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Japanese phenom Roki Sasaki throws 19-K perfect game in NPB

Chiba Lotte Marines / Twitter

While baseball fans in North America were sleeping, a Japanese phenom turned in one of the greatest pitching performances in the sport's history.

Roki Sasaki, a 20-year-old right-hander who was pursued by MLB teams before joining Nippon Professional Baseball's Chiba Lotte Marines, threw a 19-strikeout perfect game Sunday in a 6-0 win over the Orix Buffaloes.

It was the 16th perfect game in Japanese baseball history and the first since 1994.

Sasaki dominated Orix hitters using a wide array of pitches, including a fastball routinely topping 100 mph, a devastating splitter, and his signature forkball. He needed just 105 pitches to complete the masterpiece, which also included a run of 13 consecutive strikeouts.

"This is the greatest," Sasaki said postgame, according to Kyodo News. "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."

Sasaki's gem was a unique and historic performance regardless of league or level. His 19 strikeouts tied Japan's single-game mark; for comparison's sake, the MLB record for strikeouts in a perfect game is 14, shared by Sandy Koufax and Matt Cain. The 13 consecutive Ks set a new NPB mark and were three better than the MLB single-game record of 10 straight.

Sasaki, one of the brightest young pitching stars in Japan, was heavily recruited by MLB teams out of high school but ultimately signed with the Marines after they drafted him. As a 19-year-old rookie in 2021, he posted a 2.27 ERA and 1.06 WHIP with 68 strikeouts in 11 Pacific League starts.

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