Japanese phenom fans 19 in perfect game

April 10th, 2022

Roki Sasaki was already on MLB teams’ radars entering his second season in Nippon Professional Baseball, Japan's top professional league. But even if he wasn’t, he sure would be now after turning in one of the greatest performances in Japanese baseball history.

Sasaki, a 20-year-old right-hander for the Chiba Lotte Marines, tied an NPB record with 19 strikeouts while throwing a perfect game in a 6-0 victory against the Orix Buffaloes on Sunday. According to multiple Japanese media outlets, it was the first perfect game in NPB since May 18, 1994, and the 16th in league history.

“This is the greatest,” Sasaki said after the game, according to multiple outlets. “Honestly, I wasn't thinking about the possibility [of a perfect game]. I figured it would be OK if I gave up a hit, so I just pitched and put my trust in [catcher Ko] Matsukawa right until the end.”

Just how dialed in was Sasaki? Using a fastball that topped 100 mph, he struck out 13 straight batters at one point, a record in Japanese pro baseball, according to Kyodo News. He needed just 105 pitches to log the 94th no-hitter in Japanese pro baseball history and the first since Aug. 15, 2020, according to Kyodo.

“We were all on edge on the bench, but so were the guys in the field,” Marines manager Tadahito Iguchi told reporters. "This is not something everyone can go through, so it's a great experience. I have to give credit to Matsukawa for calling such a great game and doing a solid job with the bat as well. The two of them are quite a battery.”

Sasaki was just 18 when he signed with Chiba Lotte in 2020. In his NPB debut last season, he posted a 1.84 ERA while striking out 87 batters with just 19 walks in 16 games.

There have been 23 perfect games in MLB history. The MLB record for strikeouts in a perfect game is 14, held by Matt Cain and Sandy Koufax.