USA Baseball Wins WBC
In a long-awaited—and some would say overdue—victory, Team USA won the 2017 World Baseball Classic following a dominant 8-0 win over Puerto Rico.
The imposing Puerto Rican team entered the final game on March 22 with a perfect 7-0 record, having previously bested the USA earlier in the tournament. During their previous encounter, USA starting pitcher Marcus Stroman gave up four runs in what would become a 6-5 loss to Puerto Rico.
Stroman would once again take the mound for the finale, during which he seemed to be an entirely new player, delivering six shutout innings before giving up a double to Angel Pagan. The right-handed pitcher was replaced in the seventh inning, walking off the field to a raucous standing ovation.
The Blue Jays starter, who would go on to be named tournament MVP, stifled the Puerto Rican offense, allowing just three balls into the outfield for the entire night. After giving up his one and only walk to Carlos Beltran in the second inning, Stroman quickly recovered by pitching into a double-play.
Stroman was assisted by stellar offense from US players including second baseman Ian Kinsler, who opened up the scoring with a two-run home run in the third inning. Kinsler’s home run was followed by RBI singles from Christian Yelich, Andrew McCutchen, Brandon Crawford, and Giancarlo Stanton.
The USA victory came as something of an upset given their previous loss to their undefeated opponents. The Puerto Rican team boasted a star-studded line up with an infield that included Indians shortstop Francisco Lindor, and Cubs second baseman Javier Baez, who recently helped the storied Chicago franchise to their first World Series title in 108 years.
The imposing odds faced by the US team were not lost on manager Jim Leyland, who said that up until the final game, Puerto Rico had “played better baseball than anybody in the tournament.”
“For the most part, up until this point, the other countries were probably into this event a little bit more than the United States,” Leyland said in a pregame press conference. “In talking to our players, I know they’re going to spread the word—I’ve had some players already tell me this is the greatest experience of their life.”
This year marks the second tournament in a row in which Puerto Rico has reached the final game in the WBC, only to be shut out by their opponents, having previously been “blanked” by the Dominican Republic in 2013.
The decisive loss only temporarily dampened the spirits of the Puerto Rican team, who had already decided to fly back home together to celebrate their victory. In a time of particularly severe economic distress, Puerto Ricans rallied behind their team, with many schoolchildren dyeing their hair blond to emulate their national team.
“It’s the most fun I’ve ever had playing baseball,” said Carlos Correa, the Houston Astros shortstop who played for Puerto Rico, according to mlb.com.
“These two weeks were amazing with this team. It’s like a brotherhood, like a family.” – Carlos Correa