The AL East-leading Baltimore Orioles look for another strong effort from Sidney Ponson as they try to extend their season-high winning streak to seven games in the middle game of their weekend series against the visiting Tampa Bay Devil Rays.
Ponson is coming off his best outing of the season against the Toronto Blue Jays on Sunday, pitching within one out of a shutout in a 7-1 victory for his third win of the season. He allowed one run, five hits and seven strikeouts in the 28th complete game of his career.
Orioles manager Lee Mazzilli was impressed with Ponson’s poise, especially under the circumstances.
The 28-year-old right-hander almost did not make the start because he had trouble obtaining a Canadian work visa due to legal problems. He spent 11 days in an Aruban jail for allegedly punching a judge in a Christmas Day brawl and was also arrested in Florida shortly after for driving under the influence of alcohol.
“It was a big game for him with all the stuff that went on,” Mazzilli said. “He put a little pressure on himself to go out there and do the job like he did. He answered the call.”
Ponson was rocky in his first three starts of the season, posting a 10.43 ERA despite a 2-1 record.
He struggled against the Devil Rays on April 14, giving up nine runs and seven hits in three innings of a 12-7 loss. He fell to 6-7 with a 4.26 ERA in 20 career games, including 19 starts, against Tampa Bay.
Ponson looks to follow up a solid outing by Erik Bedard, who pitched five-hit ball for eight innings to lead Baltimore 5-0 over Tampa Bay on Friday. The Orioles’ winning streak is their longest since an eight-game binge last Aug. 3-10. Baltimore is eight games over .500 for the first time since Aug. 24, 1998.
Tampa Bay manager Lou Piniella watched from the press box at Camden Yards as he began serving a three-game suspension for his team’s involvement in two bench-clearing scuffles in an 11-3 defeat to Boston on Sunday. Bench coach John McLaren ran Tampa Bay.