On Wednesday evening in Dodger Stadium in front of over 51,000 fans, the United States defeated Puerto Rico by an 8-0 final to win the 2017 World Baseball Classic championship.
Marcus Stroman was the star of the show, tossing six no-hit innings against a previously undefeated Puerto Rico squad before being lifted following a leadoff double. Ian Kinsler and Brandon Crawford -- Team USAâs double-play combination -- both drove in a pair of runs apiece.
Late in the game, the United States broke it wide open, thus securing their first WBC crown. Japan (twice) and the Dominican Republic were the tournamentâs prior winners.
Here is what you need to know about the game:
It was the first WBC crown for the United States
The rare subplot that wouldâve been a talking point even if Puerto Rico had won. Thatâs because neither team had claimed a WBC title. Wednesday changed all that for the United States.
Previously, Team USAâs best finish had been third place during the 2009 tournament. Early on in this WBC, it looked like the Americans were en route to another disappointing showing -- lest we forget that Colombiaâs Jose Quintana carried a no-hitter into the sixth inning against the United States in their first game.
Yet the United States won that game, and later earned an advancement to the second round with a 2-1 record. The US would post the same record in the second round, then would top Japan in the semifinal to earn a crack at the championship -- everyone knows what happened there. But letâs dig in a little deeper.
Stroman came up HUGE for Team USA
Want one factoid that tells the tale of Marcus Stromanâs night? He kept the Puerto Rican team out of the hits column through six innings. Angel Pagan then led off the seventh with a double, ending Stromanâs night before he reached the pitch-count limit.
Stroman did a masterful job of keeping the ball down and therefore keeping the ball in the park. He finished the game with 11 groundouts to one flyout. He also struck out three batters, and issued just a single walk. Basically, Stroman more than atoned for his rough start last time out against Puerto Rico -- and did it on the tournamentâs biggest possible stage.
Stroman knew it, too, showing emotion during his outing. Canât say he didnât earn the right. You wonder what Ian Kinsler thought about Stroman barking at the Puerto Rican dugout at least once throughout the game, particularly in light of Kinslerâs pregame comments about how Americans show passion in a different, supposedly superior way.
Ian Kinsler let his bat do the talking
Speaking of which ... before the game, Ian Kinsler grabbed attention. Kinsler then opened the game by recording an out on the first pitch.
After that? Kinslerâs night got better. Heâd hit athat put the United States up. Hereâs a look-see at that:
Kinsler later added a hard-hit single while playing his typically strong defense. Overall, a good night within the lines, if not one outside of them.
Nolan Arenado continued to struggle
Meanwhile, Nolan Arenadoâs struggles continued. He entered the game 3-for-26 with a tournament-high nine strikeouts. Things did not get better on Wednesday.
Sure, Arenado recorded a pair of knocks late in the game, but he looked absolutely lost at the plate, swinging through pitches and clearly pressing to make something happen. He even suffered the indignity of putting down a bunt as the cleanup hitter â¦ only to have Puerto Rico throw out the lead runner. Yikes.
Arenado is normally one of the best players in baseball. Odds are, we wonât remember this slump in two weeksâ time. But sheesh. This was not the national coming-out party we all expected going in.
Puerto Ricoâs manager made a mistake
Stromanâs gem rendered it moot, but Puerto Rico manager Edwin RodrÃguez messed up by leaving in a tiring Seth Lugo a little too long in the fifth inning.
Matt Snyder, but long story short: the United States tacked on two insurance runs. Again, Stroman seemingly wouldâve made a 2-0 lead hold up, and the US later turned the game into a boat race, but Rodriguezâs unwavering faith in Lugo didnât help -- not on Wednesday night, anyway.
Puerto Rico ended tournament with best winning percentage
If thereâs one thing Puerto Rico can hang their caps on ---- itâs that they had an impressive tournament.
Puerto Rico entered Wednesday night undefeated. They went 3-0 in both of the first two rounds, then edged the Netherlands in the first semifinal. Wednesdayâs defeat dropped Puerto Rico to 7-1, the best winning percentage in the tournament. Comparatively, Japan went 6-1 and the United States went 6-2.
Unfortunately, for Puerto Rico, the tournamentâs best winning percentage does not determine the champion. Still, they deserve credit for playing as well as a team can play without winning the title.
USAâs rotation led way
As for the champions, if you want to point to one reason why the Americans won the tournament, then point at their rotation. Stromanâs performance completed a tourney-long run of excellent starting pitching. Take a gander at this stat:
Thatâll do. Yup, thatâll do.
Jim Leyland dedicated the win to the Armed Forces
This being Jim Leylandâs last game as a manager, you might think heâd dedicate the win to his friends, family, mentors, what have you. Nope. Leyland instead dedicated it to the Armed Forces:
Consider that a classy move by Leyland, who choked up while talking about the tournament.
Adam Jones says US inspired by Puerto Rico plans
Hereâs what Jones said to MLB Networkâs Greg Amsinger after the win:
GA: Was there something said before this game heading into the championship?
AJ: Should I tell the truth?
GA: Yes, tell the truth. We want to know.
AJ: Well, before the game, we got a note that there was some championship shirts made -- we didnât make âem -- and a flight ... that didnât sit well with us. And a parade. It didnât sit well with us. So, we did what we had to do. Stroman went out there and gave us his all, the players they battled, the offense swung the bats, and we brought it home for the United States.
More on the flight/parade:
Puerto Rico had a flight and parade scheduled: WIN OR LOSE. That's what I was told this morning.— Marly Rivera (@MarlyRiveraESPN) March 23, 2017
If thatâs all you need to do to get Marcus Stroman to pitch like that, you can bet John Gibbons is already planning to leak rumors about flights, parades and shirts before every Stroman start this year.
Itâs been a good day for USA Baseball -- and a better day for USA Baseball creating a stir with quotes about the Puerto Rican team.
You can relive the best moments of the game with our live blog. If the live blog isnât displayed below,