LOS ANGELES, Calif. – It took 12 years and four attempts, but the United States has finally captured its first ever WBC championship. The stage was set. An undefeated Puerto Rico team, whom the United States were defeated by once already in San Diego; and arguably the most star-studded U.S. lineup the WBC had ever seen.
Getting the starting nod for the United States was Marcus Stroman, who in his previous outing, surrendered six consecutive hits to the Puerto Ricans to open the contest. And for Puerto Rico, was Seth Lugo, who had dazzled in his previous starts.
After an emotional set of introductions for both sides, in which the Puerto Ricans of course flashed and strutted their bleach blonde hair-dos, Lugo took his warmup tosses and the finale was underway.
Christian Yelich, who was named to the All-WBC team, netted the only U.S. hit in the top half of the initial frame, hustling out a double down the left field line. In the bottom half, Stroman needed just nine pitches to get three groundouts, making quick work of Puerto Rico.
Backstop Jonathan Lucroy led off the top half of the third inning with a single, with hopes of his side finally cracking the score column. Then, on a 0-1 count Ian Kinsler launched a 91 mph offering from Lugo 395 feet into left center to give the United States a huge 2-0 lead early.
I could go on and on about the United States offense in this one, but the real story of the night was Marcus Stroman. After being hit around in his only poor start of the Classic, Stroman was electric. He was disrupting timing eerily similar to Jonny Cueto by quick pitching, throwing in extra hitches to his delivery, and complimenting his devastating sinker with an elite slider. My man carried a no-hitter into the seventh inning on the biggest stage of his career. He’s a superstar in the making, there is no doubt in my mind.
Altogether, the United States had five of their nine hitters record a multi-hit affair, with Adam Jones being the only player in the lineup who did not tally a hit. Kinsler, Andrew McCutchen and my MVP, Brandon Crawford each had two RBIs a piece, accounting for six of the eight United States runs. Marlins’ outfielders Giancarlo Stanton and Yelich accounted for the other two runs batted in.
Nonetheless, Stroman was named the MVP of the tournament and rightfully so. A choked-up Jim Leyland thanked our servicemen in a touching postgame interview, and in his final game managing, he goes out a winner. Yelich stated that it was the “most fun he has ever had playing baseball”. Will that bring more stars to the forefront of the next WBC? We can only hope.
The nation was captivated by this tournament, or at least I was. However, moving forward there is one thing I would like to change, the elephant in the room: the tie-break rule in extra innings. I get it, both teams have equal opportunity to score runs. But that type of thing absolutely does not have a place in professional baseball. If you’re concerned about how long a baseball game lasts, then turn the channel to the something else. Baseball is a classic sport. It is in an intelligent sport. Leave it alone.
Overall, absolutely stellar tournament and coverage by MLB Network and the World Baseball Classic will be missed until next time. Until then, the MLB is a mere 10 days from Opening Day, and all will be right in the world once again.