The Houston Astros announced on Thursday that the team will open the 2013 season against the Texas Rangers on March 31 in Minute Maid Park.
This will be the opening game for all of Major League Baseball. The Astros and Rangers were previously scheduled to open the season on April 2, however the game was moved to March 31 to be televised by ESPN Sunday Night Baseball.
The Astros-Rangers game, which will begin at 7 p.m. cst, will be the first and only MLB game played on March 31 and will mark the first time that the Astros have appeared on an ESPN exclusive season opening television broadcast. The Astros-Rangers game will also be available on 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 against in-state and new American League West Division rival Texas Rangers. The Astros 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 between May 10 and 12 and a four-game weekend set between August 9 and 12.
The Astros will also play nine games against 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 the six MLB 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 Astros nemesis Albert Pujols and Rookie of the Year Mike Trout, will be in Houston for the first time for three games between May 7 and 9, and will return for three-game sets between June 28 and 30 and between September 13 and 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 between May 2 and 5, and the popular Boston Red Sox will visit for three games between August 5 and 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 and 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.