The rocket blasted off on Sunday, as Roki Sasaki threw what was may have been the best nine-inning game by a professional pitcher ever, a 19-strikeout perfect game that tied Japan’s nine-inning strikeout record and included a record run of 13 in a row, snapping a record of nine that hadn’t been accomplished in 64 years.
Did I mention that this kid’s 20 and his catcher, Ko Matsukawa is an 18-year-old fresh out of high school?
Sasaki promises to be like the Ed Sullivan Show of my youth, and like former Lotte Hall of Famer Choji Murata’s late-career success, Sunday’s “really big show” for some time.
It wasn’t the only show, however, as Nippon Ham scraped out its second walk-off win of the season, while new Seibu imports Brian O’Grady and Dietrich Enns had big firsts in Japan, the Tigers’ struggles continue.
So let’s get started, shall we?
Marines 6, Buffaloes 0: At Chiba Marine Stadium, Roki Sasaki (2-0) posted a 106 game score, which may be the highest ever for a nine-inning pro game. It wasn’t of course the highest ever in Japan.
The first of Sasaki’s 13 straight came against the best pure hitter in Japan, Masataka Yoshida, and that’s who fanned to hand the youngster the record. One of the three fly balls was hit kind of hard, but that was about it. Everything else was routine. The Marines position players could have been out on the field in rocking chairs for all it mattered.
“We were perfectly outplayed,” Yoshida said. “We made adjustments as the game went on but he was just better than us.”
Kotaro Kurebayashi, who broke up the strikeout streak and is a few months younger than Sasaki hit a routine fly after striking out his first two times up.
“I went up the plate aware that I almost had to start my swing before he threw, but I could only miss-hit the ball. It was like chasing a ghost,” he said.
HIroya Miyagi (0-2) allowed a first-inning run on singles by Akito Takabe and Kyota Fujiwara and a Brandon Laird groundout, but the lefty then did his best to not become last-year’s news until the Marines chase him in the sixth.
He hit Shogo Nakamura with one out, and the Marines captain scored from first on Laird’s double. Back-to-back two-out singles by Toshiya Sato and Adeiny Hechavarria made it 3-0. A walk and a three-run double by the young catcher Matsukawa drove Miyagi from the mound.
The perfect game was Japan’s first since May 1994, when Hiromi Makihara whipped the Hiroshima Carp at Fukuoka Dome. The 19 strikeouts equaled Koji Noda’s 1995 total for the Orix BlueWave in 1995.
I haven’t done a survey of all of Japan’s starts, yet, but the Japan Baseball League’s most famous marathon pitching game, on May 24, 1942, probably wins that one, when Hall of Famers Jiro Noguchi and Michio Nishizawa locked horns for 28 innings in a 4-4 tie at Tokyo’s Korakuen Stadium in the nightcap of a doubleheader. Noguchi struck out 13 while allowing 15 hits, six walks, and two earned runs for a game score of 162. Nishizawa posted a 156.
Lions 6, Hawks 0: At Seibu Dome, Lions lefty Dietrich Enns (1-0) allowed a hit and four walks over five scoreless innings to win his Japan debut. Brian O’Grady helped his teammate get some traction with his first homer in Japan, off SoftBank southpaw Tomohisa Ozeki (1-1) as the Hawks were soundly beaten in just their second loss of the season.
Reserve Lions catcher Shoya Makino got a ball through the infield to single home Wu Nien-ting in the second, while five Lions hits, starting with Shohei Suzuki‘s one-out double produced a three-run fifth.
Fighters 3, Eagles 2, 10 innings: At Sapporo Dome, Daiki Asma singled to open the Fighters’ 10th off Eagles closer Yuki Matsui (1-1) and scored on a Kensuke Kondo double.
The Fighters’ Naoyuki Uwasawa went five scoreless innings, while Eagles starter Ryota Takinaka surrendered two over six. Go Matsumoto singled in the fourth and opened the scoring on a Kotaro Kiyomiya double to the wall. Uwasawa pitched out of a two-out bases-loaded jam in the fifth and Daiki Asama made it 2-0 in the sixth.
The Fighters’ leadoff man bunted his way on and scored from second on a two-out Arismendy Alcantara single. However, discarded former Fighter, Haruki Nishikawa continued to punish the team that non-tendered him in December, tying it in the seventh with a two-run double off Kenta Uehara.
Carp 1, Tigers 0: At Koshien Stadium, Hanshin’s Joe Gunkel (0-2) and two relievers combined on a four-hitter. Unfortunately, the first hit went the distance, Ryan McBroom‘s second home run. Carp right-hander Atsushi Endo (1-1) allowed five hits over 7-2/3 innings to earn the win after lefty Atsuya Horie retired tough leadoff hitter Koji Chikamoto to then the eighth and Ryoji Kuribayashi worked around a ninth-inning leadoff single for his fourth save.
Swallows 2, Giants 1: At Tokyo Dome, Yakult lefty Keiji Takahashi (2-0) worked out of two-on, one-out ninth-inning predicament to complete his four-hit complete game. Yoshihiro Maru hit his second home run in the third for the Giants, and Tetsuto Yamada tied it with his fourth homer in the fourth, and the Swallows rallied in the seventh to take the lead after rookie Yuji Akahoshi retired the first two batters.
Jose Osuna walked, Yudai Koga singled and took second on the throw to third. The Giants tried to get out of the inning with Takahashi at the plate, but the Swallows pitcher fouled off six pitches before Akahoshi’s 114th was not caught. Catcher Seiji Kobayashi was charged with a passed ball as Osuna scored the go-ahead run.
Active roster moves 4/10/2022
Deactivated players can be re-activated from 4/20
The DeNA BayStars added closer Yasuaki Yamasaki to their inactive list on Sunday after he tested positive for coronavirus.