Roki Sasaki, 22, a “monster pitcher” for the Chiba Lotte Marines, is in his fourth professional season. He didn’t pitch in his first year in 2020. It was a strategic decision made by the club to protect the young fastball pitcher’s shoulder. With the team’s careful management, he seems to have taken a leap forward this year. He’s no longer just a pitcher with a hard fastball, he’s now the face of Nippon Professional Baseball.
After playing a key role in Japan’s victory at the World Baseball Classic (WBC) in March, he will continue his classy performance in the pennant race.
On the 11th, he took the mound against the Hiroshima Carp in an interleague game at Chiba Lotte Marine Stadium. In his eighth start of the season, he allowed two runs on five hits in seven innings to earn his fifth win. Faced 28 batters, struck out 10, walked one and hit a batter. His ERA is 1.41, and he leads the league with 79 strikeouts in 51 innings pitched. His nine-inning average is 13.93.
Two records stand out.
In the top of the fifth inning, with the bases loaded and two outs, a fastball he threw against Ryota Hatsuki hit 165 kilometers per hour. Hatsuki swung at the pitch in the middle of the strike zone and fouled it off.
165 kilometers per hour is the fastest fastball in Nippon Professional Baseball. Only two players have reached that speed. Shohei Ohtani (29-LA Angels) and Sasaki in the Nippon Ham Fighters organization.
Until last year, Sasaki’s top velocity was 164 kilometers. This season, he throws 165 kilometers. On April 28.
Against the Oryx Buffaloes, he hit four top-order deliveries. His 103rd pitch in the sixth inning reached 165 kilometers.
Sasaki pitched a perfect fourth inning before giving up two runs in the fifth. By the sixth inning, he had thrown 95 pitches. After the sixth inning, he told pitching coach Tomohiro Kuroki that he wanted to pitch one more inning. He entered the seventh inning with a 6-2 lead and pitched a scoreless inning. “I didn’t feel very good today, but I wanted to throw a long inning,” Sasaki said.
109 pitches. That’s the most pitches Sasaki has ever thrown in a single game.
Until last year, 100 pitches in a game was actually the minimum. On April 17 last year, shortly after his perfect game against the Orix Buffaloes, he pitched a perfect eighth inning against the Nippon Ham Fighters before being pulled. He threw 102 pitches before leaving the mound.
It looks like the pitch count limit has been lifted. Lotte coach Masato Yoshii said, “He should have thrown close to 110 pitches anyway.” The implication is that the fourth-year pro will have to work through his schedule like any other pitcher. Sasaki appeared in two games in May due to blisters on his fingers. He rested for more than 20 days.
Sasaki continued to win the hearts of fans after the game 토토사이트.
Sasaki signed autographs for fans through the netting in the stands after a postgame interview on Nov. 11, Japanese sports publication Daily Sports reported. Sasaki stopped in his tracks when young fans asked for autographs.
He even took the day’s winning ball out of his pocket and handed it to the crowd. Whenever he is interviewed by Hero, he gives the young fans a stuffed animal of the club’s mascot.
Sasaki is loved not only for his tremendous performance, but also for his warm heart.