Arrighetti gets confidence boost from solid start vs. Braves

April 16th, 2024

HOUSTON -- Not that is ever one to lack any confidence, but his 87th and final pitch Monday night -- a 3-2 cutter that reigning National League Most Valuable Player Ronald Acuña Jr. whiffed on -- was a snapshot of the potential bursting from a promising young right arm.

Arrighetti, facing the best offense in baseball, walked off the mound with more confidence than he had walking onto it after holding the Braves to two runs and four hits while striking out five batters in four innings in the Astros’ 6-1 loss at Minute Maid Park.

“[Those are] the results we’re all chasing,” Arrighetti said. “I would say it’s reassuring I could go to that offering and get a swing and miss. I got a good amount of swing and miss tonight. I was pretty happy about it, obviously, but that at-bat, specifically, to end the outing on a really high note meant a lot to me.”

Arrighetti, the Astros’ No. 3-ranked prospect by MLB Pipeline, was called up to the big leagues after only two Triple-A starts this year to fill a spot in Houston’s injury-filled rotation. He showed glimpses of the kind of stuff and poise that make the Astros believe he can be an impact starter down the road.

That road could include a stop in Triple-A Sugar Land. The Astros may have to option Arrighetti back to the Minors to get another fresh arm to Houston in time for Tuesday’s game, with Justin Verlander coming off the injured list this weekend to fill a spot in the rotation. Arrighetti figures to play a key role at some point this year.

“He’s got that presence about him,” Astros manager Joe Espada said. “The stuff is good. The stuff plays. Moving forward, I think he’s going to have some success once he adjusts and gets used to the league and stuff like that, but definitely the stuff is definitely going to play.”

Arrighetti mixed six pitches -- 39 fastballs, 21 cutters, 13 curveballs, 10 sweepers, three changeups and a slider -- and generated 46 swings from his 87 pitches, including 15 whiffs (seven on the cutter). The Braves fouled off 20 pitches, including 10 in a 39-pitch second inning.

After needing eight pitches to start the second with two quick outs, Arrighetti gave up a two-out double to Travis d’Arnaud. That was the first of five consecutive Braves to reach base. Arrighetti lost three consecutive hitters after he had two strikes, including a 13-pitch battle with Acuña, who walked after falling behind in the count, 0-2.

“I threw a lot of pitches to Acuña tonight, but he’s the reigning MVP for a reason and he’s a hard guy to get out when he has two strikes,” Arrighetti said. “I would say that yeah, you look back and you see I got deep into some counts that you would like to put guys away in. And maybe the pitch wasn’t the one that it needed to be, maybe I didn’t execute. I think that right now it’s probably the biggest low-hanging fruit, and I think [in] those counts I need to make a good pitch and put some guys away.”

Arrighetti thought he had struck out Acuña a couple of times during that at-bat, but later tipped his cap to Acuña’s pitch selection.

“That guy knows the zone better than anybody,” he said. “He was right. I went back and watched and he was right. I thought two of them were close, but he was the best in their league for a reason.”

Arrighetti allowed seven runs in three innings in his Major League debut in Kansas City on Wednesday, so handcuffing baseball’s most powerful lineup for four innings was something he can build on the next time he takes the mound for the Astros -- whenever that will be.

“There’s a lot to look back on and be proud of,” he said. “I feel like I made some good adjustments in between starts this time around. I definitely had some good days to work on things in between, so I had a little bit of confidence there. I feel like I got accustomed to the environment a little bit more, and I made some big pitches tonight in some big situations [that] I’m really happy about. Obviously, I got into some trouble in the second, but I think I did a good job handling the best part of their lineup with some traffic. I think there’s definitely some positives.”