Then the Rangers scored seven runs in the sixth inning, which was more than enough for Ponson in a 10-1 victory over the Twins at the Metrodome. Ponson needed just 110 pitches to dispatch the Twins and snap the Rangers' three-game losing streak.
"It was on my mind that the bullpen was a little beat up," Ponson said. "I also know you go through winning streaks and losing streaks, but my mentality was to give us seven good innings and a chance to win."
Ponson, 3-0 with a 2.95 ERA, had allowed 13 runs -- nine earned -- in his last two starts, but there were few signs of laboring on Wednesday night. He allowed just six hits, walked a batter and struck out five while using his sinker to record 18 outs on grounders. Jamey Wright casually warmed up a couple of times late in the game but the rest of the bullpen sat back and enjoyed Ponson's work, his first complete game since April 24, 2005.
"My mechanics were much better tonight than in my last two starts," Ponson said. "My sinker was going down tonight instead of side to side. That's what I do -- I come right at hitters and pitch to contact. I don't try to strike anybody out, I pitch fast, keep my defense on their toes, and they played good out there for me."
The Rangers not only snapped their three-game losing streak, but also a six-game losing streak in the Metrodome going back to last year. More importantly, they look to get headed back in the direction they have been heading towards since April 24 -- they still have won 16 of their last 25 games.
"That's why this was huge," outfielder Marlon Byrd said. "Very huge. You have to have wins like that. Gets you back on track and lets you know we're for real, that these last few weeks haven't been a fluke."
The Rangers, with two losses in three nights in Minnesota, still won't win the series. They had won a Major League-high seven straight series coming into this four-game set, but can still gain a split with a victory Thursday afternoon with Vicente Padilla on the mound.
"We're fine, we're not panicking," catcher Gerald Laird said. "You're going to run into some rough games, you're not going to win every game. But if we can come out tomorrow and win, gain a split, that could still be the start of a pretty good road trip."
Both manager Ron Washington and designated hitter Milton Bradley missed most of this game after being ejected for arguing with home plate umpire Jeff Nelson in the second inning. Bradley was ejected for screaming at Nelson from the dugout after he was called out on strikes. Washington was tossed after coming out on the field to discuss the matter further.
"All I said was, 'Where are the good restaurants in Minnesota,'" Washington said. "He told me, 'Get out of here, I have a ballgame to call.'"
Those who can lip-read may have a different version of the argument, but it mattered very little. The story of the night was Ponson, who took care of the bullpen and the offense.
One problem during the Rangers' three-game losing streak was an inability to score early. The Rangers had scored a combined two runs in the first six innings over their last three games. They had scored a combined 12 runs in the final three innings, but that was too little, too late in two of those games, and they lost in extra innings in the third game.
This time the Rangers needed until the sixth inning to score against Twins rookie right-hander Nick Blackburn. Fortunately for them, Ponson kept it a zero-sum game until the offense finally broke through.
"That's exactly what we needed," Kinsler said. "We've still been scoring lately, but it seems like we haven't been getting going early. It's been taken us awhile to get going for some reason, so for him to put up those goose eggs was huge."
Ponson and Blackburn traded zeroes until the sixth when Michael Young, leading off the inning, put an end to the pitching duel. Young jumped on a 2-1 pitch and smashed it over the left-field fence for his fifth home run of the year, and a 1-0 lead for the Rangers.
Josh Hamilton followed with a broken-bat single to right -- one of three hits on his 27th birthday -- and then the Rangers got a huge break. Byrd hit a double-play grounder to shortstop Adam Everett, but his throw to second was slightly off the mark and second baseman Alexi Casilla just dropped it.
That left the Rangers with two on and nobody out instead of the reverse, and they exacted a significant toll for the transgression. The Twins would get just one out at second base on David Murphy's grounder to first baseman Justin Morneau, leaving runners at the corners, and Laird delivered an RBI single up the middle to make it 2-0.
Brandon Boggs forced Murphy with a grounder to third, but Chris Shelton loaded the bases with two outs with an infield single and Ramon Vazquez followed with a two-run single. Kinsler then finished it up with a three-run home run that gave the Rangers a 7-0 lead.
Ponson took care of the rest.