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5/26: TEX (26-26) at RAYS (30-20)

Texas at RAYS

1250 AM/620 AM

Pitching Matchup:

TEX RH S. Ponson 39.2 2.95 140 4.31 2.27 1.90 0.23 .700 1.31 2.26 14.95
RAYS LH S. Kazmir 23.0 1.57 263 8.61 3.91 2.20 0.00 .542 1.13 1.09 17.17

RH Sidney Ponson, Texas-For some reason, former Oriole Sidney Ponson is still in the league. I would've thought that his disastrous seven starts last season for Minnesota would've put the final nail in the coffin for his major league career, but somehow he's managed to find yet another job with the Texas Rangers. More surprising than him finding another job is the amount of success he's had in that job. Ponson has stepped in for the pitching-deficient Rangers and has been a key part of their 17-8 run back to the .500 mark.

Whether Ponson will maintain his rate of success is quite another question altogether (most likely, no). However in the interim, the Rangers will ride their luck with Ponson as far as he will take them. It is highly unlikely that a pitcher who has been consistently terrible over the last several years will find continued success pitching home games in the AL's premier hitters' park. Indeed, opponents are hitting for a OPS of just .576 against Ponson on the road, while that number jumps to .774 at home.

Still, Ponson has managed to keep his head above water despite having made four of his six starts in Arlington. He has a career-low strikeout rate of 4.31 per nine innings this year, but he has managed to succeed by doing everything else exactly right. He has limited his walks, and he's throwing ground balls. That is the exact recipe for success if ever there was one for pitching at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. He has allowed just one home run in his 39.2 innings of work this year, and that is directly attributable to a career-high 2.26 G:F.

Sidney Ponson is who he is, and we all know exactly what that is, having watched him make the rounds in the AL East for so many years with Baltimore. It's doubtful that he is actually experiencing a true career renaissance at 31 with the Rangers, but you've got to give Jon Daniels credit for at least finding a temporary source of value in a pitcher who has been casted off many times in the last several years.

LH Scott Kazmir, RAYS-The Rays have seen vintage Scott Kazmir out in their fireballing lefty since his return from the DL earlier this month, and while that comes with its pitfalls, it has been nothing but positive in his first four starts. Yes, he still shoots himself in the foot too often with walks, and yes, he has sometimes gotten tangled up in high pitch counts too soon. At the same time, he's still retiring about a batter per inning on strikes, and he has not given up a home run in 23 innings to start the season.

Now obviously, that rate is not going to sustain itself. His 1.09 groundball to flyball ratio is entirely within his career norms, so some of those warning track blasts will soon start going the extra several feet over the fence. That his home run rate will normalize and that a 1.57 ERA aren't sustainable are fairly obvious conclusions. On the other hand, while the results have looked good on Kazmir's end since his return, he still hasn't really looked sharp. Sometimes his fastball velocity is a few ticks short of where it should be, and at times his slider hasn't have the bite it usually has. As such, you can expect that his strikeout rate will progress upward closer to his career norm of 9.69. Hopefully his walk rate won't rise with that, and you'll see an improvement upon his prior strikeout to walk ratios.

The biggest wild card for Kazmir is, of course, his health. While nothing sticks out as an issue now, you always have lingering concerns about a guy with a history of shoulder problems. Hopefully he will remain in good health and perform up to the standards of the long-term contract that he signed a few weeks ago. Because when he is healthy, he is the unquestioned ace of a burgeoning young rotation. When he's not, the burden is passed on down to everyone else. His are big shoes to fill when he is injured, regardless of any problems that he may have. With any luck, the Rays will spend less time filling those shoes from now on.

Starting Lineups:

2B Ian Kinsler
SS Michael Young
CF Josh Hamilton
DH Milton Bradley
LF David Murphy
1B Chris Shelton
C Gerald Laird
RF Marlon Byrd
3B Ramón Vázquez
2B Akinori Iwamura
LF Carl Crawford
CF B.J. Upton
1B Carlos Peña
3B Evan Longoria
DH Cliff Floyd
C Dioner Navarro
RF Eric Hinske
SS Jason Bartlett

GO RAYS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!