How do you improve perfection? Roki Sasaki will do his best to discover the answer.
Sasaki, 20 years old, almost won the perfect game in Nippon Professional Baseball in 1994 when he pitched his first pitch. However, he was pulled on Sunday after eight perfect innings and a loss to the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters.
The right-hander threw 102 pitches and had 14 strikeouts. He was then pulled from the scoreless game. Notable: He was removed from the game after striking out the side in the eighth with pitches reaching 101 mph.
In 52 consecutive plate appearances, Sasaki has not allowed any opposing hitter to reach the base in a NPB record 52.
In his four starts this season Sasaki has a 1.16 ERA and 56 strikeouts. He has also allowed seven hits and two walks over 31 innings.
“He [Sasaki]”It's just too hard,” Chusei Manami said. The Fighters' game-winning homerun — the Fighters’ only hit of this game — was scored in the 10th by Chusei Mannami against the third Marines pitcher. “The way the forkball falls? Forget it.”
Sasaki's 19 strikeouts versus the Orix Buffaloes set a new NPB record. This was his 16th perfect game in league history. According to Kyodo News, he also struck out 13 batters consecutively, which is a Japanese pro-baseball record.
Sasaki rose to prominence in high school pitching thanks to his fastball. He reportedly attracted a lot of interest from Major League Baseball teams before signing for Chiba Lotte in 2020, aged 18.