Ponson's win provides hope for Texas
Righty cruises through eight innings in first Rangers victory
ARLINGTON -- The music was blaring in the Rangers' clubhouse after Thursday afternoon's game, like it was party time on the beach in Aruba.
It was a time to forget about a 10-18 April, and focus on what a 258-pound pitcher from -- of all places -- Aruba had just done for his team.
Never mind that Sidney Ponson pitched so quickly and effectively that Thursday's 2-1 victory over Kansas City took only 2 hours, 10 minutes, the shortest game in two years at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington.
Forget that the Rangers went 4-2 and won both series on a homestand that opened with questions about manager Ron Washington's job security after a tough 2-7 road trip.
What Ponson did Thursday while allowing one run and six hits in eight innings was add another piece to a depleted Texas starting rotation.
In Rangersland, that, as always, is everything.
"We know we have another starter," Washington said. "And that's good, especially with what we are losing."
The Rangers are down to two-fifths of their season-opening rotation -- ace Kevin Millwood and No. 2 starter Vicente Padilla. Their other three starters -- Jason Jennings, Kason Gabbard and Luis Mendoza -- are on the 15-day disabled list. Brandon McCarthy, who is supposed to be one of the club's top pitchers, is on the 60-day DL.
Now the Rangers hope that after Padilla starts Friday's series opener in Oakland, they can find a few more surprises with A.J. Murray and Scott Feldman, who have combined for two big league victories, neither as a starter.
If not, they will wait until next week, when Gabbard and Mendoza are expected to come off the DL.
Ponson's emergence has been a stunner. Thursday's win was the first since a year ago to the date, when he was with the Twins. Few things went well for Ponson in Minnesota. He blamed a 2-5 record and a 6.93 ERA on a creaky right elbow. He was released on May 22 last year, and the Rangers signed him as an insurance policy.
Ponson says he is healthy now, and it's hard to argue with him after Thursday's outing and last week's first start, in which he allowed one earned run in 5 1/3 innings. His fastball had life to it Thursday, and he mixed his changeup and sinker with a couple of sliders.
All six hits he allowed were singles, three of them in the third inning. Ponson got two crucial double-play balls out of Royals third baseman Alex Gordon, and both came on a changeup.
That Ponson was willing to use his changeup against Gordon, a left-handed batter, speaks to his confidence.
"I'm not afraid to pitch to contact right now," Ponson said.
Ponson's sterling effort was needed, as Royals starter Zack Greinke once again showed he is one of the toughest pitchers going in the American League. Greinke allowed just four hits in seven innings. He was dominant for most of the game, collecting nine strikeouts. Greinke whiffed Michael Young three times, ending Young's 14-game hitting streak.
But the Rangers did whack two Greinke fastballs. Ian Kinsler led off the bottom of the first with a home run, his second leadoff homer and first long ball since April 20.
With the game tied at 1 in the sixth, Ramon Vazquez, batting second in the order because of an injury to Milton Bradley, looked for a fastball and crushed it inside the right-field foul pole for a 2-1 lead.
"Greinke was on today," Vazquez said. "I was just waiting for him to get one down there [in the strike zone], and I hit."
Rangers closer C.J. Wilson, who allowed two runs to the Royals on Wednesday, supported Ponson's superb pitching with a 1-2-3 ninth inning.
Ponson's so-far, so-good revival gives hope that maybe John Patterson, found off the Nationals' scrap heap, could provide help in the future. Both pitchers have been Opening Day starters.
It's also noteworthy that Ponson had a strong effort for the second straight game with young catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia behind the plate. Washington said again Thursday that Saltalamacchia and Gerald Laird will rotate catching two straight games while the other rests or is the designated hitter. Washington said only Kevin Millwood would have the status to request a personal catcher.
But it would be hard to argue with the Ponson-Saltalamacchia combination.
"We were comfortable with each other out there today," Saltalamacchia said. "His stuff was nasty. His changeup was tumbling."
Todd Wills is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.