ARLINGTON, Texas -- Craig Gentry, leading off from second base with two outs in the eighth, saw Ian Kinsler hit a line drive to the right side and had only one thing in mind.
"I wasn't even looking at [third-base coach Gary Pettis]," Gentry said. "I was going to try and score no matter what. As soon as he hit it, I took off."
Pettis, with the score tied in the home opener at the Ballpark in Arlington, was frantically waving Gentry home. After an afternoon of wasted opportunities, the Rangers couldn't afford to miss another, even with Kinsler hitting the ball directly at Angels right fielder Josh Hamilton.
"Personally, I had a lot of opportunities with two outs and runners in scoring position and didn't get it done," Kinsler said. "It was definitely a relief to get a hit right there."
Hamilton charged the ball well, and his strong throw had Gentry beat, but the ball short-hopped catcher Chris Iannetta and bounced away, allowing Gentry to score the go-ahead run in the Rangers' 3-2 victory over the Angels on Friday afternoon.
"I came up and gave it a good throw," Hamilton said. "That's all you can do. He's fast. … Anybody from second base, unless they're really slow, is going to try and score."
The Rangers were 1-for-12 with runners in scoring position before Kinsler delivered his hit off reliever Scott Downs. And despite a terrific performance by starter Derek Holland, they trailed, 2-1, going into the seventh until Adrian Beltre hit a game-tying homer off reliever Garrett Richards.
"That was a heck of a victory," manager Ron Washington said. "We grinded out that game the whole way and finally got it done. I wouldn't say that's the blueprint, because we're still capable of scoring a lot of runs. We're capable of winning any way. Today, with the pitching and the defense, we only needed three runs."
It was the third straight win for the Rangers, who have now won five straight home openers. This one was played in front of 48,845 fans, including former President George W. Bush, who was sitting in the front row next to Rangers CEO Nolan Ryan.
"It was a show for the fans. … That's what we're here for, right?" Beltre said. "We won, that's all we care about. We had a good offensive game going today, we just couldn't capitalize. Derek did a terrific job keeping it close."
Holland, in his first start of the season, held the Angels to two runs in seven innings. He allowed six hits and a walk while striking out five. But he threw his 94th and final pitch with the Angels leading, 2-1, and Tanner Scheppers, emerging as the Rangers' best option for the eighth inning, ended up getting the victory. Joe Nathan pitched the ninth for his first save.
"Derek did all the work," Scheppers said.
"I'm very happy. … Overall, the performance was great," Holland said. "I gave us a chance to win, and the guys came through for me. My defense was there, and the bullpen, they kept the door shut. I did all I could, and they finished up. If I keep doing this and giving my team a chance to win, it's going to be a great season."
Rangers pitchers were especially effective against the big bats at the top of the Angels' order. Holland, Scheppers and Nathan combined to hold Mike Trout, Erick Aybar, Albert Pujols, Hamilton and Mark Trumbo to a collective 1-for-18 with two walks and four strikeouts. Hamilton went 0-for-4 and struck out twice against Holland.
"Holland made some good pitches, really tough pitches," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "Josh couldn't get the barrel on some of them and got a little overanxious. He couldn't get a couple of balls to fall in. Holland is tough on lefties, and he showed it today. I don't know if Josh was so amped it affected his performance. He's a little disappointed with the way the day went."
A.J. Pierzynski went 3-for-4 for with a run-scoring triple, but the Rangers still trailed by one going into the seventh because of a third-inning home run by Iannetta and an RBI double by Trout in the fifth. Then Beltre was able to tie it in the bottom of the seventh with a two-out home run off Richards, hitting a 2-2 pitch on a line drive that hit off the top of the left-field wall and bounced into the seats.
"I was blowing it hard to get it over the fence," Beltre said. "I hit it pretty good, but I also hit in on a line."
After Scheppers retired the side in order in the top of the eighth, Gentry got the Rangers going with a one-out single off Downs. Washington then sent Jeff Baker, a right-handed hitter, to pinch-hit for Mitch Moreland, and Gentry stole second on an 0-2 pitch.
"Right there we needed a guy in scoring position," Gentry said. "I was trying to read him on the first few pitches. I got a good read and a good count to run on."
It was the Rangers' first stolen base of the season, and it proved to be a big one. Baker struck out, but then Kinsler delivered the big hit of the afternoon by driving the ball to the opposite field.
"I wasn't trying to go to right field," Kinsler said. "I was just trying to hit the ball hard. We had wasted a lot of opportunities, but I was finally able to find the outfield grass."
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.