Time to put the ugliness of last week’s inexplicable ending behind us, because there are preliminaries to settle before we can get down to the main event of the cour – and we sure as hell weren’t getting an explanation from this week’s episode. There was never any doubt about who was going to win this semifinal (I think there’s only marginally more about the second), only about how that ending was going to play out.
There’s really only one question that’s pressing for me as we watch these games play out – who is Kataoka going to choose to start the final game? The optimist in me wants to believe he pulled Eijun after two batters in the tenth because he wanted to save him for the final, but the realist suspects he simply didn’t trust him to pitch to Nagata again, and that he’ll trot Furuya out there again to start the final. In any event, Eijun did his job and retired the first two batters before turning the game over to Kawakami.
Which would normally mean “everyone, back on the bus”. But surprisingly, Nori did his job for once (and I quite literally mean “for once”). He actually struck out Nagata, in fact, on a front-door slider – a pitch you rarely see a pitcher throw, much less to a power threat. Cynically I’d say the success was more down to the catcher than the pitcher, but however you slice it Kawakami was perfect – he needed to get exactly one guy out, and he did.
How badly was Miyuki hurt by Yokozuna? I guess we need to wait at least a week to find out, but he was well enough to hit a home run off Ogawa (and give ‘Zono the worst case of baseball blue balls ever). How many times do we see a manga pitcher get in trouble because he gets cocky and refuses to pitch around the enemy’s best hitter? Add one more to the list, and I actually felt sort of bad for Ogawa because he was the best pitcher on either team. But he’s a first-year and he’ll get his chances – and he had it coming after that dirty play at the plate.
My favorite part of the game, actually, was Eijun’s patter in the dugout (“Amino acids! Get yours here!”) after he was pulled from the game – he really is the best teammate ever, this guy. Will he get the start in the final? I just don’t think Kataoka (and fate) will let him have that kind of triumph – if not Furuya, Kataoka will probably start freaking Nori (hey – he is perfect in this tournament). And who will be the opponent? It should, by rights, be Yakushi – and I think it probably will be. But Ichidai does have their own revenge plot, so I guess they can’t be totally counted out…