Roki Sasaki of Team Japan pitches during the 2023 World Baseball Classic Semifinal game against Team Mexico at loanDepot Park on March 20, 2023 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Christopher Pasatieri/Getty Images)
By Matthew Tallarini
World Baseball Network
Rising Japanese prospect Roki Sasaki pitched an absolute gem last night in front of the home crowd at ZOZO Marine Stadium for the Chiba Lotte Marines in Nippon Professional Baseball.
The Chiba Lotte Marines went on to beat the first place Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks by the score of 3-2 and improve their record to 10-7, good for a three-way tie for second in the Pacific League with the Orix Buffaloes and Seibu Lions.
Sasaki went seven innings and allowed three hits with no earned runs, walking one batter, and striking out eight during his dominant performance to improve his record to 3-0 on the 2023 regular season.
The Chiba Lotte Marines got on the board first in the bottom of the fourth inning when Miyako Sato tripled in to the left center field gap and Naonori Yasuda and Tatsunari Ogawa came in to score the first two runs of the game.
The next batter, Taiga Hirasawa, drove a single to right field and Sato came in to score as the Marines went up 3-0.
Softbank Hawks starting pitcher Shota Takeda didn’t have his mechanics in order last night as he went 4.1 innings, allowing six hits, walking two batters, allowing three earned runs and striking out one, dropping his record to 0-1.
The Softbank Hawks finally got on the score board in the top of the eighth inning when Akira Nakamura drove a single to right field with Tama Masuda coming in to score at 3-1.
In the top of the ninth inning, Chiba Lotte Marines relief pitcher Naoya Masuda came into the game, replacing Luis Perdomo. The Softbank Hawks scratched to cut the lead to one when professional journeymen Freddy Galvis hit a ground ball to second base, resulting in a fielder’s choice that scored Ryoya Kurihara to make it 3-2.
Masuda eventually escaped trouble when he got Yukyo Shuto to fly out to center field for the final out of the game.
Sasaki has been pitching absolutely lights out this season, striking out 30 batters in 20 scoreless innings. In three starts has only allowed five hits and three walks.
Sasaki has created a lot of buzz with his performance in the 2023 World Baseball Classic and helping Japan win their third World Baseball Classic championship in their nation’s history, will be able to be posted through the Japanese posting system after the 2027 regular season.
During the World Baseball Classic, Sasaki started in two games, recording a 1-0 record with a 3.52 ERA in 7.2 innings of work, allowing seven hits, walking two batters, and striking out 11.
Sasaki, if he remains healthy for the remainder of the 2023 Nippon Professional Season, will continue to raise his profile with Major League Baseball front offices.
The Chiba Lotte Marines play their second game of their three-game set against the Softbank Hawks at 1 a.m. EDT.