Ponson Comes Up Big for O's
Right-hander Continues 2nd-Half Turnaround: Orioles 4, Twins 2
By Eli Saslow
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, July 25, 2004; Page E01
BALTIMORE, July 24 -- The Baltimore Orioles pinned so many of their second-half hopes on the large torso of Sidney Ponson.
They ignored his 3-12 record at the all-star break and instead turned to blind faith. They said he would add pop to his fastball, rediscover his curveball and finally emerge as a reliable, number one starter. "He's going to have a big second half," Manager Lee Mazzilli said. "We'll go as far as he goes.
"We're putting our trust in him."
For once, that trust didn't seem misplaced Saturday night. Ponson came through as he rarely has this season, giving up just two runs over seven strong innings, and Miguel Tejada manufactured almost every Orioles run for a 4-2 win at Oriole Park at Camden Yards.
The win moves the Orioles to 7-4 since the all-star break, but it was Ponson's performance -- his second solid start in a row -- that had the Orioles' locker room buzzing with optimism.
"You know, it just feels like everything might be turning around," said Tejada, who had a home run, an RBI double and scored twice. "We've got the pitching, the offense and the defense. The whole team is starting to play well."
Nobody embodies that transition better than Ponson. He lost nine consecutive starts entering the all-star break, but he's won both of his starts since.
After giving up a run in both the second and third innings Saturday, he allowed just one more hit before departing to a standing ovation.
"Ponson pitched great tonight," Minnesota Manager Ron Gardenhire said. "He fooled us."
"It seems like right now, my luck has changed," Ponson said. "This was big for me, to win like this. My confidence is starting to grow a little bit. I want this team to rely on me."
For now, though, the Orioles tend to rely more on Tejada, and he proved why late in Saturday's game. He tied the game at 2 with a line-drive home run in the sixth inning. Then, with the Orioles up 3-2 in the eighth, Tejada stole second and, when the ball dribbled into the outfield, he raced all the way home.
"That's the best I've seen him run all year," Mazzilli said. "He never slowed up once. He was just so determined to get that run."
"We can score a lot of ways," Tejada said. "We can do almost everything."
But there's still one thing the Orioles constantly fail to do, and that's why the Twins stayed in Saturday's game until the late innings.
© 2004 The Washington Post Company