Marcus Stroman had a choice. His mother was born in Puerto Rico so he could have played for the United States team or the Puerto Rican team. He chose the United States team. His mother supported his choice using social media as a venue to announce her support. She was quite disappointed with the vulgar comments she got from Puerto Ricans criticizing her for supporting her son’s choice.
The first time Stroman faced Puerto Rico he gave up hits to the first six hitters in the lineup to fall behind 4-0. He took the loss with Puerto Rico defeating the United States team 6-5. The second outing was much different. He did not give up a hit the second time he faced the Puerto Ricans until Angel Pagan led off the seventh inning with a double. By then the United States had a 7-0 lead. Sam Dyson came on to replace Marcus Stroman and as Marcus came off the mound he was very animated, pounding his chest. Could it have been vindication for all the vulgar comments his mother received for supporting her son? Whatever it was, he was voted the MVP of the tournament as the United States went on to beat Puerto Rico 8-0 to win the championship.
Dusty Baker was also a bit critical of the paucity of at bats Jim Leyland was giving his second baseman Daniel Murphy. He thought it would have been better for Murphy to stay with the Nationals to get his at bats. Leyland stuck with Ian Kinsler at second base for the championship game. Kinsler came through for Leyland in the third inning, following a Jonathan Lucroy single with a two run homerun into center, just above the leaping grasp Enrique “Kiki” Hernandez to give the United States an early 2-0 lead.
Kinsler helped add on to that lead in the fifth with a lead off single. Adam Jones drew a walk. Christian Yelich has been getting a number of critical hits this tournament and he added to the list with a single into right field that scored Kinsler. Joe Jimenez came on to replace Seth Lugo. Andrew McCutchen tacked on another run with a two out infield single that scored Christian Yelich to give the United States a 4-0 lead.
Puerto Rico could do nothing against Marcus Stroman. They had a leadoff walk to Carlos Beltran in the second inning but he was quickly erased on a double play hit by Yadier Molina. Other than that Stroman retired the Puerto Ricans in order in every inning through the sixth, facing the minimum 18 hitters. His pitch count was at less than 70 so if he continued to retire the hitters in order he may have come close to his 95 pitch count. Only one no hitter has been thrown in the WBC and that was by Shairon Martis pitching for the Netherlands in a game called after seven innings because of the slaughter rule.
Stroman wasn’t really needed to pitch anymore after giving up the leadoff double to Pagan. The United States had erupted for three runs in the top of the seventh inning and had taken a commanding 7-0 lead. They scored all their runs after the first two hitters had been retired. Nolan Arenado, who had struck out in all four of his at bats yesterday and his first two at bats in this game, came through with a single. Eric Hosmer was hit by a pitch and Andrew Mucutchen walked to load the bases. J.C. Romero replaced Jose Berrios on the mound. He could not stop the bleeding with Brandon Crawford ripping a two run single to center field. Giancarlo Stanton ended the scoring with a RBI single off Hiram Burgos.
The United States again scored one more run after the first two hitters were retired in the eighth. Nolan Arenado, Eric Hosmer and Andrew McCutchen all ripped singles to increase the carnage to 8-0.
The United States bullpen kept the Puerto Ricans scoreless through the last three innings, giving up just two more hits, Angel Pagan getting two of the three Puerto Rican hits in the game. The attendance for the game was 51,565 with many of them draping American flags over their shoulders and chanting “U-S-A” throughout the game. It appears the WBC has finally gotten an audience.
It was not easy for the United States to win the championship. On their path to glory they had to beat the defending champions the Dominican Republic to escape from their pool and qualify for the final four. They then had to beat an undefeated two time champion Japanese team to advance to the finals, a Japanese team that had previously beaten the United States in a final four back in 2006. Finally, they had to beat an undefeated Puerto Rican team to win the championship, a team that had beaten them earlier in pool play and a team who seemed destined the championship was theirs to take.
For Puerto Rico it was their second loss in the finals of the WBC. This team was more talented than the underdogs that appeared in the finals in 2013. It is a young team that should be geared to battle in the next WBC in 2021.