Ponson struggles in loss to Yankees
Right-hander allows eight runs, two homers in Twins debut
MINNEAPOLIS -- Sidney Ponson had high hopes that he would show the Twins just what kind of pitcher they got in him during his first start of the season against the Yankees.Instead, he left the Twins clubhouse on Monday night clearly disappointed by his performance.
It was a rough debut for Ponson, as he gave up eight runs on 10 hits over 5 2/3 innings in the Twins' 8-2 loss to New York at the Metrodome."That's not the way I wanted to start the season with the Twins," Ponson said. "I didn't pitch good. The line will tell you that. I go out there to win ballgames, and I put the guys in a hole to start the game. That's not fun. Hopefully, my next start I won't do that." The struggles for Ponson (0-1) began immediately, as he gave up hits to the first three Yankees he faced. But it wasn't exactly in the way his line made it appear. A double that went just outside of the reach of first baseman Justin Morneau, an infield single and finally an RBI single by Bobby Abreu started what would be a long, mostly ugly night for Ponson. But that was just the start of Ponson's woes in the inning. Most of the trouble came later, when Jorge Posada delivered a hard-hit shot to left field. Outfielder Jason Kubel was in left for the first time this season and took a misguided route at the first ball that came his way. The ball ended up hitting close to the wall and bouncing over for a ground-rule double that scored two runs. "Some freaky things happened out there," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said of Ponson's start. "Just look at the first inning -- bloop, infield single, play out in left that wasn't the best route in the world. It could have gone differently for him." Abreu was a nemesis for Ponson on the night, going 3-for-4 against the right-hander with a two-run homer on a 3-2 hanging curveball in the second inning. The Yankees right fielder powered the shot 376 feet, high above the right-field baggie to give New York a 5-0 lead. The result was two quick innings and one big hole; for the Twins' hitters, things all seemed to fall apart before they could even get a feel for being back in the Metrodome. "It happened pretty quick," Michael Cuddyer said of the deficit. "But as a team, you still have seven innings left after that, and you can't give up. I don't think we did; we just didn't get anything started after that. We couldn't sustain a rally, and they kept putting it on." Ponson soon settled down, holding the Yankees scoreless over the next three innings, but things would turn bad again in the sixth, when Ponson got into another rough stretch. After one quick groundout, Ponson saw things fall apart again, as he walked the next batter before giving up a few more untimely hits. He got one assist from Cuddyer, who threw out Johnny Damon at third after a Derek Jeter single to right, but after another RBI single by Abreu, things got worse. With two outs in the sixth, Ponson gave up an almost identical home run to the one he allowed to Abreu, as Alex Rodriguez belted a 1-0 fastball slightly higher above the right-field baggie than his teammate. This one, at 390 feet, bounced off the plexiglass windows in one of the right-field suites, and it ended Ponson's night. He was replaced on the mound by Matt Guerrier. After the game, Gardenhire blamed himself for the final home run. He knew that he should have taken his starter out before that pitch. "That man will take the ball and pitch forever if he could," Gardenhire said of Ponson. "I knew Matty didn't have good numbers against A-Rod, but that was stupid, leaving [Ponson] in. Ponson had battled his tail off, and I should have taken him out." Even if Gardenhire had removed Ponson before the two-run shot by Rodriguez seemed to put the icing on the victory, it didn't look like the Twins had much of a shot at a comeback. Offensively, they struggled to get anything going, as Yankees right-hander Carl Pavano was a force on the mound. Pavano (1-0) pitched seven innings, giving up two runs on six hits in his second start of the year. Pavano cruised early, needing just 63 pitches and holding Minnesota to four hits through his first six innings. Despite Pavano's ability to ease through most of his outing without much trouble, Gardenhire didn't want to blame the success on his hitters having a lack of patience. "He was ahead in the count all night long," Gardenhire said of Pavano. "He was around the zone with a lot of his pitches, so it's hard to be patient when he's ahead of you, strike 1, strike 2. He threw the ball good, went at us quite hard and made us swing the bats. It's what a good pitcher does." The Twins were able to mount a miniscule rally in the fifth, tagging Pavano for one run. Torii Hunter singled to right field with one out in the inning, then stole second base during Kubel's at-bat. Hunter later scored when Kubel delivered a single up the middle. Minnesota's only other run came in the seventh, when the game was clearly out of reach, as Hunter delivered an RBI double to left field that scored Joe Mauer from second base. In the end, it was a night that the Twins would rather forget and Ponson himself is already trying to put in the past. "I'm not happy about it," Ponson said of his outing. "I didn't pitch good today, and that's what it comes down to. But I just have to come in tomorrow, do my work, focus on tapes, talk to [pitching coach Rick Anderson] and see what kind of game plan we have for the next start."
Kelly Thesier is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.