Rangers support Ponson with 10-run effort against slumping M's

SEATTLE (AP) -- Telling Sidney Ponson this is his last chance in baseball may be the best move the Rangers will make this year.

"That's just the way he thinks," the forgotten veteran right-hander said, bristling when reminded what manager Ron Washington told him when Texas signed him to a minor league contract in March. "Everyone's entitled to their opinion. Can't do nothing about it."

Except what he's doing now.

Ponson allowed only one run for the third consecutive start since being recalled from Triple-A while major league RBIs leader Josh Hamilton, Michael Young and David Murphy drove in three runs each in the Rangers' 10-1 victory over the sinking Seattle Mariners on Tuesday night.

Seattle lost for the sixth time in seven games before the smallest crowd in Safeco Field history to move back into a last-place tie in the AL West.

The bad vibe in Seattle is spreading beyond the clubhouse. Just 15,818 showed up on a 53-degree night. That was one night after the third-smallest home crowd inside nine-year-old Safeco Field, which welcomed an average of more than 36,000 per game as recently as 2004.

Seven of the 10 smallest crowds in stadium history have come this year.

"It's only been one month and a week. We can't panic right now," Miguel Batista (2-4) said after he walked six and allowed six runs on just three hits in 2 1/3 miserable innings.

"We have enough talent to win."

The few saw Texas do that for the fifth time in seven games since talk of firing Washington got hot.

Mariners hitters continued their mostly punchless season by managing only seven harmless hits in seven innings off Ponson (2-0), who worked quickly and at times effortlessly. The 31-year-old former Baltimore ace struck out two and walked one while continuing his startling revival after getting released last May after seven failed starts with Minnesota. He said he went home to the Dominican Republic to "clear my mind and have fun and forget baseball."

The Twins were the third team to release Ponson in 10 months. After the fun, he had a free-agent tryout in Jupiter, Fla., on March 6. The Rangers signed him three days later, with no promises other than an invitation to spring training.

He has a 1.33 ERA since his recall from Triple-A Oklahoma last month.

"I told him this could be his last opportunity, to take advantage of it. He's doing that," Washington said, smiling.

Ponson huffed at that.

"Last year, I thought that was my last chance. That's what it said in the Minnesota papers," he said. "I could be through. I could not be. We'll see."

The Rangers are seeing. And believing.

"Maybe we got lucky," Washington said. "Maybe we got lightning in a bottle."

Seattle could use some. Immediately.

One night after a win sparked Mariners talk of merely getting back to .500, Seattle played like its listless, humiliated predecessors of the 1980s instead of the team expected to possibly win the division.

The Rangers scored 10 runs in three innings on just six hits and seven walks. Batista and Cha Seung Baek walked 10 in all.

Hamilton, who took a game off Monday for the first time this season, hit a three-run homer off Baek that was still rising when it smashed into the second deck to make it 10-0. His new team remained wowed.

"I don't think the day off had anything to do with it. The guy can flat-out play," Young said, marveling over the formerly troubled first-overall draft choice. "I had no idea he'd be like this.

"He can do things others can't do."

The home run gave Hamilton 36 RBIs and was the final blow of a seven-run third, the Rangers' most productive inning of the season.

Seattle finally scored in the fifth, on consecutive doubles by Wladimir Balentien and Ichiro Suzuki.

Batista walked four, allowed a double to Ian Kinsler, an RBI groundout by Milton Bradley and a sacrifice fly by Murphy in a 44-pitch first inning and trailed 2-0.

In the second, Ramon Vasquez doubled, moved to third on Kinsler's sacrifice and scored on a sacrifice fly by Young.

Batista went to full counts on seven of his first 13 batters then walked Bradley in the third. Murphy then hit a laserlike home run to make it 5-0. When Batista issued his sixth walk, to Frank Catalanotto, he was gone. The tiny crowd booed as loud as it could.

Game notes
Batista, who struck out two, is 1-2 with a 14.04 ERA in three home starts. ... Washington said RHP Scott Feldman will start Friday against Oakland, a day after LHP Kason Gabbard comes off the DL to start the series finale in Seattle. ... Seattle LHP Jarrod Washburn, who left Monday's start with a tight right calf, said he was much improved. He expects to start on turn Saturday.