U.S. wins its first World Baseball Classic thanks to Blue Jays’ Marcus Stroman
Toronto pitcher could have played for Puerto Rico team that also made the finals
Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Marcus Stroman leading the United States to its first World Baseball Classic championship was a story of redemption. Because of his mother’s heritage, Stroman could have played for Puerto Rico. Instead, he helped Team USA beat them 8-0, making up for a dreadful second-round performance against the island team in which he gave up six straight singles and four first-inning runs.
On Wednesday night at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, Stroman worked the Puerto Rico team like a 9-to-5, taking a no-no past the first six innings and more than 18 batters before Angel Pagan broke up the party with a single in the seventh inning.
Team USA manager Jim Leyland decided to take Stroman out immediately, as his pitch count drew close to 73.
There was still more drama to sift through: Before the game, second baseman Ian Kinsler, who opened Team USA’s scoring with a two-run shot and a run scored thanks to Christian Yelich, was quoted in the New York Times as basically saying the way Latino players celebrate was too demonstrative and American kids should emulate the less energetic celebration style of American players.
After the quote picked up some attention, Kinsler spoke to ESPN’s Marly Rivera to elaborate on his statement: “Everybody has their own style. That’s all I was saying.
“This is what this tournament is for, to demonstrate the game in all walks of life, all over the globe,” Kinsler said. “Everyone should be celebrated.”
After failing to reach the semifinals in two of the three previous tournaments, the United States finally took home gold on its fourth try. Adding to the compelling narrative, Team USA had to beat the defending champion Dominican Republic in an elimination game in the second round on March 18, and had to defeat Japan on Tuesday night.
The Americans handed Japan its first loss in the tournament after center fielders Adam Jones of the Baltimore Orioles and Andrew McCutchen of the Pittsburgh Pirates teamed up offensively and defensively to lift the U.S. to an exhilarating 2-1 victory. Similarly, Puerto Rico came into the championship game with an unblemished WBC record, including a 6-5 win over the United States on March 17 in a second-round match-up in San Diego.
Stroman, a right-hander, came into the championship contest with a 3.86 ERA from two previous WBC starts. He got the best of Puerto Rico’s Seth Lugo, who was 2-0 in the tournament and had only allowed three runs in 11 innings.
Jones finished the tournament with seven hits, six stolen bases, four runs and two home runs. McCutchen contributed five RBIs, five hits and one run.
For the first time since the World Baseball Classic was formed in 2005, the United States played in the championship game. The furthest the country had advanced in the tournament previously was in 2009, when Team USA finished in fourth place after a 9-4 loss to Japan in the semifinal.
Team USA avenged that defeat with a 2-1 win over the Japanese on Tuesday in a wet semifinal affair before facing Puerto Rico on Wednesday.
Jones gave Team USA the go-ahead run in the eighth with a groundout toward the third base line that allowed Brandon Crawford enough time to reach home plate after the ball was mishandled by Japan’s third baseman Nobuhiro Matsuda. Crawford made his way to third after singling and then ripping around second, thanks to a double by Kinsler.
McCutchen helped Team USA gain the early upper hand in the fourth inning. The combination of his single to shallow left and an error by Japan second baseman Ryosuke Kikuchi trying to tag out Eric Hosmer allowed Yelich to score.
“It means a heckuva lot,” McCutchen told ESPN. “We have a great group of guys on this team who have dedicated this time to be able to try and win some ballgames. A sacrifice had to be made. There are no egos when that door opens, and that is what is good about this team.
“Everybody is a superstar, everybody is a three-hole hitter, but somebody has to hit seventh, somebody has to hit eighth. There are no egos, even with the pitching. That is first and foremost what has allowed this team to get this far.”