ARLINGTON, Texas — Texas Rangers fans were cheering again for Josh Hamilton – this time when the slugger struck out.
Making the home opener even sweeter for them, speedy Craig Gentry scored the go-ahead on Ian Kinsler's two-out single in the eighth inning as the Rangers won 3-2 Friday over Hamilton and the AL West-rival Los Angeles Angels.
Hamilton was a five-time All-Star and the 2010 AL MVP while with Texas before going to the Angels with a $125 million, five-year contract over the winter. He was booed when he was introduced, then cheered when he struck out twice while going 0 for 4.
"I'd lie to you if I said it didn't bother me a little bit. But it didn't like overwhelm me," Hamilton said. "It's what I expected."
Kinsler's sharp single to right was fielded by Hamilton, who short-hopped a throw to the plate as Gentry dived headfirst to score.
Gentry reached with a one-out single off Scott Downs (0-2), the fourth Angels pitcher. Gentry took off on his own for the stolen base, then after pinch-hitter Jeff Baker struck out, Gentry put his head down with every intention to score on Kinsler's hit.
"We were struggling the whole game to put some runs across," Gentry said. "You've got to gamble right there and you've got to take a chance."
Even with the strong-armed Hamilton in right fielding the ball.
"Felt good, man, felt good. Came out hot. Short-hopped him," Hamilton said before a sigh. "I already replayed it in my mind 100 times. Came up and gave it a good throw and that's all you can do. He's fast."
Tanner Scheppers (1-0) pitched an inning in relief of starter Derek Holland. Joe Nathan worked the ninth for his first save, an inning that started with him retiring Albert Pujols and Hamilton on flyballs.
Kinsler got a hit and drove in a run for the fifth home opener in a row.
Hamilton, 1 for 16 this season, was booed during pregame introductions and when he came to bat each time. Those boos became cheers when took a strike on the first pitch in the second inning, and the sellout crowd of 48,845 erupted when he struck out swinging.
"I heard the crowd erupt every time," Holland said. "I'm just going after him, treating him like every other hitter. ... He's a great hitter, I just didn't really want to give him too much to hit. He can hit it a mile away."
Chris Iannetta homered and scored both runs for the Angels, who have lost three in a row since a season-opening victory at Cincinnati – Hamilton's other former major league team.
Adrian Beltre homered in the seventh for Texas, which has won three in a row since dropping the season opener at Houston. Nelson Cruz and A.J. Pierzynski each had three hits.
Holland, who pitched for Team USA in the World Baseball Classic, allowed two runs over seven innings. The left-hander struck out five and walked one.
Jason Vargas allowed one run over 5 2-3 innings in his first start for the Angels, who acquired the left-hander last winter when they traded Kendrys Morales to Seattle. Vargas allowed eight hits with four strikeouts and two walks.
The Rangers were playing their first game at home since a 5-1 loss to Baltimore last October in the one-and-done AL wild-card game.
Hamilton was also 0 for 4 with two strikeouts in that game when he was booed by the home fans who had cheered him through five All-Star seasons and the franchise's only two World Series appearances.
Hamilton was the No. 1 overall pick by Tampa Bay in 1999, but his career was derailed by alcohol and substance abuse in the minor leagues. He finally made his debut for the Reds in 2007, then was traded after that season to Texas, where his career surged.
"I got worn out as good today as I had anywhere else. The booing was a little louder. The chants, I've been called a crack head before at Yankee Stadium and places like that, just like it was today," Hamilton said. "It probably hurt a little more to know that people would turn that quickly. To think that they kind of supported you as far as personal, your story, things like that. Just tells you a lot."
Iannetta's second homer of the season tied the game at 1 in the third.
Alberto Callaspo and Iannetta had consecutive singles to start the fifth. Callaspo was picked off second base by Holland, then thrown out trying to advance while Iannetta went to second. Mike Trout doubled off the left-field wall for a 2-1 Angels lead.
Cruz has had multiple hits in every game after getting two hits in each of the three games at Houston.
Cruz had a leadoff double in the second and scored when Pierzynski, the catcher playing his first home game for the Rangers, tripled into the right-field corner. The ball ricocheted off the wall past Hamilton, and Pierzynski slid into third base at the same time the tag was being applied.
Pierzynski was stranded at third base when Kinsler had an inning-ending liner. After Pierzynski's leadoff single in the sixth, he got to second base but no further when Kinsler flew out to end the inning.
"Personally I had a lot of opportunities with two outs and runners in scoring position and I wasn't getting it done," Kinsler said. "Definitely it was a relief to get that hit in the eighth there."
NOTES: The Rangers had 12 hits and left 11 runners on base. ... Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones sat in the front row, about a dozen seats down from where CEO Nolan Ryan with former President George W. Bush. ... Iannetta was 2 for 13 in games at Rangers Ballpark last season. Both of those hits were homers.