Astros open season with rout of Rangers

HOUSTON (AP) — Rick Ankiel and the Houston Astros made an impressive debut in the American League, trouncing the Texas Rangers

8-2 Sunday night in the major league opener and giving Bo Porter a win in his first game as manager.

Ankiel launched a pinch-hit three-run shot for the first homer this season, Bud Norris pitched well for the win and Erik Bedard

threw 313 scoreless innings for his first career save.

Having switched from the National League to the AL in the offseason, the Astros earned their first opening day victory since

2006 and the 4,000th regular-season win in franchise history.

The Astros are coming off consecutive

100-loss seasons and has the lowest payroll in the majors, prompting

many to predict

they will be the worst team in the majors. But Houston opened in

style wearing spiffy new uniforms that brought back the orange

and blue of old-school Astros teams.

Justin Maxwell added a pair of triples and made a nifty catch in center field.

Norris (1-0) allowed five hits and two runs with five strikeouts in 523 innings. He was one of five Astros making their first opening day start on baseball’s second-youngest team.

Bedard shut down the Rangers on one hit the rest of the way for his first save in a 10-season career.

As Houston began a new era with the

move to the AL, the Rangers were embarking on a new chapter without 2010

AL MVP Josh Hamilton.

Along with Hamilton’s departure to the Angels, Texas also lost

catcher Mike Napoli and infielder Michael Young.

The loss snapped a streak of four straight opening day victories by the Rangers. Former Astros star Lance Berkman had two

hits in his first game as Texas’ designated hitter.

Matt Harrison (0-1), who signed a $55 million contract this offseason, yielded six hits and five runs and tied a career high

with nine strikeouts in 523 innings.

Maxwell’s two-out triple in the fourth

inning broke a scoreless tie and gave Houston a 2-0 lead. The ball

bounced off the

wall in left field and scored Brett Wallace and Carlos Pena, who

both got on with singles. Umpires reviewed the play to make

sure it wasn’t a home run, and upheld the call.

An error by right fielder Nelson Cruz let Houston score a run in the fifth, and Jose Altuve singled home another.

Harrison put runners at first and second with walks in the sixth and was replaced by Derek Lowe with two outs. Ankiel, the

one-time pitcher with St. Louis, connected on his fifth career pinch-hit homer, a full-count shot to right field that made

it 7-2.

Norris had a tough second inning and had to use 26 pitches to escape, striking out Mitch Moreland. Norris got on a roll from

there, retiring nine of the next 10 batters.

Norris ran into trouble in the sixth when Ian Kinsler drew a walk and Berkman hit a one-out single. Murphy’s two-out single

sent Kinsler home to make it 4-1. Cruz followed with a groundball single that rolled just out of reach of diving shortstop

Ronny Cedeno to score Berkman and chase Norris.

Chants of “Cruuuuuuuz” filled the

stadium, indicating the large number of Rangers fans who made the

250-mile trip from Dallas.

Norris was replaced by Erik Bedard, who is Houston’s fifth

starter, but won’t be needed for a while in the rotation because

of off-days.

NOTES: Altuve got the first hit of the

2013 season. ... These teams have a day off Monday before resuming the

series on Tuesday

when the Rangers’ Yu Darvish opposes Lucas Harrell. ... Houston

Texans defensive end J.J. Watt, the NFL’s defensive player

of the year, threw out the ceremonial first pitch. Watt, who said

he threw a bullpen session to prepare for the task, threw

a strike. ... Texans star receiver Andre Johnson was also in the

sold-out crowd of 41,307. ... Lyle Lovett performed the national

anthem.