Devil Rays/Twins Game Preview

Here is a preview of tonight's series opener between the Tampa Bay Devil Rays and Minnesota Twins. Edwin Jackson will take the mound for the Devil Rays and will square off against Sidney Ponson.

Sidney Ponson signed with the Minnesota Twins during the offseason, hoping a new team would give him a fresh start. Growing frustration with the struggling pitcher may cut that opportunity short.

Ponson and the Twins begin a three-game series Tuesday against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays - the only team he's beaten this season.

Ponson's struggles with alcohol and his weight have led to a disappointing career in which he is 81-99 with a 4.94 ERA. The Twins (14-11) signed the right-hander, who split last season with St. Louis and the New York Yankees, hoping he could fill the void left by Brad Radke's retirement and Francisco Liriano's injury.

Ponson, though, comes into Tuesday's contest with a 1-3 record and an 8.44 ERA. He has allowed 17 hits and 10 runs over 10 1-3 innings in losing his last two starts, both against lowly Kansas City.

"Right now I'm not doing my job," he said, "and I put these guys in a hole. I know things will start to happen for me soon. I hope it's soon."

Twins management hopes so, too.

"We're getting close to the point where we need to see more progress," general manager Terry Ryan said on the team's official Web site.

Ponson's only win this season came against Tampa Bay (11-14) on April 14, when he allowed two runs and eight hits in 5 1-3 innings of a 12-5 victory. He is 7-8 with a 4.28 ERA in 22 starts and one relief appearance against the Devil Rays.

The Twins come into this series having won two of three against Detroit over the weekend. They dropped Sunday's finale 4-3 as Jesse Crain gave up a ninth-inning homer to Brandon Inge.

Minnesota will open the series against Tampa Bay's Edwin Jackson (0-3, 6.10), who has not recorded a major league win since Sept. 26, 2005, when he was with the Los Angeles Dodgers. The 23-year-old right-hander gave up six runs - three earned - and eight hits in six innings of a 9-1 loss to the Los Angeles Angels on Wednesday.

"E.J. pitched really well enough to win, but the defense let us down tonight," manager Joe Maddon said.

Jackson allowed five runs and three hits with five walks over three innings in losing to Ponson and the Twins on April 14.

Tampa Bay won two of three against Oakland over the weekend, including a 5-3 victory on Sunday. B.J. Upton hit a go-ahead three-run home run in the fourth inning for his second homer in as many games, and Rocco Baldelli and Elijah Dukes hit back-to-back shots the next inning.

"It's always nice to be swinging the bats well like we are now," said Baldelli, who missed the previous two games because of a bruised right knee. "If you look up and down our lineup, we have a bunch of guys who are capable of hitting the ball out of the ballpark. We just have to keep riding it, and hit as many out as we can."

Minnesota and Tampa Bay split a four-game series in mid-April at the Metrodome, but the Twins have won 10 of their last 13 trips to Tropicana Field.

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