in 2014.

Not much is expected from the Diamondbacks this season and they will play six
straight at home to commence the 2015 campaign. The Dodgers will make a stop
in the desert this weekend.

Arizona finished with the worst record in baseball last season at 64-98. That
was enough for a front office overhaul, as Kirk Gibson and Alan Trammell were
relived of their duties as manager. Chip Hale was named skipper in the
offseason and most recently served as the bench coach with the Oakland
Athletics for three years.

Hale is inexperienced much like some of his players, but new general manager
Dave Stewart has been around the block a few times. The former MLB ace and
three-time World Series champion replaces Kevin Towers and it comes as no
surprise the club is hoping to build a strong rotation. Team president and
Hall of Famer Tony La Russa, who managed Stewart during his career, hopes to
spread some of his knowledge among the players.

The D-backs were plagued by injuries and poor pitching in 2014. Paul
Goldschmidt, Mark Trumbo and A.J. Pollock are back healthy. David Peralta is
hoping to be among the top hitters in the lineup with more playing time and
will most likely start in left field.

Cuban slugger Yasmany Tomas, who hopes to bring some pop to the plate. will
start the season in the minor leagues.

Scoring runs and getting on base will be imperative to support Arizona’s
rotation, which will be spearheaded by Josh Collmenter at the moment.
Collmenter gets the Opening Day nod and finished 11-9 with a 3.46 ERA in 33
games (28 starts) last season.

“To get us off to a good start and just everything that goes into Opening Day
— the pageantry and the spectacle it is, to be the one to toe the rubber the
first time is pretty special, especially with my career just bouncing back and
forth from starting to the ‘pen,” Collmenter said.

The right-hander has made 18 career appearances, seven of which have been
starts, against the Giants and is 5-2 with a 3.17 ERA. Collmenter went 1-1 in
six meetings (3 starts) with San Francisco in 2014 and had a 7-5 home record.

San Francisco has won nine of the last 11 matchups with Arizona.