Marcus Stroman carried a no-hitter into the seventh inning as the United States defeated Puerto Rico, 8-0, to earn their first WBC championship. In three straight winner-take-all games the US defeated powerhouses Dominican Republic, then undefeated Japan and Puerto Rico to secure the title.
For a long time the only question about Marcus Stroman was whether the bid for the WBC’s second ever no-hitter would survive the 95-pitch limit. Stroman was superb; after a Carlos Beltran walk turned into yet another WBC USA double play, he did not allow another baserunner until Angel Pagan doubled down the left field line at the top of the seventh. That ended his night: 6.0 IP, 1 H, 0 R/ER, 1 BB, and 3 K. He survived by inducing a lot of weak contact and keeping hitters off balance. It was a masterful performance.
After a tough semifinal game, Nolan Arenado went 2-for-5 with two runs scored. In fact, both of his hits started two-out rallies! He still didn’t quite have the WBC he was hoping to, but, considering the overall outcome, I’m sure he’s still pretty pleased.
Unlike Tuesday’s semifinal, it was a beautiful night for baseball. Seth Lugo and Marcus Stroman both started the game strong, certainly stronger than in their previous matchup. Lugo was the first to crack when he gave up a two-run home run to Tiger’s Ian Kinsler (who, after controversial comments were released earlier in the day, was stone-faced around the bases).
Two innings later Christian Yelich and Andrew McCuthen both made the most of their opportunities by driving in a run each to make the score 4-0. The USA put the game out of reach in the top of the seventh. They loaded the bases with two outs and Brandon Crawford hit a two RBI single up the middle to make it 6-0, which Giancarlo Stanton contributed his own RBI single to make it 7-0.
However, the story was clearly Marcus Stroman. Less than a week after Puerto Rico battered him for six straight hits to start the ball game, he dominated. He walked Carlos Beltran in the bottom of the second and later erased him with a double play. That was the only baserunner Stroman allowed through six innings. He was incredibly effective in pounding the zone, inducing weak grounders and flyballs while keeping his pitch count low. It was clearly his night.
Unfortunately, Stroman wasn’t able to go all the way, giving way to Rangers closer Sam Dyson in the seventh after giving up the hit to Pagan on his 73rd pitch. No matter: Sam Dyson, Pat Neshek, and David Robertson were able to close out the game, preserving the long awaited finals victory for the United States.
So concludes what’s been 17 days of exciting, high quality, passionate baseball that converted a lot of people from WBC skeptics to full throated evangelists. This edition set attendance records, dyed hair records, and gave us what just might one of the most indelible images of the 2017 season—and it did it in what is usually the most dull month of baseball of the year. The greatest shame is that we’ll have to wait four years until the next one.
Just 1447 days to go.
Until then, let’s savor what we’ve just had the pleasure to witness. We have a new champion: the United States of America.