Baseball: Astros open 2013 season with a victory

The Houston Astros marked their move to the American League with the 4,000th win in club history Sunday, launching the 2013 Major League Baseball season with an 8-2 triumph over the Texas Rangers.

Rick Ankiel hit a three-run home run, while Justin Maxwell went 2-for-3 with two runs batted in and two runs scored for the Astros, who had played their first 51 seasons in the National League.

The last time a team swapped leagues and divisions was back in 1998, when the Milwaukee Brewers left the American League Central for the National League Central.

Houston's starting pitcher Bud Norris gave up two runs on five hits over 5 2/3 innings to gain the win, which allowed Houston manager Bo Porter to open his first season at the helm of a major league team with a victory.

Jose Altuve and Matt Dominguez each had an RBI for the Astros.

The all-Texas tussle was the only game on the slate on Sunday, with openers continuing on Monday with 12 contests and on Tuesday, when six more teams launch their 2013 campaigns.

Monday will see the San Francisco Giants open their defence of their World Series title at the Los Angeles Dodgers.

The Giants, who have made few changes, will have ace Matt Cain on the mound and catcher Buster Posey behind the plate as they take on their National League West foes.

The Boston Red Sox will host bitter American League East rivals the New York Yankees on Monday.

The Yankees, have faced injury and controversy in the off-season.

New doping allegations have surfaced surrounding Alex Rodriguez and a Miami clinic. Curtis Granderson is sidelined until May with a broken arm while Mark Teixeira has a wrist injury that might need season-ending surgery, Derek Jeter is coming off ankle surgery and relief ace Mariano Rivera is back after surgery for one last season before retirement.

Unless C.C. Sabathia can spark the pitchers and Robinson Cano can stabilize sluggers, the Yankees could have a long season.

The realignment that moved the Astros from the NL Central to the AL West gives each league three five-team groupings.

That means inter-league games, once unheard of until the best-of-seven World Series title showdown in October, will now be played almost every night of the season after being reserved for only select dates in recent years.