The United States did it.
They can now call themselves champions of the World Baseball Classic.
On a gorgeous night at Dodger Stadium, the United States rode the momentum of an incredible start from Marcus Stroman to knock off Puerto Rico, 8-0, to win the 2017 WBC event. The United States were seen as the underdogs coming into the game as they faced a very hot and undefeated Puerto Rico team.
Team USA Manager Jim Leyland did an incredible job of managing this team and getting them to come together for this WBC championship. Leyland relied on Blue Jays stud Stroman to rebound and deliver a quality start. Stroman did not let his manager down, going out and shutting down a powerful Puerto Rican lineup.
Stroman took a lot of heat from the Puerto Rican fans and some players for his choice to play for the United States instead of Puerto Rico. He used that adversity to fuel his fire and deliver a strong six innings of one hit ball. Stroman went six full innings of no-hit ball, before Leyland pulled him after giving up a leadoff double to Angel Pagan in the seventh.
Stroman kept the ball low all game and kept the Puerto Rican hitters off balance all night. Keeping his pitches at the bottom of the strike zone and tossing in a slight pause in this delivery was a recipe for disaster for Puerto Rico. Stroman induced 11 ground ball outs, not letting Puerto Rico get into any sort of rhythm. Stroman continued to show his swagger after strikeouts allowing him to remain comfortable on the mound.
Puerto Rican starter Seth Lugo was pitching out the stretch for most of the game as he was faced with runners on base in four of his five innings he pitched. Lugo was solid with his curveball control changing the eye level of the batter, striking out seven. Lugo was not as solid as he was in his previous start against the United States, but did provide a solid start for Puerto Rico. Ian Kinsler got the crowd rocking in the 3rd inning after a Jonathan Lucroy single. Kinsler sent a 0-1 fastball over the fence to give the Americans an 2-0 lead early in the game.
With Stroman dealing, that was all the Americans needed. Both teams went down in order in the 4th inning but things changed once again in the 5th. After Kinsler singled, Lugo walked Adam Jones to bring up Christian Yelich. With a 2-2 count, Yelich turned on a slider and sent it into right field for a single, scoring Kinsler to give the Americans a 3-0 lead. That spelled the end for Lugo as Joe Jimenez came on to try and get out of the jam. The United States did tack on another run later in the inning after Andrew McCutchen hit a ground ball to Francisco Lindor, which scored Yelich. That was a big play because Lindor traveled deep into the hole at short to make the diving play but couldn't throw out the speedy McCutchen.
The United States couldn't get anything going in the 6th inning as Jose Berrios struck out the side. The bottom part of the 6th saw Stroman retire all three batters on groundouts. Things went from bad to worse for Puerto Rico in the top of the 7th when the Americans tacked on three more runs in an inning that lasted over 29 minutes. After Berrios retired the first two he faced, struggling Nolan Arenado singled up the middle and Eric Hosmer was hit on the next pitch. McCutchen walked to load the bases. J.C. Romero came on to replace Berrios and was greeted with a 2-run single by Brandon Crawford. Another pitching change was made with Hiram Burgos replacing Romero. Stanton singled an 0-1 pitch to left, scoring McCutchen to give the Americans a 7-0 lead.
After Pagan doubled to lead off the bottom half of the 7th, Sam Dyson came on to replace a dominant Stroman. Dyson was solid in getting out of the inning retiring the next three batters he faced to end the inning. McCutchen added another run on a single in the 8th inning to extend the Americans lead to 8-0. Pat Neshek replaced Dyson in the bottom of the 8th and kept Puerto Rico scoreless after giving up a hit and a walk. Leyland brought on his closer, David Robertson on to close the door and nail down the championship for the United States. Robertson gave up a single to Pagan but was never challenged as Carlos Correa grounded out to Arenado to end the game.
This was a huge win for the United States and the game of baseball. Having the United States win the World Baseball Classic will add a lot of intrigue to this already solid tournament. While the big name starting pitchers weren't playing in this tournament, Leyland and the United States rode the wave of incredible performances from the starting pitching. When the time was done for the starters, the bullpen continued to come through. The defense was there along with the offense for the United States. They faced many challenges during their run facing many incredible teams but they continued to stick with what worked best and it paid dividends.
Even with some big players struggling and many calling for a change in the lineup, Leyland kept his finger on the pulse of the team and knew the exact moves to make all tournament long. He stayed with the guys that were there all along and was able to get the best out of those guys, bringing home the first WBC title for the United States.