A rising star pitcher in Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) dished out 19 strikeouts in a rare perfect game on Sunday
Roki Sasaki, the 20-year-old right-hander for the Chiba Lotte Marines, made 19 strikeouts in the team’s game against the Orix Buffaloes. He also set a record in Japanese pro baseball for striking out 13 consecutive batters.
In baseball, a perfect game is achieved when one or more pitchers complete a minimum of nine innings without a single batter from the opposing team reaching any base.
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Sasaki, who serves up a killer forkball and a fastball that exceeds 100 miles per hour, needed just 105 pitches to complete the record-setting no-hitter. Sasaki’s dominant performance over the weekend marked the 16th perfect game in NPB history and the first one since Hiromi Makihara’s perfect game on May 18, 1994.
“This is the greatest,” Sasaki said after the game. “Honestly, I wasn’t thinking about the possibility [of a perfect game]. I figured it would be OK if I gave up a hit, so I just pitched and put my trust in [catcher Ko] Matsukawa right until the end.”
Nicknamed “The Monster of the Reiwa,” Sasaki was still a high school pitcher when his high-velocity fastball gained him fame and attracted interest from Major League Baseball (MLB) teams.
His fastball velocity broke the high school record set by Shohei Ohtani, earning the youngster comparisons to the MLB star. In 2020, he ended up signing with Chiba Lotte at age 18.
“He’s doing well, but having a game like this at such an early stage of his career is remarkable,” Marines manager Tadahito Iguchi said. “I don’t think there is anyone who had any doubts about him, and today not even walking a batter, that’s just added emphasis.”
In the MLB, the feat has only been achieved 23 times in the league’s 150-year-history. The most recent perfect game was achieved by Félix Hernández of the Seattle Mariners on August 15, 2012.