Damn it – you sucked me back in again, you mofo.
Diamond no Ace seems to have an unerring radar for where the line is – whenever it’s pushed me right up to the edge of bailing out, it’s always managed to produce an episode to draw me back in again. Maybe Terajima-sensei is just that brilliant, I don’t know – maybe this is exactly what he’s been trying to do from the beginning. But one of these times I suspect I’m going to be pushed a step too far, and that will be that. I sure as hell hope not, because I have way too much invested in Eijun’s journey to want to abandon it now.
What we have here is a straight-up pitcher’s duel, between two guys who are on top of their game. For a change we didn’t get any bloop hits or defensive lapses costing Eijun a run – he was just dialed in. Problem is so was Sanada, and as Yakushi is the team in the lead (thanks to bloop hits and defensive lapses behind Eijun, it must be said) that situation serves them just fine. He plows through the heart of the Seidou order in dominating fashion (showing Haruichi why wooden bats have their downside along the way), leaving Miyuki hitless for the game (with a special Leap Day celebration for Raichi after a nice stab at third).
I will say this – we see this week what Miyuki’s value on the field is, even if he’s not physically able to contribute. If you ascribe to the school of thought that game management is a catcher’s most important role this ep was for you (and damn, Mei is hard on his poor catcher). But this was mostly on Eijun – he flat-out dominated the heart of the Yakushi order despite giving up a seeing-eye single to Mishima. Of course the key moment was striking out Raichi – in a sense, the ultimate vindication for Eijun. Give Miyuki credit for “pitching backwards” by opening with two changeups (yes, lefty changeups are usually less effective against lefty batters) because in doing so, he messed with Raichi’s mind and slowed down his bat. The calls were perfect, but it was still three brilliant pitches that did the actual work. Raichi is human after all.
After that milestone, striking out Sanada almost seems like an afterthought – but he’s still the second-most dangerous hitter on Yakushi. This is an Eijun unlike any we’ve seen – above petty distractions, committed to every pitch. I still fear Furuya is going to skate in and steal the glory, but for now the main concern is trying to score a run against a pitcher who’s brimming with confidence and facing the bottom of the order.
The first question to be answered is whether Eijun will be allowed to hit in the top of the eighth – if Kataoka is true in his determination to limit Furuya to one inning he can’t pinch-hit for Eijun here because he’s basically out of pitchers (not… Toujou?). But he’s also six outs away from losing. I suppose a perfect (though boring) scenario would be getting guys on-base for Eijun to bunt over, but if that doesn’t happen we’re in for an interesting situation. Might this be the first time Eijun actually makes an impact swinging the bat, or will Furuya pinch-hit and hog all the glory as usual? It could be neither – there’s still the ninth – but it would be more exciting to see that spot in the batting order really mean something.