Ponson a bit rocky but still rolls Rookie pitcher manages to keep Twins at bay

Sidelight

August 19, 1998|By Christian Ewell | Christian Ewell,SUN STAFF

Sidney Ponson did for the Orioles last night what he has been able to do all season. After setting the stage for disaster, he abandoned it.

Despite facing threats in almost all of the six innings he pitched in a 7-1 victory, the 21-year-old rookie limited the Minnesota Twins to one run on seven hits and ran his record to 7-6.

With the Twins' batters and the Boston Red Sox-Texas Rangers doubleheader outcome pressing his mind, Ponson gave what Orioles manager Ray Miller called "as good a game as I've seen him throw all year."

"I've seen him throw hard, and I've seen him throw good breaking stuff, but I haven't seen them all combined," Miller said. "He's an outstanding young talent."

The Twins threatened in each inning after the first. In the second, David Ortiz was left stranded at third base. In the third, Pat Meares was left at second after singling home Todd Walker for Minnesota's only run.

In the fourth, it was Marty Cordova left at second base, then Walker at second in the fifth, then Cordova again, this time left at third base, in the sixth.

"I got behind a lot of these guys, threw a lot of pitches for six innings," Ponson said. "But I have to be thankful for the defense and offense, especially; they really picked me up."

This type of luck has not always been available to Ponson, a native of Aruba who has pitched well of late, winning all six of his decisions since July 2 with a 4.18 ERA.

A hard thrower sent to the starting rotation after injuries to Jimmy Key and Scott Kamieniecki, Ponson's welcome to the world of starting pitching in the major leagues was a rude one.

Hurt by an impatience that prompted him to throw two-strike pitches right over the middle of the plate, and to become unglued when those mistakes resulted in runs, Ponson suffered losses in six of his first seven decisions while compiling a 6.67 ERA.

His benchmark performance during that period was a win over New York on June 16, when he held the Yankees to two hits over 6 2/3 innings. Last night, aided by 90-degree heat and good pitch placement, he said he finally found an effort to equal that one.

"I think it was kind of hot tonight, and Minnesota was kind of cold," Ponson said. "I felt really good and was keeping the ball down, and made good pitches in crucial situations and that helped."

He also tried to put some competitive heat on himself, with the Boston-Texas doubleheader looming large. With a loss and a Red Sox sweep, the Orioles could have lost 1 1/2 games to Boston.

"I was concentrating a lot," Ponson said. "It was only 1-0, and I kept looking at the scoreboard. My main concern is to go out there and help this ballclub. I'm working hard, and [teammates] tell me not to put too much pressure on myself, but I do, because I'm a competitive guy. I don't like losing."

Overall, Ponson threw 119 pitches, 75 for strikes.

"He got into some two-out trouble, but I saw some good stuff," said Miller, who added that the hard work, along with the experience in the bullpen, will make Ponson more seasoned than the average young pitcher when next season comes around.

"But a guy like Sidney, you get so much experience that next year everyone's going to think he's a 30-year-old when he's actually a 21-year-old," Miller said.

Starting nine

Last night's victory over the Twins represented the ninth straight Orioles win in a game started by rookie Sidney Ponson:

Date ..... Opp ... IP ... H ... ER ... Result

7/2 ...... Fla ... 6 .... 7 ... 2 .... W 5-3

7/10 ..... Bos ... 6 2/3 6 ... 2 .... *W 3-2

7/15 ..... Tex ... 5 .... 8 ... 3 .... W 14-3

7/22 ..... Oak ... 5 1/3 4 ... 3 .... *W 5-4

7/28 ..... Det ... 6 .... 7 ... 5 .... W 6-5

8/2 ...... KC .... 7 .... 8 ... 2 .... W 9-2

8/8 ...... Min ... 6 .... 9 ... 2 .... W 6-3

8/13 ..... Cle ... 3 2/3 4 ... 4 .... *W 7-4

8/18 ..... Min ... 6 .... 7 ... 1 .... W 7-1

* -- No decision for Ponson

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