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Pitching change backfires on Rangers in opener

Ankiel homer off Lowe in veteran righty's Texas debut breaks game open

Pitching change backfires on Rangers in opener play video for Pitching change backfires on Rangers in opener

HOUSTON -- Starter Matt Harrison, trailing by two runs in the bottom of the sixth of the Rangers' 8-2 loss in the season's opening game on Sunday, walked the Astros' Justin Maxwell with one out. He retired Jason Castro on a fly to center for the second out but then walked Matt Dominguez.

That was enough for manager Ron Washington. With right-handed hitter Brandon Barnes coming to the plate, he decided to bring in right-hander Derek Lowe.

"I thought Harrison had gone as far as he could," Washington said. "He had 100 pitches. He had gone as far as he needed to go. I was hoping Lowe could throw his sinker and get a ground ball."

Lowe didn't face Barnes. First-year Astros manager Bo Porter sent up Rick Ankiel, a left-handed hitter, to face Lowe, who was making his Rangers debut. Ankiel was 4-for-10 with two home runs against Lowe in his career prior to the at-bat.

"History shows he gives me fits," Lowe said. "A 3-2 pitch, I was trying to throw more further inside with a right-hander up next. I was trying to stay inside the whole time. It was the third breaking ball he had seen. I've got to make a better pitch."

Instead Lowe left where Ankiel could do something with it.

"He threw that breaking ball right into his bat," Washington said.

Ankiel hit it over the right-field wall for a three-run home run that broke the game open for the Astros.

"Unbelievable," Ankiel said. "I've always said pinch-hitting and hitting home runs are the pinnacle of baseball. To come out and start the season like that ... what a moment. It was something I'll never forget and I'm excited."

T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

{"event":["opening_day" ] }
{"event":["opening_day" ] }
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