After a 3-0 Dominican Republic victory over Puerto Rico on Tuesday night, the 2013 World Baseball Classic is in the books. Not only did the Dominican Republic win the tournament, but they also finished with a sparkling record of 8-0 (and 3-0 against Puerto Rico). The D.R. now joins two-time champ Japan as the only nations to win the WBC.
Let's break down the championship game ...
Hero: Sam Deduno. The D.R.'s starting pitcher confronted the opposition with a steady repertoire of breaking and off-speed stuff, and they could do little with it. Deduno struggled with his control at times, as he is wont to do, but he limited the Puerto Ricans to just two hits -- singles, both -- over five innings. He also struck out five. Given the strength of the Dominican bullpen, Puerto Rico needed to get to Deduno early. But Deduno wouldn't allow it.
Goat: Puerto Rico's lineup with runners on base. The runners-up managed eight baserunners, but they failed to plate a single run. On that front, Puerto Rico as a team stranded runners on 22 occasions and went 0-for-11 with men in scoring position. Tasked with beating a superior team, they could scarcely afford to squander so many opportunities.
Turning point: Given the cold and the rain, it figured to be a low-scoring affair. In the bottom of the first, when Edwin Encarnacion responded to a Robinson Cano intentional walk by lashing a two-run, one-out double, you got the sense that it would be the D.R.'s night. Underdogs rarely prevail after falling behind early, and the D.R. indeed made a notable opening statement in the championship game. Sure, it was only the first inning, but the tenor had already been established.
It was over when: In the top of the seventh, Puerto Rico's first two hitters reached base, which brought the potential tying run to the plate. Then Carlos Rivera and Pedro Valdes each struck out, and Jesus Feliciano popped out. P.R.'s best chance to get back in it was gone. The Dominican Republic's bullpen was so dominant throughout the WBC -- you might consider this Pedro Strop's coming-out party -- that you almost knew that Puerto Rico wouldn't again seriously threaten over the final six outs. And they didn't.
Next: Spring training as you know it resumes, and the countdown to opening day begins in earnest. As for the World Baseball Classic, it won't return until 2017.
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