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NPB: Roki Sasaki Sensational Once Again As Chiba Lotte Marines top Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks

 Leif Skodnick  |    May 28th, 2023 4:49pm EDT

Chiba Lotte Marines right hander Roki Sasaki pitches against the Nippon Ham Fighters in his first start of the Nippon Professional Baseball season at Zozo Marine Stadium in Chiba, near Tokyo, on April 6, 2023. (Photo by Kyodo News via Getty Images)

By Matthew Tallarini
World Baseball Network

Chiba Lotte Marines phenom Roki Sasaki had a great performance last night after returning from a blister injury which he suffered on the throwing hand of his right middle finger during a start on May 5.

The Chiba Lotte Marines went on to beat the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks by the score of 9-5 in Sasaki’s return to the mound.

Sasaki made his sixth start of the season for the third and final game of the series on the road at the PayPay Dome, picking up his fourth win of the season and pitching six innings, allowing three hits, two earned runs, walking one and striking out nine.

Sasaki has not lost a game this year and has a 1.18 ERA through 38 innings in 2023.

In the top of the first, the Marines got on the board when Shogo Nakamura lifted a two-run home run to left field, scoring Raito Ikeda to go up 2-0.

Nakamura would deliver once again in the top of the second inning as he singled to left field, scoring Hirasawa Taiga as the Marines went up 3-0.

The SoftBank Hawks would finally get on the board in the bottom of the fourth inning as Taisei Makihara delivered an RBI triple, scoring Akira Nakamura. The next batter, Kensuke Kondo, hit a sacrifice fly to left field as Makihara came in to score to make it 3-2.

SoftBank Hawks starter Kouya Fujii went just five innings, facing 24 batters and allowing five hits, three earned runs, walking three and striking out six.

In the top of the seventh inning, former major leaguer Gregory Polanco lifted a three-run home run to right field, scoring Hirohiro Fujioka and Nakamura to put the Marines up 6-2.

During the top of the eighth inning, Polanco would help the Marines laced a two-run double to right field and Fujioka and Nakamura came in to score and extend the lead to 8-2.

The Chiba Lotte Marines held on to beat the SoftBank Hawks 9-5 with the outstanding pitching performance by Sasaki, who is currently being looked at by Major League scouts heavily since his performance in the World Baseball Classic back in March.

Sasaki, 21, will not be able to be posted until after the 2026 season, when he will be 25 years old and able to leave Japan to play in Major League Baseball as an international free agent.

Sasaki was a big part of Japan’s success in the World Baseball Classic, which saw them beat the United States in the final at loanDepot Park in Miami for their third WBC title.

Sasaki started two games in the World Baseball Classic, recording a 1-0 record with a 3.52 ERA pitching, 7.2 innings and allowing seven hits, three earned runs, walked two batters, and struck out 11.

Sasaki has one all-star appearance in NPB and pitched a perfect game last April against the 2022 Japan Series champion Orix Buffaloes, in which he struck out 19 batters, tying the league record set by Koji Noda for strikeouts in a game. 

The Chiba Lotte Marines are in first place in the Pacific League with a record of 25-15-2 this season. The SoftBank Hawks are in third place in the Pacific League at 23-18-2 this season.

The first set of interleague games during the 2023 NPB regular season will begin this week with all 12 teams facing off across the Central and Pacific Leagues.

The SoftBank Hawks will play the first game of their three-game series at home against the 17-29 Chunichi Dragons on Tuesday at 5 a.m. EDT.  The Chiba Lotte Marines will start their first game of their three-game series back at Zozo Marine Stadium against the fourth place Yomiuri Giants (23-24) at 5 a.m. EDT.