Shinobu Kaitani’s One Outs, the story of ace player/owner of the Saitama Lycaons, Tokuchi Toua, is without question the best in an increasingly long list of baseball series I have read to date. It’s set in a professional level, and much like Giant Killing, it features everything that makes pro sports so interesting; contract disputes, arcs of victory and defeat over a long season, and players who are all at least nominally in the top 5% talent-wise (even if the Central and Pacific Leagues are kind of a few miles below the AL and NL). The difference between the two is that where Giant Killing chooses to attack pro sports with realism, One Outs chooses to fight with showmanship. Toua forgoes all the traditional principles of baseball, getting opponents out at a historic rate with only a slowball/slider and a heaping helping of quick wit in his arsenal. Eventually, a combination of his dominance on the plate and his harsh but performance-based contract makes him filthy rich, and puts him in position to buy out the team his contract bankrupted. And that’s where the real fun, him leading his lackluster team to the pennant, starts. The chapter in question is a part of the Lycaons’ quest for the pennant, as they duke it out with a hilariously top-heavy first-place Mariners team.
The key thing to understand in this chapter is that they’re playing a team that has always had good batters, but only recently traded for a bunch of elite pitchers in almost the most suspect circumstances possible. So they’ve been rattling off wins, but they are in many ways a paper tiger, more the 2012 Lakers than the 2012 Heat, thanks to a management staff that’s used to having terrible pitchers. As a result of management (and the offense) being used to their pitchers sucking hard, they tend to go hardline on pitchers after they make forgivable mistakes. Such as their starter Kawanaka allowing a home run to a winner of multiple triple crowns after taking a no-hitter into the ninth with a 4-run cushion still intact, something the pitching coach evidentially thought was enough of a colossal superfailure to come up to the mound and give him a half-assed pep talk. This one bit of terrible coaching is immediately followed by another bit of Dusty Baker-esque stupidity*, foregoing a closer with an ERA of 1 in favor of one with an ERA of 4. The Lycaons team morale hadn’t been particularly high this game, but this move prompts some pretty great blood-in-the-water faces from their side:
So the Lycaons step up to the plate and overwhelm the hapless Mariners reliever, scoring 4 runs like clockwork, setting a stage for a come-from-behind tie game. I’m so glad this is being scanlated in October. Particularly this October.
*Pirates knocked the Reds out of the playoffs Tuesday night, thanks in large part to warrior god of catching Russell Martin and in small part to Baker not playing the team’s best closer, Aroldis Chapman, when things got hairy.