Roki Sasaki Is Still Perfect
1:08 PM EDT on April 17, 2022
So we all turned Viking purple when Clayton Kershaw was pulled by Dodgers manager Dave Roberts and a consortium of baseball ops types after seven innings of a perfect game last week because .. well, because we want what we want when we want it because we have the ids of 6-year-olds and the patience of meth fiends. Also because perfect games are indisputably fun, but that's beside the point.
Thus, we wonder how Japanese fans are handling the even more amazing example of perfectus interruptus perpetrated upon Roki Sasaki of the Chiba Lotte Marines of the NPB on Sunday. Sasaki is the preposterous phenomenon who pitched a perfect game with 19 strikeouts (13 in succession) in his last outing against the Orix Buffaloes. In doing so, he earned a game score of 106, the second-highest in the entire history of organized baseball behind a 27-strikeout no-hitter in 1952 by a guy named Ron Necciai in a Class D minor league game. Necciai later was called up by the Pirates and went 1-6 with a 7.08 ERA in 12 games, but let's not spit in the kettle. He had himself a day once.
Well, Sasaki just had himself his second day in a week, throwing eight more perfect innings Sunday, with 13 more strikeouts, against the Nippon-Ham Fighters … and with double history staring manager Tadahito Iguchi in the face in a scoreless game, he hesitated even less than Roberts did with Kershaw—and gave Sasaki the hook.
Now maybe it's just second basemen as managers that do this—Iguchi played four years with the White Sox, Padres, and Phillies in the mid-to-late oughts—but Iguchi, like Roberts, had his reasons. One, Sasaki is 20 years old and has been considered a star since his high school years. Two, he had arm issues in high school, as anyone with a 100-mph fastball and 91-mph splitter would. Three, history ain't what it used to be.
And four, if four were needed, his catcher for both games is an 18-year-old Ko Matsukawa, which must surely be the youngest battery since … no, it's Easter and someone else can deep-dive that bad boy.
In fairness, there have been back-to-back perfect games before, like Tabitha Murray pitching a perfect softball doubleheader in for Baldwin-Wallace in 2013 before there were pitch limits and skittish former second basemen as managers, and Matthew Mercer did so in successive Tennessee high school starts, though those were both five-inning mercy rule games. Sasaki, though, has done it at a higher level than anyone else, unless you want to be pedantic and consider Johnny Vander Meer's successive no-hitters for the pre-Castellini Cincinnati Reds in 1938. The second of these included eight walks and seven strikeouts in the very first night game at Ebbets Field, when Vander Meer established himself both as a trivia question and a pitcher with control problems, as Comrade Roth can testify in his Guys Who Were Remembered For Loading The Bases series.
Anyway, Sasaki is probably years from being poached by Major League Baseball because of the arcane Japanese posting system, so your enjoyment is largely limited to his Baseball-Reference page and your ability to use a VPN.
But we digress. Sasaki has retired his last 52 batters, 32 by strikeout, and is the baddest dude in baseball, at least until Friday, when Chiba plays a doubleheader against Orix, and I think you know where we're headed here. Tadahito Iguchi, this is your moment. If you don't start Sasaki in both games and ride that hot hand until it swells up and explodes, you will be marked forever as The Manager Who Did Not Dare To Dream The Maddest Dream Ever.