Puerto Rico and United States will fight for their first World Baseball Classic championship in the final game of the 2017 tournament tonight. This will be Puerto Rico's second finals appearance, after falling short in 2013 to the Dominican Republic. As for the United States, this will be their first finals appearance in the history of the WBC tournament.
The 2013 defending champions, Dominican Republic, looked poised to make another strong run this year but was knocked out in the second round by the United States. Puerto Rico advanced to the finals by defeating Kingdom of the Netherlands, while USA knocked off the two-time WBC champions, Japan.
This isn't the first time United States and Puerto Rico face off in this year's tournament. Last week during Round 2 in San Diego, Puerto Rico defeated the United States 6-5. It wasn't an elimination game, but still a significant one and this time around, both teams will put it all on the line.
Both teams will send out the same pitchers they used against each other the first time around, Marcus Stroman for the United States and Seth Lugo for Puerto Rico. Stroman allowed four runs on eight hits in 4 and 2/3 innings in that game in his only loss during this year's WBC tournament. He's also posted a 3.86 ERA and struck out six in 9 and 1/3 innings. As for Lugo, his start against the United States wasn't good quality, but it was enough to get the win. He allowed three runs in 5 and 2/3 innings and has posted a 0.64 WHIP in the WBC with a respectable 2.45 ERA in the tournament.
Both teams are mixed with veterans and young talent, but the chess match will ultimately come down between Jim Leyland and Edwin Rodriguez. Leyland is more experienced in big games as a manager leading the Florida Marlins to a game seven and winning the 1997 World Series. Rodriguez was the manager for Puerto Rico in the 2013 World Baseball Classic and knows how to maintain a winning attitude by bringing this team back to the finals and seeking to avenge their loss. Without a doubt, both teams are prepared for this game and it will definitely have the atmosphere of a game seven in the World Series.