Roki Sasaki (23), the “monster pitcher” of the Chiba Lotte Marines, Yoshinobu Yamamoto (25) of the Orix Buffaloes, who will be heading to the Major Leagues after this season, and Shota Imanaga (30), the left-handed ace of the Yokohama BayStars. Playing in Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB), they were part of Japan’s World Baseball Classic (WBC) victory.
Sasaki, who throws a fastball in the 160-kilometer-per-hour range, and Yamamoto, a two-time quadruple champion, began the WBC as starters alongside Shohei Ohtani (29-LA Angels) and Darvish Yu (37-San Diego Padres). They started against the Czech Republic and Australia. In the quarterfinal game against Mexico, Sasaki started and pitched four innings and Yamamoto pitched three and a third innings as the second pitcher.
Imanaga came in after Darvish against South Korea and pitched three innings of one-run ball, and in the quarterfinals against Italy, he pitched one scoreless inning as a middle reliever. In the final against the United States, he pitched two innings of one-run ball and got the win 스포츠토토.
The WBC and the regular season are different. There are pitchers who stand out more than Sasaki, Yamamoto, and Imanaga. He is Shosei Dogo, 23, a right-hander for the WBC champion Yomiuri Giants.
Togo started against Yokohama at the Tokyo Dome on April 24 and threw a nine-inning complete game shutout. He faced 30 batters and threw 127 pitches, allowing five hits and no walks while striking out six. He ended the fifth inning with a triple play and dominated the Yokohama lineup without allowing a hit.
After throwing 111 pitches through eight innings, Dogo retired the first three batters he faced in the ninth to complete the shutout. No. 4 hitter Kazuma Okamoto hit a two-run homer in the second inning, which he held on to for a 1-0 victory. It was his second complete game of the season, following a nine-inning, two-run (one earned) shutout against Yokohama on May 9.
Topped out at 149 mph on his fastball that day. A fastball and forkball are his main weapons, but he threw a slider as his deciding pitch, which he learned from senior Darvish at the WBC. Dogo led the Central League in strikeouts last year. According to Japanese media, he struck out 16 (10.4%) of his 154 batters with his slider last season. This year, eight of his 39 strikeouts (20.5%) have come on sliders. That’s twice as many as last year.
In eight starts, he’s 5-1 with a 2.57 ERA and 39 strikeouts. Tied for first in the Central League in wins, sixth in ERA and strikeouts.
Sasaki went 3-0 with a 0.84 ERA and 50 strikeouts in five games. He was designated for assignment after the May 5 game against the SoftBank Hawks. He was placed on the disabled list to rest a blistered finger.
Yamamoto is 3-2 with a 2.35 ERA and 43 strikeouts in six games. All six games have been quality starts (starting 6
innings and three or fewer earned runs), but has yet to throw a complete game. Imanaga is 2-1 with a 3.48 ERA and 35 strikeouts in five games. Sasaki, Yamamoto, and Imanaga all failed to complete a regulation inning. After the tournament, they had plenty of time to rest and regroup before returning to the first team in mid-April.