In all honesty, I’m really not feeling this game. I’m not buying Furuya’s hero act, and I’m not buying that getting lucky justifies his pitching when he’s clearly done (though that’s mostly Kataoka’s fault). I don’t think it’s my imagination that Furuya seems to have an inordinate number of rockets turn into outs, and Eijun seems to have a ton of dribblers and bloops turn into hits (or errors). And I’m not feeling Seiko as an opponent either (I’m a Citizen man). Their backstories have no emotional traction, and only the Yokozuna is mildly amusing.
Still, it is getting better – and that’s due to the fact that Kataoka finally pulled the plug after Furuya made probably the luckiest play in the entire series so far to save a 4th Seiko run. And he did what I would have done, go to Eijun – because there’s just no way in hell I’d trust Kawakami in a crucial spot. I’d only use him if I were out of options – and while we may yet get there in this matchup, we’re certainly not there yet.
But this is Eijun we’re talking about, so you know Terajima-sensei is going to stick it to him. A bloop single and an error? Not when Furuya’s on the mound, that’s for sure – but this is Eijun we’re talking about. Unfortunately those were sandwiched around a home run by the Seiko cleanup Nagata-kun on an outside fastball that hit the corner, but too high – and that means it’s a tie game. And that means this is a new and crucial sort of test for Eijun.
The really hard part for Eijun mentally is that – as he acknowledges himself – he’s fighting not just against Seiko, but against his own teammate and rival. Even if he can hold the line and keep the game tied, he has to wonder if he’s fallen behind Furuya again, and that’s a lot for a 16 year-old kid to process. I don’t like that Eijun got burned by some bad luck, but I do like that this gives him an opportunity to prove himself in a new way. Against Ouya he showed he can dominate like an ace. Now he has to show he can be resilient like one, and shrug off disaster to keep his team in the game. And with the all-important decision of who to start in the final on the line – Kataoka is definitely dumb enough and cavalier enough to start Furuya the day after 100+ pitches and nursing two injuries – what happens right now could hardly be more critical.