Chiba Lotte Marines pitcher Roki Sasaki captured the attention of baseball fans around the globe when he tossed a dominant perfect game with 19 strikeouts last Sunday. It was, arguably, the most dominating pitching performance ever in professional baseball.
When these types of stories register, MLB fans usually take note, appreciate the accomplishment and expect they won't hear about Sasaki again until he's ready to come to the United States. Turns out, Sasaki is not the type of player who's easy to forget.
Sasaki, 20, was removed from what would have been his second straight perfect game with just an inning to go.
105 pitches thrown in the perfect game
102 pitches thrown in the near-perfect game https://t.co/evKPItFkGV
— Codify (@CodifyBaseball) April 17, 2022
This time around, Sasaki completely eight perfect innings, striking out 14 batters. He threw 102 pitches in the near-perfect game, causing manager — and former MLB player — Tadahito Iguchi to pull Sasaki from the contest. Sasaki threw 105 pitches during his perfect game.
Sasaki throwing his second straight perfect game would have been a historic accomplishment, but one can understand why Iguchi made the move. Sasaki is just 20, and it's dangerous to push a guy that young too hard. It's also not an uncommon move these days. Los Angeles Dodgers manager Dave Roberts pulled Clayton Kershaw from a perfect game after seven innings Wednesday.
Even though he failed to complete his second straight perfecto, check out Sasaki's pitching line over the past two games. Through 17 innings, Sasaki has struck out 33 batters without allowing a walk or a hit. Dominant isn't a strong enough word. Transcendent is more apt, though still doesn't do Sasaki's performance justice.
Though it may not look it after the past two games, Sasaki is mortal. In his first start of the season, Sasaki gave up four runs over seven innings. He walked two, hit one batter and registered nine strikeouts in that contest.
Given what Sasaki accomplished in his two most recent starts, MLB fans should be salivating over the possibility Sasaki wants to play in the United States. Placing your hopes on a young pitching prospect is a dangerous thing. Injuries come with the job.
But if Sasaki can stay healthy, he looks like he has a tremendous career ahead of him. If he decides to bring that career to the United States, MLB fans are in for a treat.