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01/03/2013 2:35 PM ET

Astros to host Rangers in exclusive 2013 MLB season opener

Historic AL Debut vs. New Division Rival To Be Featured On ESPN Sunday Night Telecast

HOUSTON, TX - The Houston Astros historic debut in the American League vs. the Texas Rangers at Minute Maid Park will be showcased before a national television audience on Sunday, March 31on ESPN’s exclusive Sunday night telecast. 

The Astros-Rangers game, which will begin at 7:00 p.m. CT, will be the first and only Major League game played on March 31 and will mark the beginning of the 2013 Major League Baseball regular season. This will also mark the first time that the Astros have appeared on ESPN’s exclusive season opening telecast. The Astros-Rangers game will also be available via ESPN Radio, ESPN Deportes, ESPN3 and ESPN Mobile TV.

“We appreciate MLB and ESPN showcasing our inaugural game in the American League, and we intend to make Astros vs. Rangers the greatest rivalry in Texas sports,” said Astros President and CEO George Postolos.  

The season-opening game will be the first of a three-game series vs. the in-state and new AL West Division rival Texas Rangers. Houston will also host the Rangers on Tuesday, April 2 and Wednesday, April 3. The March 31 game will replace the Astros-Rangers game previously scheduled for Thursday, April 4. This season will also mark the first time that the Astros have faced the Rangers to open a season.

The Astros will host the Rangers for 10 games overall at Minute Maid Park in 2013, including a three-game, weekend series May 10-12 and a four-game, weekend set, August 9-12. The Astros will also play nine games vs. the Rangers in Arlington for a total of 19 games overall on the season. As division rivals, the two clubs will play a similar amount of games each season.

As a result of the Astros move to the American League, which was a mandatory requirement of MLB, each league now has 15 clubs, and each of MLB’s six divisions are comprised of five clubs for the first time. In addition to the Astros and Rangers, the AL West Division includes the Angels, Athletics and Mariners. The Angels, with old nemesis Albert Pujols and Rookie of the Year Mike Trout, will be in Houston for the first time for three games, May 7-9, and will return for three-game sets June 28-30 and September 13-15.

Another aspect of the move to the AL will be that Astros fans will have the opportunity to see every Major League team at Minute Maid Park over a two-year span (2012-13). The defending AL Champion Detroit Tigers will be in Houston for four games, May 2-5, and the popular Boston Red Sox will visit for three games, August 5-7. Later, the Astros will wrap up the regular season home schedule with a bang, hosting the New York Yankees for three games in the final weekend of the season, September 27-29.

Interleague Play will bring some familiar foes to Minute Maid Park in 2013. The former NL Central Division-rival Milwaukee Brewers (June 18-20), St. Louis Cardinals (June 25-26), and Cincinnati Reds (Sept. 16-18) all return to Houston this season.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.