USA Wins World Baseball Classic
Last night, March 22, the United States national baseball team downed Team Puerto Rico 8-0 to win the World Baseball Classic (WBC) before 51,565 fans at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles. It was the first WBC championship for Team USA, which thumped its commonwealth cousins with strong pitching and timely hitting. The WBC is an international tournament played every four years. This year, it began on March 6 with a talented pool of 16 teams from Asia, Australia, Europe, and North and South America. Most of the teams feature prominent players in Major League Baseball.
The United States had a bumpy road through the WBC, losing nail-biters to the Dominican Republic in the first round and Puerto Rico in the second. But the Americans rallied when they needed it, taking out the tournament favorite and defending champion Dominicans in a thrilling rematch to reach the semifinals. On Tuesday night, Team USA knocked off two-time world champion and previously undefeated Japan, 2-1, to advance to the title game.
Team Puerto Rico—whose beisboleros (baseball players) turned a boisterous bleach blond for the tournament—rolled through the first two rounds without a loss, then won a tight game in its semifinal, 4-3 over the Netherlands in 11 innings. But Puerto Rico was rudely awakened from its championship dream Wednesday night against Team USA, which got on the board early and often on its way to the world title.
Second baseman Ian Kinsler (of the Detroit Tigers) got the Americans on the board with a 2-run homer in the 3rd inning, and run-scoring hits followed in the 5th, 7th, and 8th, all while U.S. starting pitcher Marcus Stroman (of the Toronto Blue Jays) mowed down the formidable P.R. lineup. Young infield stars Javier Báez (of the Chicago Cubs), Carlos Correa (of the Houston Astros), and Francisco Lindor (of the Cleveland Indians) carried Team Puerto Rico throughout the tournament, but they each went hitless against the dominant U.S. pitching combination of Stroman, Sam Dyson (of the Texas Rangers), Pat Neshek (of the Philadelphia Phillies), and David Robertson (of the Chicago White Sox). Stroman’s strong start was good enough to earn him the WBC Most Valuable Player award. Stroman made three starts during the tournament, saving his best for last when he gave up a lone single over six innings while striking out three. The humble Stroman, a Long Islander and recent graduate of Duke University, dedicated the award to his mother—who is from Puerto Rico.
The other teams in this year’s WBC included Australia, Canada, China, Colombia, Cuba, Israel, Italy, Mexico, South Korea, Taiwan, and Venezuela. In the first WBC in 2006, Japan defeated Cuba to win the championship. Japan repeated as champion in the 2009 WBC, defeating South Korea. This year’s loss in the WBC championship game was Puerto Rico’s second straight. They dropped the 2013 final to the Dominican Republic, 3-0.