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LAD@ARI: Gibson on losing two straight in Australia

The D-backs have traveled halfway around the world and back before they'll embark on a second Opening Day extravaganza, and the Giants will join them at Chase Field after a much shorter round-trip home to San Francisco and back to Arizona, where they'd just spent six weeks of Spring Training.

When these two division rivals that are hoping to contend in the National League West collide in tonight's home opener for the D-backs -- that is, other than the two regular-season home games Arizona already played in Australia against the Dodgers, dropping both -- the first steps of a long journey toward October, they hope, will be taken for two teams that have been there in recent years.

The Giants, looking to bounce back to the form that won them two World Series titles in three years but then eluded them in 2013, will bring bull-strong left-hander Madison Bumgarner to the mound, making his first Opening Day start to follow up on a season that took his young career to the next level.

The D-backs, reeling from the loss for the season of young ace Patrick Corbin to Tommy John surgery, will counter with veteran Brandon McCarthy, the right-hander in his second year with the club.

After starting the season at the Sydney Cricket Ground with two games that drew a total of 80,000 fans and brought baseball Down Under like never before, the D-backs have the dubious distinction of being the only team in the Majors with a losing record -- 0-2 after dropping the opener and seeing a furious rally come up short in the Game No. 2 of 162.

"The reality is, we lost two games here," said new left fielder Mark Trumbo, who went 2-for-5 with a two-run homer in the second game.

The rest of the reality is the D-backs have plenty of time to get past something every single team in baseball will have this season, and then some: a two-game losing streak. While losing Corbin certainly changed the tenor of a team that was poised to springboard off last year's second-place finish behind the Dodgers and push past the .500 mark, McCarthy is among those who will have to pick up the slack.

McCarthy was the Opening Day starter for the A's in 2012, a season that came to a frightening conclusion with a head injury sustained from a line drive. He went 5-11 with a 4.53 ERA in 22 starts in his first season with Arizona in '13, and he's looking forward to taking the ball on the big stage of the home opener.

"It's a cool opportunity. For the fans, it's their first chance to get out and see you guys again," McCarthy said. "There's always a lot of atmosphere there; it's kind of the closest you get to a playoff atmosphere in the regular season until the season starts drawing to an end. It'll be fun."

For Bumgarner, this is a well-deserved first. The 24-year-old lefty was the class of the rotation a year ago, with Matt Cain struggling over a full year for the first time in his career. Bumgarner went 13-9 with a 2.77 ERA in 31 starts, eclipsing 200 innings pitched for a third straight season, making his first All-Star appearance and falling just one strikeout shy of his first 200 mark.

When tabbed for the start at the outset of Spring Training, Bumgarner was clearly honored, saying any of his rotation mates could have been chosen as well -- but still very glad he was.

"You think about it once you get into pro baseball," he said. "That's something you'd like to have the opportunity to do."

Giants: Scutaro starts on DL
The top of the Giants' lineup took a hit before the season even started, as No. 2 hitter Marco Scutaro couldn't shake off back troubles that plagued him throughout the spring. Scutaro appeared in just one Cactus League exhibition, and despite epidural and nerve-blocking therapy, he hasn't been able to make it more than a day or two without pain.

He'll be eligible to return to the roster as early as Friday with his DL stint extending retroactively into Spring Training, but it's anybody's guess when Scutaro will be able to return to full health.

"I've been very consistent, feeling pretty much the same. Not too bad, not too good," he said. "At the same time, I'm not playing nine innings every day."

With Scutaro being unavailable, the Giants will look to Brandon Hicks -- a non-roster invitee who tore up the Cactus League -- and rookie Ehire Adrianza to fill his role at second base. The No. 2 spot in the order is another matter -- and it appears Hunter Pence, more of a middle-of-the-order hitter in recent years, will start the season occupying that spot.

D-backs: Prado key to upturn
One year after being part of a blockbuster trade, Martin Prado felt much more comfortable this spring as a member of the D-backs, recapturing his role as a veteran presence who could be a catalyst and a clubhouse leader for his club.

"He's an electric personality guy, extremely contagious with the way he treats people, his teammates, what his work habits are, and he's having a great influence on us," D-backs manager Kirk Gibson said.

Although the arrival of Trumbo and hopes for a resurgence from Miguel Montero and the next step for A.J. Pollock are keys to the offense that features an NL MVP candidate in Paul Goldschmidt, it is Prado who is in the middle of the order. He could contribute in so many ways if he can maintain the level of play he had in the second half of 2013 -- when he had 30 RBIs in August alone and looked more like the type of player the D-backs needed to get in return from Atlanta in the Justin Upton deal.

The unfamiliarity with his new surroundings a year ago seemed to seep into the start of the 2013 season, with an April in which he batted .217 leading to pedestrian numbers at the All-Star break. But he rebounded late to find a comfortable spot in Arizona, and he batted .467 with seven extra-base hits in Cactus League play.

Said Prado: "I was trying to be somebody that I wasn't, and now I understand I just need to go out there and do what I've done the last couple of years. I have to understand this is a team sport, and everybody in this locker room is pulling together."

Worth noting
• The Giants and D-backs meet on Opening Day for only the second time, but it's the second time in three years. Arizona took a 5-4 victory over San Francisco at Chase Field to start the 2012 season.

• The Giants had the best record against the NL West among their division foes, going 44-32, and the D-backs were at 36-40.

• Last year's season series went to the Giants, 12-7. The two teams tied in 2011 and '12, but 2008 is the last year the D-backs won the season series outright, 11-7. Comments