The United States claimed its first World Baseball Classic title on Wednesday night in an 8-0 blowout over Puerto Rico. Marcus Stroman pitched a gem over six-plus innings for the U.S. and shutdown the undefeated Puerto Ricans. Here are my three big takeaways from the final game of a fantastic WBC.
As I mentioned, Stroman was lights out for six solid innings. He didn’t do anything fancy, he just did what every pitching coach everywhere tells their pitchers. “Keep the ball down.” By keeping the ball down in the zone, Stroman got the Puerto Ricans to ground out for 12 of his 18 recorded outs. Only two outs came by fly balls, while three others were strikeouts. Stroman hit his spots and made the hitters go with the pitch. The only hit he allowed came on a double by Angel Pagan in the bottom of the seventh after he spent nearly 30 minutes on the bench, but the Puerto Ricans were in too deep by that time.
Just ask Nolan Arenado about this one. The American third baseman had donned the golden sombrero amid a massive slump entering the Championship Round. After two strikeouts, Arenado tried to move the runners over with a sacrifice bunt with runners on first and second, but dropped the ball directly in front of the pitcher’s mound and hung Adam Jones out to dry at third. But the bat-on-ball contact appeared to be enough to break him out of the slump and he singled up the middle to start the hit parade that led to a three-run, two-out rally for the U.S. in the seventh. The U.S. pounded out 13 total hits on the night.
I always say you can’t win if you can’t score, so quality pitching will keep you in just about any game. I’ve already touched on Stroman’s performance, but Seth Lugo—whose performance was nothing to snub your nose at with seven strikeouts—simply missed at the wrong times. He left a pitch up to Ian Kinsler in the third inning with Jonathon Lucroy on first. The real strength on the mound for the Puerto Ricans turned out to be Jose Berrios, who struck out four and allowed one hit in eight batters.
However, the bullpen for the U.S. slammed the door on Puerto Rico with just two hits and three strikeouts over the final three innings. Sharp pitching by the Americans ended up being the difference in the end as the Puerto Ricans could never get anything going at the plate.
Photo by Brigham Berthold