WBC championship: Dominicans ride powerful pitching to first Classic title

Kevin Kaduk
Big League Stew

Score and situation: After disappointing performances in the first two World Baseball Classics, the Dominican Republic is finally atop the baseball world. The island baseball factory in the Caribbean claimed its first WBC title on Tuesday, shutting down Puerto Rico 3-0 on a rainy night at San Francisco's AT&T Park. The Dominicans' run will go down as the most impressive in WBC history to date. They beat the Puerto Ricans three times over the past two weeks, allowed only 14 runs over eight games and finished the tournament a perfect 8-0, the first champions in WBC history to remain unbeaten.

[Y! Sports Fan Shop: Dominican Republic WBC champs apparel]

Leading lads: Edwin Encarnacion gave the Dominicans the only runs they would need when he hit a two-run double in the first inning. The hit came just after Puerto Rican manager Edwin Rodriguez ordered an intentional walk of Robinson Cano and it scored both Cano and Jose Reyes, who had led off the inning with a double. Reyes was 2-for-4 on the game, also tripling in the seventh inning.

On the mound, Dominican starter Samuel Deduno pitched five scoreless innings, using five strikeouts to limit the damage after issuing two hits and three walks. The country's bullpen was spotless as Octavio Dotel, Pedro Strop, Santiago Casilla and Fernando Rodney all pitched scoreless innings.

[Related: Five ways to improve the World Baseball Classic]

Head hangers: Puerto Rican catcher and cleanup hitter Yadier Molina struggled at the plate, striking out in the first inning and hitting into a double play in the fourth. Carlos Beltran didn't fare much better, going 0-for-3 with a walk. Starter Giancarlo Alvarado was pulled after a two-run first with Hiram Burgos pitching 4 2/3 innings of one-run relief.

Key play: Dominican center fielder Alejandro De Aza made a great catch on a deep Andy Gonzalez drive in the fifth inning. The grab was made under adverse conditions — it was raining rather heavily — and it kept Alex Rios at second. De Aza's play allowed Deduno to get out of a two-walk fifth without allowing any runs.

Interesting stat: Rodney appeared in all eight Dominican games, saving seven of them. He allowed a total of only one hit.

Casilla, Strop, Dotel and Kelvin Herrera were all similarly unhittable. All four combined for 19 12/3 scoreless innings over the WBC.

What they'll be talking about: The Dominicans have powered Major League Baseball with talent for a long time, but Tuesday night was truly a time for the nation to shine. No matter what you think of the World Baseball Classic, the country's triumph will rank among its greatest athletic achievements and one can only imagine the party that's going on there right now.

What's next: The 2017 World Baseball Classic! Can the Dominicans defend their title? Will Mike Trout, Bryce Harper and Clayton Kershaw be compelled to finally bring a title to the United States? What, if any, format changes will there be? The countdown starts now ...

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