Roki Sasaki, 22, of the Chiba Lotte Marines of Nippon Professional Baseball returned to the mound for the first time in nearly a month to help his team win its first postseason game. 먹튀검증
Sasaki pitched three scoreless innings with four strikeouts against the SoftBank Hawks in Game 1 of the Climax Series First Stage at ZOZO Marine Stadium in Chiba City, Chiba Prefecture, Japan on Thursday.
Sasaki, who emerged as a national ace last season when he became the youngest player in Nippon Professional Baseball history to throw a perfect game, has continued his dominance this season with a fastball that tops 160 kilometers per hour. He has been dubbed the “Monster of Heisei,” after former ace Daisuke Matsuzaka, who was dubbed the “Monster of Reiwa.
But Sasaki has been hampered by injuries this year, including blisters on his fingers and a torn adductor muscle, and is just 7-4 with a 1.78 ERA in 15 starts (91 innings). He hasn’t pitched in an official game in nearly a month, last appearing on April 17.
Chiba Lotte manager Masato Yoshii said before the first game, “We are short of starting pitchers right now. I think Sasaki’s timely preparation will be a big help. If he pitches well, we can’t control the outcome. I want him to do his best. He’s a starter, so we want him to pitch as long as possible, but we expect him to do what he can,” Yoshii said of Sasaki.
Sasaki lived up to Yoshii’s expectations. In the top of the first inning, he retired SoftBank’s top lineup of Ukyo Shuto, Hikaru Kawase, and Yuki Yanagita in order. Chiba Lotte opened the scoring in the top of the first with a solo home run by leadoff hitter Takashi Ogino, followed by a solo home run by Gregory Polanco to make it 2-0.
After striking out the side in the top of the second, Sasaki kept the SoftBank bats in check, not allowing a single runner to reach base until the third inning. Chiba Lotte extended its lead to 4-0 in the bottom of the third when Polanco singled and scored on a throwing error by the second baseman. With the game in hand, Chiba Lotte replaced Sasaki with Toshiya Nakamura in the fourth inning after he threw 41 pitches. The game ended with an 8-2 victory for Chiba Lotte.
Japanese media outlet Nikkan Sports commented, “Sasaki returned to the mound after 27 days and contributed to the team’s victory. Considering it had been a long time since he’d pitched, he left the mound after three innings and four strikeouts.”
Sasaki said, “It’s been a long time since I’ve pitched. I’m glad I was able to connect with the reliever with a good result. Of course, I was nervous because I had been out for about a month, but I was able to pitch in a good atmosphere at home today. I’m always conscious of being able to throw long innings, but today I was definitely able to get a no-hitter and get the next guy out,” he said after his outing.
“There weren’t many games left and I wasn’t feeling as good as I thought I would,” Sasaki said of his late-season slump. “I didn’t make too many adjustments because I knew I could pitch in the Climax Series, but I prepared at my own pace. I’m glad I was able to keep the game scoreless and I think the ball was relatively good,” he said, expressing satisfaction with his pitching performance.
Yoshii concluded, “I was able to keep the game close with a short start. He’s not in perfect shape yet, but he threw the best ball he could throw,” Yoshii said of Sasaki’s performance.
With the crucial first game clinched, Chiba Lotte needs just one more win to advance to the final stage of the Climax Series, where they will face the Pacific League champion Oryx. “I believe we will win the rest of the games,” Sasaki said. I will try to pitch well when I get my next chance,” Sasaki said.