Baseball: Roki Sasaki suffers casualties in exchange for duty

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Roki Sasaki of the Lotte Marines serves against the Rakuten Eagles in their Pacific League game at Rakuten Seimei Park in Sendai on August 3, 2022. (kyodo)

SENDAI (Kyodo) — Roki Sasaki returned to the league for the first time in over a month but was knocked out in the sixth inning and accepted the loss as the Rakuten Eagles defeated the Lotte Marines 5-4 in the Pacific League on Wednesday defeated .

20-year-old Sasaki, who became Japan’s youngest perfect-game pitcher in April, was allowing five runs over 5-1/3 innings as his record fell to 6-2.

A month after leaving his start on July 1 when he ruptured a blister on his right middle finger, Sasaki couldn’t find his forkball or slider. He gave up eight hits, all singles, while dropping five and leaving none.

Sasaki weathered a brief rain delay in the fourth inning at Rakuten Seimei Park and seemed to find his grove by the sixth. Unable to swing and misses with his breaking pitches, the Eagles drove him off the mound with five singles.

“(The finger) is fine. I want to go deeper into the game next time and do a good job to defend my lead,” said Sasaki.

The Marines gave Sasaki a two-run lead in the first inning, but Hiroaki Shimauchi scored in two more runs in one run in the home half and in Rakuten’s sixth run of four when the Eagles finally came from behind.

Elsewhere in the PL, the Seibu Lions beat the Orix Buffaloes 3-1 to extend their league lead to 2-1/2 games over the Eagles and SoftBank Hawks, who defeated bottom-placed Nippon Ham Fighters 1: 5 lost.

In the Central League, the league-leading Yakult Swallows beat the Chunichi Dragons 9-7 behind two home runs, four hits and six RBIs by Domingo Santana and defeated a six-game hit by Chunichi’s Yohei Oshima.

The second-placed Hanshin Tigers defeated the Yomiuri Giants 2-1 while Toshiro Miyazaki’s RBI single in the 11th inning led the DeNA BayStars to a 6-5 walk-off win over the Hiroshima Carp.

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