The right-hander looks to win his fifth straight decision when the first-place Orioles open a three-game series against the Kansas City Royals.
In his first season after signing a three-year, $22.5 million contract, Ponson was dismal in the first half of 2004, losing 12 of his first 15 decisions. He pitched much better in the second half and finished 11-15 with a 5.30 ERA.
Despite several embarrassing offseason incidents, Ponson has gotten off to a much better start in 2005. He leads the Orioles with five wins and is 4-0 with a 2.91 ERA in his past five starts.
Ponson outpitched reigning Cy Young Award winner Johan Santana in a 7-4 victory over Minnesota on Wednesday, allowing four runs—two earned—and six hits in eight innings. He earned his fifth win of the season, which he didn’t get last year until July 24.
Baltimore comes to Kansas City after splitting a four-game series against the AL Central-leading Chicago White Sox.
Baltimore, which owns the AL’s best road record (11-4), won the last two games of the series.
“After the second game, everybody was like, ‘Relax. So what?’ We definitely didn’t panic,” second baseman Brian Roberts said. “Last year, maybe we’d say, ‘We lost the first two to a first-place team. Maybe we’re not good enough.’ But we believe in each other.”
Baltimore has won 23 of its past 34 games and has had a lead in 29 of those 34 contests.
Roberts continues to be the catalyst for the Orioles, going 8-for-17 in the four games at Chicago. He leads the AL in batting average (.382) and slugging percentage (.682), is tied for first in runs (31) and is third in RBIs (32).
With starting outfielders Luis Matos and Sammy Sosa on the disabled list, the Orioles called up Jeff Fiorentino from Single-A Frederick on Wednesday. Fiorentino, 22, didn’t look at all overmatched, going 6-for-10 in three games against the White Sox.
Alberto Castillo delivered a two-run triple in the seventh inning and scored on a balk as the Royals beat Tampa Bay 4-3 on Sunday.
Kansas City, which owns the worst record in the AL, took three of four from the Devil Rays to win only its second series of the season.
“Everybody’s doing what I want them to do,” said Royals interim manager Bob Schaefer, who is 3-2 since taking over for Tony Pena.