The United States is on top of the baseball world.
Behind a brilliant performance from starter Marcus Stroman and a relentless offensive attack, Team USA defeated previously unbeaten Puerto Rico 8-0 to win its first World Baseball Classic.
There’s been a lot of talk about the stars who didn’t suit up for Team USA at this year’s WBC. Hopefully the focus will turn to those who did, because many of them shone brightly in Wednesday’s historic win.
That includes Marcus Stroman, who five days after struggling early in a loss to this same Puerto Rico team, bounced back to throw an absolute gem. On that night, Puerto Rico opened the game with six straight hits against Stroman. On this night, Puerto Rico wouldn’t get its first hit until Angel Pagan’s double leading off the seventh inning.
Stroman’s dominance quieted a Puerto Rico offense that had racked up 55 runs over its previous seven wins, and earned him the honor of tournament MVP. It also set the tone for the entire pitching staff. Team USA’s bullpen followed with scoreless innings from Sam Dyson, Pat Neshek and David Robertson.
Naturally, Ian Kinsler was among the many stars for Team USA offensively. Hours after his controversial comments criticizing the passion and exuberance of Latin players were published in the New York Times, Kinsler put the focus back on his play by launching a two-run home run against Seth Lugo in the third inning.
— Joe Giglio (@JoeGiglioSports) March 23, 2017
That opened the scoring for Team USA. Two innings later, Kinsler helped spark another two-run rally, this time singling and scoring on Christian Yelich’s double. Brandon Crawford’s two-out, two-run single in the seventh served as the dagger in a truly impressive performance against a Puerto Rico team that had previously looked unbeatable.
Team USA finishes the Classic with a 6-2 record overall, but it’s the final three games that will define this run. That included consecutive wins in elimination games against the defending champions from the Dominican Republic, the two-time champions from Japan, and now Puerto Rico.
To say this championship was earned would be an understatement. It more than made up for the disappointment and missed opportunities that defined Team USA’s first three WBC appearances, and firmly places it as the team to beat when the WBC returns in 2021.
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