“I wanted to finish with three consecutive strikeouts.”
Chiba Lotte Marines ‘monster pitcher’ Roki Sasaki (22) pitched a scoreless first inning. He allowed one hit and struck out two as the Pacific League starter in Game 1 of the Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) All-Star Game at the Nagoya Dome on 18 April.
Sasaki finished the first inning and handed the mound to Orix Buffaloes ace Yoshinobu Yamamoto (25). The two best pitchers in Nippon Professional Baseball replicated their relay performance for Team Japan at the World Baseball Classic (WBC).
Sasaki was the top Pacific League starting pitcher in this year’s All-Star fan voting. Yamamoto, who finished second to Sasaki, was the last man standing with a “plus one” vote.
In the top of the first inning, Sasaki struck out two lefties, Takumu Nakano (Hanshin Tigers) and Shogo Akiyama (Hiroshima Capps). He got Nakano on a forkball at 1B2S and Akiyama on a slider at 1B2S, and induced a low-course changeup for a wild swing.
No. 3 Sheldon Noiji (Hanshin) was blocked at the plate. A full count ensued. Sixth ball, a 161 kilometre per hour fastball down the middle. It was his fastest delivery of the day.
Noiji took the ball and lined it to centre field. Sasaki then got #4 Yusuke Oyama (Hanshin) to ground out to third base to end the inning.온라인바카
One inning, 18 pitches, no runs.
“I was aiming for back-to-back strikeouts and I’m upset that I didn’t get it,” Sasaki jokingly commented in an interview after his outing. He said the slider that struck out Akiyama was a pitch he learnt from Darvish Yu (San Diego Padres) during the WBC.
Sasaki made his first appearance as a starter in Game 2 of last year’s All-Star Game. Last year he gave up one run on three hits in one inning with no strikeouts, but this year he was relatively comfortable against Central League hitters.
Yamamoto followed Sasaki with two innings of one-hit, one-strikeout ball. Masahiro Tanaka (Rakuten Eagles), Soyoshi Wada (SoftBank Hawks), and Sachiya Yamasaki (Oryx) took the mound in the third through fifth innings, each throwing one scoreless inning.
The Pacific League All-Stars collected five hits against Central League starter Shoki Murakami (Hanshin) in the first inning.
He scored four points for a heavy hit. Nos. 1-4, Shuta Donosaki (Seibu Lions), Gensuke Kondo (SoftBank), Ko Matsumoto (Nippon Ham Fighters) and Yuki Yanagita (SoftBank) rattled Murakami with consecutive singles.