Perfection ends for Japanese pitcher Sasaki — on first pitch

Posted at 7:49 AM, Apr 24, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-24 08:49:51-04

TOKYO (AP) — Japanese pitcher Roki Sasaki of the Chiba Lotte Marines is mortal, after all.

After throwing a perfect game on April 10 — the first in Japanese baseball in 28 years — and eight perfect innings on April 17 before being pulled after 102 pitches, Sasaki gave up a hit on his first pitch Sunday against the Orix Buffaloes.

The game was played at the Kyocera Dome in Osaka.

Shuhei Fukuda hit Sasaki’s first pitch, which ended a streak of 52 batters retired. Sasaki retired 27 in the perfect game, another 24 in the eight-inning outing, and also the last batter he faced in the game prior to the perfect game.

In the perfect game, and the eight-innings of perfection, Sasaki had 33 strikeouts in facing 51 batters.

Sasaki worked five innings on Sunday in Chiba Lotte’s 6-3 win and was credited with the victory. He allowed two earned runs, walked three, hit two batters and gave up six hits. He had only four strikeouts.

The 20-year-old righthander has grabbed headline attention in the past several weeks, using a 100-mph fastball and a wicked splitter to keep batters off balance.

It seems unlikely he will sign in the near term with any MLB team. Stories in Japan say he is unlikely to be posted for MLB clubs. Players don’t need to go through the posting system if they have run up enough time in Japanese baseball to become free agents.

Sasaki grew up in the northeastern Japanese prefecture of Iwate. His father was killed in the 2011 earthquake, tsunami and subsequent meltdown of three nuclear reactors that devastated that part of the country.