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Bench role works out well for Ankiel in opener

The SportsXchange

As soon as Rick Ankiel saw the ball lift toward right field, he knew his connection was true.

"To myself I'm like, 'I got that. This is going to happen,'" said Ankiel, whose three-run, sixth-inning homer off Texas Rangers reliever Derek Lowe gave the Houston Astros a 7-2 lead Sunday at Minute Maid Park.

Ankiel hammered a 3-2 pitch into the right field stands. In a historic game filled with multiple "first" moments and baseball magic often more associated with winning teams, the Astros' 8-2 win in Houston's American League debut was highlighted by Ankiel's blast.

"It's an emotional roller coaster," said Ankiel, who signed with the Astros during the offseason as a non-roster invite. "It's a high. It's something that you don't want to end. But I'll never forget it. That's for sure."

Ankiel recently earned a spot on the Astros' 25-man opening-day roster and is expected to be the team's primary right fielder, despite not starting Sunday. Manager Bo Porter decided to go with Brandon Barnes, a right-handed hitter, instead of Ankiel, a left-handed hitter, to face Rangers left-hander Matt Harrison.
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