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Astros eye series win against the Rangers

The Houston Astros' move to the American League is already paying dividends.

The Junior Circuit's newest occupants eye a series win on Tuesday when they play the middle test of a three-game season-opening set against the Texas Rangers at Minute Maid Park.

Houston, which has lost more than 100 games in each of the last two seasons, won its AL debut on Sunday, as Rick Ankiel hit a three-run homer to power the Astros to an 8-2 triumph. Justin Maxwell went 2-for-3 with two RBI and two runs scored for the Astros, who earned their 4,000th victory in franchise history.

Bud Norris (1-0) gave up two runs on five hits over 5 2/3 innings to pick up the win. Erik Bedard gave up just one hit the rest of the way to record his first career save.

"To sit at 1-0 right now feels pretty darn good, and we've just got to go back out there on Tuesday and play some more baseball," Norris said.

David Murphy and Nelson Cruz each had an RBI for the Rangers, while Matt Harrison (0-1) allowed six runs -- five earned -- over 5 2/3 innings to take the loss.

Hoping for a better effort on Tuesday the Rangers will turn to Japanese righty Yu Darvish, who fared pretty well in his initial season, going 16-9 with a 3.90 ERA and 221 strikeouts in 191 innings over 29 starts.

Darvish, who pitched to a 1.98 ERA this spring, was an All-Star as a rookie, but was even better in the second half, as he went 5-1 with a 2.35 ERA in his final eight starts before losing to the Baltimore Orioles in the American League Wild Card game.

He's hoping to get off to as good a start as he did last season when he went 4-0 with a 2.18 ERA in five starts in April.

Houston, meanwhile, will turn to its Pitcher of the Year from a season ago, righty Lucas Harrell. The 27-year-old hurler made a career-high 32 starts and went 11-11 with a 3.76 ERA.

Despite Sunday's loss, Texas has dominated the Astros over the past four years, winning 19 of the 25 matchups.

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