ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) -- When Sidney Ponson got released by Minnesota last May, the big right-hander knew he wasn't physically or mentally ready to keep pitching. So he went home and was out of the major leagues until last week.
Now his pitches are sinking again, and his confidence is soaring.Ponson went eight innings to earn his first victory in exactly a year and the Texas Rangers finished off a successful homestand with Ron Washington still their manager, beating the Kansas City Royals 2-1 on Thursday."My changeup and my slider helped me throw more strikes. I was lucky enough to have two extra pitches besides my slider," Ponson said. "I'm just happy Texas gave me a chance to pitch back in the big leagues, and I'm going to get the most out of it."The Rangers took two of three from both Minnesota and Kansas City during the homestand, which began after a miserable road trip and a meeting of owner Tom Hicks, president Nolan Ryan and general manager Jon Daniels about the team's direction. Texas (11-18) set a team record with 18 losses in April and still has the worst record in the majors."I'm judged on wins and losses. We haven't been getting a whole lot of wins, so it falls on me. I can handle that," Washington said. "I'm still here, and we're going to still fight. I can't say it doesn't bother me. ... I just know just as bad as we were, things can turn around. The guys in that clubhouse believe it. I believe it."Washington has an 86-105 record in his second season, his first managerial job after 11 seasons as a coach in Oakland, where Texas begins a three-game series Friday night. Since sweeping a doubleheader at home on April 10 to go to 5-4, the only time the Rangers have had a winning record under Washington, Texas has lost 14 of 20 games.Ian Kinsler hit a leadoff homer in the first and Ramon Vazquez hit a tiebreaking drive in the sixth off Zack Greinke (3-1).Ponson's previous victory was on May 1, 2007, for Minnesota against Tampa Bay. He made only two more starts for the Twins before getting released."Mentally and physically I wasn't there," said Ponson, who battled injuries when he pitched for St. Louis and the New York Yankees in 2006. "I told my agent, I ain't playing. I'm going to go home, chill and relax, get everything out of my mind."The 31-year-old Ponson (1-0) signed a minor-league deal this spring and was recalled Saturday for his first start with the Rangers. He allowed five runs, only one earned, over 5 1/3 innings vs. the Twins.Against the Royals, Ponson benefited from two double plays and picked off a runner to face the minimum three batters in the fourth through seventh innings. He struck out five and walked two while throwing 76 of his 108 pitches for strikes.C.J. Wilson worked a perfect ninth for his sixth save in seven chances.Greinke scattered four hits without any walks and struck out nine, fanning All-Star shortstop Michael Young three times. Greinke's ERA actually rose, from 1.25 to 1.47, still second best in the American League."First at-bat to Kinsler, it was over the middle, shouldn't have, and he hit it," Greinke said. "I settled down from there. Ponson was great. His sinker was really moving. The wind was blowing straight out, it helped his sinker and helped my curveball. It might have been an advantage to him."Kinsler lined a 1-1 pitch into the left-field seats for his second leadoff homer of the season. Vazquez followed with a single before Greinke retired 12 straight -- half of those on strikeouts. Rookie Brandon Boggs singled leading off the fifth and the only other to reach base was Vazquez, on his one-out homer in the sixth."Zack was really good," manager Trey Hillman said. "We got the pitching back but couldn't put the offense with it. ... They were good enough against Zach on two swings to get the ball out of the ballpark."
Young's 14-game hitting streak ended. It was the longest active streak and matched Boston's Dustin Pedroia for the longest in the AL this season. ... The getaway day game lasted 2 hours, 10 minutes, following games of 3:41 and 3:28 in the first two games of the series. ... The Rangers had planned to use Milton Bradley in right on Thursday, which would have been the first time since knee surgery last year that he would have played consecutive games in the field. But he came out of Wednesday night's game with a hamstring cramp and didn't play Thursday. Washington said Bradley was fine and would play Friday.