“I wanted to end it with three straight 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 Aug. 18.

Sasaki finished the first inning before handing 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, earned the last spot on the ballot through 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 he induced a wild swing with a low-country changeup.메이저놀이터

No. 3 Sheldon Noiji (Hanshin) was blocked at the plate. A full count ensued. Sixth pitch, a 161 mph fastball down the middle. It was the fastest pitch of the day.

Sasaki (left) and Yamamoto pitched one and two scoreless innings in Game 1 of the All-Star Game on July 19. Sasaki and Yamamoto participated in last year’s All-Star Game as Pacific League All-Stars.Sports Chosun DB
Noiji picked up the ball and lined a single up the middle. Sasaki then got No. 4 Yusuke Oyama (Hanshin) to ground out to third base to end the inning.

One inning, 18 pitches, no runs.

Sasaki jokingly commented in his postgame interview, “I was aiming for back-to-back strikeouts and I’m upset that I didn’t get it.” He said the slider that struck out Akiyama was a pitch he learned from Darvish Yu (San Diego Padres) during the WBC.

Sasaki made his first start 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 relief. Masahiro Tanaka (Rakuten Eagles), Soyoshi Wada (SoftBank Hawks), and Sachiya Yamasaki (Orix) took the mound in the third through fifth innings, each throwing one scoreless inning.

The Pacific League All-Stars collected five hits off Central League starter Shoki Murakami (Hanshin) in the first inning.

Orix Yamamoto tossed his first complete game of the season on July 8 against Seibu with nine innings of one-run ball. He struck out 13 batters, his most in a single game this season. Photo source=Oryx Buffaloes SNS
Scored four runs on a double. Nos. 1 through 4, Shuta Donosaki (Seibu Lions), Gensuke Kondo (SoftBank), Ko Matsumoto (Nippon Ham Fighters) and Yuki Yanagita (SoftBank), rattled Murakami with consecutive hits.

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