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Raheel Ramzanali: 5 things I’m excited about in April

Villanova should make the Final Four entertaining. Elsa/Getty Images

October always gets the headlines for being the best sports month, but lowkey, April is making a solid push. Here are the 5 events (Spoiler: I feature no NFL related events so if you’re an NFL sheep, please move along and spare me the “NFL is king!” crap) I’m excited about in April and why it makes this month the best in the sports calendar:

1. NCAA Final Four April 1

Technically the Final Four starts in March on the 31st, but the title game will be on April 2 so this is an April event. Don’t let dates interfere with this being the marquee event in April. This will decide the World Champion of College Basketball and put to bed all of our crappy brackets. This year is also special because we get two different types of matchups in the Final Four: The Cinderella story with Loyola Chicago and the heavyweights with Kansas and Villanova. Side note: Is Villanova the Clemson of basketball? To be back in the Final Four two out of the last three years and winning it all in the greatest title game ever is starting to feel a lot like what Clemson is doing in the College Football. To me, Final Four weekend is one of the best sporting events to watch and I’m glad we get it in April.

2. NBA Playoffs April 14

 While a champion will be decided in this tournament, it won’t happen for another two months so the NBA gets second place with the playoffs. The official start of the playoffs means we get plenty of important games every single night and locally, we finally get the start of the journey for the Rockets. This has been an interesting season for Houston because they clearly have the best team, but until they beat the Warriors in the playoffs, it won’t feel like a success of a season.

3. Wrestlemania April 8

Skim down, check out the other two. Welcome back. There is no way I’m putting golf or baseball ahead of the single most important entertainment event of the year, Wrestlemania! Is that Ronda Rousey beating up on the most powerful woman in Sports Entertainment? SURE IS! I’m sorry, is that the Undertaker dominating in April at Mania? SURE IS! Oh look, here is John Cena getting over again. Get your index fingers ready, because that SURE IS a YES chant breaking out.

4. The Masters April 5

Ugh, the only reason I’m including this on my list is so I don’t have to hear it from my SportsMap colleague John Granato. John is the protector of golf and would spike my alkaline water with molly and percs if I didn’t include The Masters. Total minutes of golf I’ll watch from April 5-8? Probably six minutes. However, I will record every day and play it back in the summer for the ultimate nap background noise.

Baseball opening Day March 29-April 2

Again, don’t let the dates trip you up. Baseball Opening Day might be on March 29th, but it really doesn’t start until our World Series champs receive their rings on April 2 in Houston. The only reason I’m pumped for this is because the Astros will sweep the Rangers to start the season in Arlington and that will be the last time we hear from Rangers fans for the season. The fact the MLB is starting the World Champs on the road just shows you why baseball is so off. In fact, I think next week I’ll write about why baseball messed up by not starting the Astros at home on the 29th.


 

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Houston loses in San Francisco

Astros drop back-and-forth middle game to Giants to even series

Houston's offense couldn't keep up with the Giants on Saturday. Photo by Elsa/Getty Images.

With the impressive win in the opener to start the series, the Astros entered Saturday's middle game against the Giants with an opportunity to not just secure the series but surpass San Francisco for the best record in the league. They'd have to wait to take that crown, as the Giants would out-slug the Astros to even the series.

Final Score: Giants 8, Astros 6

Astros' Record: 64-41, first in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Jay Jackson (2-0)

Losing Pitcher: Blake Taylor (2-3)

Teams trade blows early, Giants chase Greinke out early

The teams traded blows early in this one, with the Giants tagging Zack Greinke with six runs, all on homers. The first was a solo shot in the bottom of the second to start the scoring before hitting one in each inning through the fourth: two-run blasts in the third and fourth, then a go-ahead solo shot in the bottom of the fifth, putting them ahead 6-5 at the time. Greinke would face one more batter, allowing a single to end his lackluster day: 4.0 IP, 8 H, 6 R, 4 ER, 2 BB, 4 K, 4 HR, 93 P.

Houston's offense kept things close to try and keep Greinke in a position to win, going up 3-1 in the third on a two-run Aledmys Diaz homer and another coming in on an error. After San Francisco scored four unanswered to make it 5-3, Diaz homered again in the top of the fifth to cut the deficit to one run before Yuli Gurriel would tie it with an RBI double.

Astros stay in it, but Giants even the series by winning the slug-fest

With Greinke exiting with no outs in the fifth, Houston handed the ball to Phil Maton, acquired in the recent Myles Straw trade, to make his debut for his new team. He worked himself into a jam, allowing a single and hitting a batter to load the bases with one out, but was able to get back-to-back strikeouts to strike out the side and strand all three runners, keeping it a one-run game.

That proved pivotal in the top of the sixth, as with two outs, Martin Maldonado would launch a game-tying solo homer, making it 6-6. Blake Taylor took over out of the bullpen in the bottom of the inning but would face just three batters, getting two outs while leaving one on as Dusty Baker moved on to Cristian Javier. Javier would watch the Giants retake the lead, getting back-to-back singles to bring in a run and make it 7-6.

Javier stayed in the game in the bottom of the seventh, allowing a leadoff single but erasing it by striking out the next three batters. Still a 7-6 game in the bottom of the eighth, Yimi Garcia made his Astros debut but did not keep the score there, allowing a leadoff solo homer to make it a two-run game. The 8-6 score would go final as Houston's offense came up empty again in the top of the ninth, setting up a rubber game in the finale.

Up Next: The series finale will get underway at 3:05 PM Central on Sunday in San Francisco. Luis Garcia (7-5, 3.19 ERA) will take the mound for Houston, going opposite Logan Webb (4-3, 3.36 ERA) for the Giants.

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