MINNEAPOLIS -- Rangers interim manager Tony Beasley often says that pitching is the face of a baseball game. Win, lose or however it ultimately plays out, the starting pitcher sets the tone for the entire game.
“He set the tone, he kept [them] at bay,” Beasley said. “If he comes out and doesn't pitch well, none of this offense matters. He kept the game at a spot where we had a chance to get going offensively. There was not much happening early in the ballgame on either side.
“[It was] outstanding. I mean, to give us six shutout innings -- he was more than what we could have asked for today. His part of the ballgame was really tight, and it was low scoring. So he kept the game at bay and gave us a chance to get going offensively. Just outstanding.”
Sunday marked the first time in Arihara’s short big league career that he’s gone a full six innings, and it was the first quality start he’s put together since coming stateside from Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball prior to the 2021 season.
Arihara struggled with injuries and posted a 6.64 ERA over 10 starts in his debut season last year.
Before his callup on Tuesday, Arihara’s previous MLB action came on Sept. 15, 2021, when he was hit hard in a 7-2 loss to the Astros at home.
The right-hander was designated for assignment soon after, but he cleared waivers and returned to the club during Spring Training before spending most of 2022 at Triple-A Round Rock. With the Express this season, he’s posted a 3-6 record with a 4.88 ERA in 18 games (14 starts).
In his first MLB start of the season, he tossed 5 2/3 innings and gave up three runs in a loss to Oakland.
“I was definitely more settled in this time,” Arihara said through interpreter Hiro Fujiwara. “I was a lot more relaxed and got into a rhythm quickly… I had a lot of quick outs here and there, and my defense behind me did a fantastic job, so I was able to get a good outing.”
On Sunday, Arihara earned his first win of the season after exiting the game in the seventh inning with a one-run lead before the Rangers' offense broke it open by scoring at one or more runs in each of the last three frames.
Marcus Semien and Brad Miller both produced three-RBI games, while Nathaniel Lowe launched a solo homer in the eighth.
“It’s huge,” Semien said of Ariahra’s outing. “It’s always huge. He had everything working today. He kept them off balance, he located well, got ground balls, worked quickly. It was nice to play behind that today.”
Notably, Arihara didn't throw any four-seam fastballs or curveballs in his scoreless outing against the Twins. Through his 10 big league appearances last year, the four-seamer was his most used pitch at 30.3%, though he never used the curveball much (just 2.4%).
Arihara also only threw eight four-seamers in his first start, but he still has yet to throw a curveball this season.
Co-pitching coach Doug Mathis said the change in arsenal is by design for all their guys. He and fellow pitching coach Brendan Sagara want to make sure that Texas’ pitchers are throwing their best pitches the most, and the four-seamer was not Arihara's most effective pitch last season.
Through Spring Training and into the Triple-A season, Arihara worked on elevating his sinker and cutter, making those his most used and effective pitches. He threw 22 sinkers and 17 cutters in the win over the Twins.
“The sinker and the cutter are really big strengths of mine," Arihara said, "so using the plate really widely on both sides is what I've been working on. That's what I was able to do today, and that's what led to this outing. Coming into this year, the coaches have talked to me about using those pitches more. And also, looking at the data for the Twins, it just fit in really well today.”