MINNEAPOLIS (AP)—Sidney Ponson shrugged off this revival of his once-promising career, pointing to improved mechanics on the mound and better location of his pitches as reasons.
Perhaps, after years of unfulfilled potential and off-the-field trouble, he’s simply more focused.
“He’s certainly got the stuff. There’s no doubt about that. It’s just how serious he goes out there and takes it,” said Texas manager Ron Washington after Ponson beat his previous team with career complete game No. 29 for the Rangers in a 10-1 victory over the Minnesota Twins on Wednesday night.
One day less than one year after the Twins released the struggling right-hander with a 2-5 record and a 6.93 ERA, Ponson (3-0) plowed through their lagging lineup with only one run and six hits allowed.
He finished nine innings for the first time since April 24, 2005, for Baltimore at Toronto.
“I basically didn’t do nothing,” Ponson said, deferring credit to his teammates for their 17 hits and sound defense—especially sharp plays by Ian Kinsler, Michael Young and Brandon Boggs.
“It’s a team concept, and they know that I pitch to contact. I don’t like to strike people out. I know that if I work fast, good things will happen,” Ponson said.
Young started the defining sixth with a homer and Kinsler finished with a three-run shot against frustrated Minnesota starter Nick Blackburn (4-3), who watched Alexi Casilla drop a soft relay throw at second base for a costly error and just missed grabbing a sharp line drive back up the middle as Texas broke open a scoreless game.
“We’ve seen it too many times this year,” said Twins manager Ron Gardenhire, whose normally sure-fielding team has made seven errors in the last four games. “You give extra outs in this league, and you get beat.”
Gerald Laird became the sixth batter to get at least two hits with a solo homer in the ninth. Josh Hamilton had three singles and scored twice, improving his career average against Minnesota to .517 in 29 at-bats.
In his sixth start for the perennially pitching-thin Rangers since they summoned him from the minors, Ponson rebounded from a couple of rough starts by continuing to effectively spot his sinker so his teammates could gobble up grounders behind him for 18 of 27 outs.
“He just goes after hitters, and that’s what he did tonight,” Kinsler said of Ponson’s “no-nonsense” approach to pitching.
Last year, after getting cut by the Twins, Ponson went home and cleared his head without thinking much about baseball. Looks like it worked.
“He’s stronger than last year, and that’s key for him,” said Michael Cuddyer, who went 0-for-4 and saw his average drop to .217 while Ponson’s ERA sunk to 2.95.
Ponson walked one, struck out five and let only one runner past second base. That came in the sixth, when Adam Everett tripled and scored on Casilla’s sacrifice fly.
The game was decided already by then.
Casilla, who saved at least one run in the fourth with a diving stop of a grounder to end the inning with two men on, appeared to turn his head too soon— in eagerness to start the double play—when Everett flipped him an easy throw from shortstop with one on and no outs in the sixth.
The ball popped out of Casilla’s glove, and both runners were safe.
Laird knocked in a run with the liner that Blackburn nearly caught, Ramon Vazquez drove in two more with a single of his own, and Kinsler made it 7-0 with his long ball to left. Gardenhire and pitching coach Rick Anderson were stone-faced in the dugout.
Blackburn angrily slapped his glove as soon as Kinsler finished his swing, and he did the same when he stomped off the mound at inning’s end.
“That was embarrassing. I don’t like going out and doing that stuff,” Blackburn said. “I don’t take failure very well, and obviously it’s a game and it’s going to happen. I’m never happy about situations like that.”
At second base, playing time for Brendan Harris has been decreasing because of defense that’s not to Gardenhire’s liking. But Casilla was guilty, too.
“If it’s at his feet, in the ground, this is the big leagues: You catch the ball. We talk about it all the time. The first thing you have to do as an infielder is get the first out,” Gardenhire said.
Washington confirmed that Hank Blalock, who has switched from 3B to 1B, will join the Rangers in Cleveland on Friday after missing a month with a partially torn hamstring. Blalock played in another extended spring training game Wednesday, collecting two hits in five innings and scoring from first on a double. … Ponson is 10-2 with a 2.42 ERA in 15 career appearances against Minnesota. … Twins RH Scott Baker (groin) threw another bullpen session and the next step is live batting practice. IF Nick Punto (hamstring) will join him in Fort Myers, Fla., on Friday to continue his rehabilitation. Punto is expected back by the end of the month, but the timetable for Baker has not been defined.