ARLINGTON, Texas — Josh Hamilton heard the boos from Texas Rangers fans.
If someone says there was a mix of cheers the first time the Los Angeles Angels slugger stepped into the batter's box against his former team, he's not buying it.
"Where were you sitting at?" Hamilton shot back with a smile after the Angels lost to the Rangers 3-2 in his return to Texas on Friday.
"Yeah, when I was on deck, three little kids were like, 'Hey Josh! We miss you!' and I was like, 'Hey guys. Good to see ya.' One little guy was yelling me at me, he was like, 'Hey, hey, hey!' And finally I turned around and he was like, 'Hey, your pocket's out.' And I was like, 'Hey, man, thanks.'"
Otherwise, Hamilton said he felt the same way he did five years ago when Yankee Stadium crowds chanted "Josh smokes crack" at the former No. 1 pick for Tampa Bay whose career was derailed by alcohol and drug abuse. This from the supposedly tamer fans in Texas.
"I got worn out as good today as I had anywhere else," the five-time All-Star and 2010 AL MVP said. "The booing was a little louder. It probably hurt a little more to know that people would turn that quickly."
Hamilton also just missed on a throw from right field that could have kept the game tied at 2-all in the eighth inning.
Instead, Craig Gentry slid home with the go-ahead run on a single by Ian Kinsler while Hamilton's throw skipped past catcher Chris Iannetta.
"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."
Hamilton went 0 for 4 with two strikeouts — just as he did in last appearance with the Rangers in a wild-card loss to Baltimore in October.
The fans booed him loudly then, in part because his drop of a routine fly ball in Oakland was part of a late-season collapse that ended a run of two straight trips to the World Series.
Hamilton said the only time he thinks about his last game for the Rangers is when someone asks about it.
"And then I quickly think about it, and then I quickly release it," Hamilton said.
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.
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.
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.
"If you ask anybody about getting booed, it kind of motivates you a little bit," said Angels outfielder Mike Trout, who had an RBI double. "He's got to go out there and put his usual swings on some balls and square some balls up and he'll be fine."
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 was thrown out trying to advance while Iannetta went to second. 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 sat with former President George W. Bush. ... Iannetta was 2 for 13 in games at Rangers Ballpark last season. Both of those hits were homers.
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