Jennings has rough home opener

Jennings struggles in home loss

ARLINGTON -- Eric Nadel's ceremonial first pitch, marking his 30th season as a Rangers broadcaster, was high and outside, forcing former Gold Glove catcher Jim Sundberg out of his squat to keep it from going to the backstop.

So much for the first pitch at the home opener. The Rangers' pitchers who followed Nadel to the mound didn't fare much better.

Starter Jason Jennings, in particular, had a rough day in his first appearance at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. Jennings, who was born and raised in the Dallas area, had been looking forward to this moment for a long time, but it wasn't what he was hoping for or expected.

Instead, he had trouble honing in on the strike zone in the first inning and then started getting too much of the plate. The combined result was giving up four runs in 4 2/3 innings as the Rangers lost to the Orioles, 8-1, on Tuesday.

"It's a day I'll never forget," Jennings said. "I was just hoping for a better result."

A crowd of 48,808 showed up on an 80-degree day and ended up going home disappointed when the Rangers lost for the fifth time in their last seven home openers. They are 6-9 in home openers at The Ballpark. It was also the first home opener for Hall of Fame pitcher Nolan Ryan in his new role as club president.

"I'm disappointed," Ryan said. "Anytime you have a crowd like that, you want to win. But you have to look at it as just one game. We'll be back tomorrow night."

Texas managed just one run against Baltimore left-hander Brian Burres, who went six-plus innings on his 27th birthday. He allowed seven hits and walked two, but the Rangers were 0-for-6 against him with runners in scoring position and 1-for-9 in the game. They are hitting .214 with runners in scoring position overall after seven games.

"It's not like we didn't have our chances," first baseman Ben Broussard said. "We got men on base, we just didn't come through when we needed to. No excuses. We had our opportunities offensively and we didn't get it done. They did. That's how they beat us."

Burres is the same left-hander who allowed eight runs in two-thirds of an inning in the Rangers' 30-3 victory over the Orioles last August. That was his only appearance against them before getting the start on Tuesday.

"I didn't look at that tape, because I usually like to look at me doing a little better than that," Burres said.

Jennings had trouble right from the beginning and the Rangers weren't particularly happy that he couldn't get a few pitches called his way from home-plate umpire Brian Gorman. Jennings hasn't had any trouble lately throwing strikes, but he did in the first inning, walking the bases loaded before getting out of it without a run scored when Ramon Hernandez grounded out to first base.

"He was just missing with some pitches," catcher Gerald Laird said. "Some of those pitches, I thought were good pitches. The zone was a little tight today, but you have to adjust."

Said Jennings, "I've learned not to comment on umpires. I'll let people draw their own conclusions."

Jennings did adjust, but perhaps too much. Forced to get more of the plate, he did just that, and the Orioles jumped on him. Scott Moore led off the third inning with a home run, then Adam Jones doubled and scored on a one-out single by Brian Roberts.

Luke Scott, after Jennings fell behind 2-0 in the count, hit a two-run home run in the third inning to give the Orioles a 4-0 lead.

"They were very disciplined," Jennings said. "They didn't swing at my pitches, they waited for theirs. When you're not getting calls, you've got to challenge guys, and they put some good swings on the ball."

Jennings left the game with the bases loaded and two out in the fifth. Ironically, the last out he recorded was Hernandez, striking him out looking with runners at second and third. Hernandez didn't like the call and complained to Gorman. Jennings was hardly sympathetic.

"I didn't want to hear it," he snapped.

Jamey Wright kept the Orioles from scoring that inning by getting Jones on a dribbler back to the mound, but the Rangers' reprieve was only temporary. Aubrey Huff, who is from the Fort Worth area and finished 4-for-4, had a two-run double in the sixth and an RBI single in the eighth that helped Baltimore pull away to its sixth straight win.

The Rangers, on the other hand, missed a chance to move above .500 as well as send a sellout crowd home happy.

"The only thing I'm disappointed in is that we lost a ballgame," manager Ron Washington said. "That's all. We were ready, but their pitcher just shut us down. That's all that was."

T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.