Toronto Blue Jays ace Marcus Stroman wanted to pitch for Puerto Rico, where his mother was born, however after re-thinking it all, he felt he needed to pitch for Team USA. His decision turned out to be what helped Team USA win its first WBC championship. Stroman took a no-hitter into the seventh inning, and even after a third-inning walk to Carlos Beltran that lead a double play grounder.
Angel Pagan finally broke up his no-hitter with a single to left field, ending Stroman’s night, as he walked off the field to a huge standing ovation. He was very dominant, permitting just three balls out of the infield. Team USA’s starting rotation was the story of the tournament. They overwhelmed the opposition, going 3-1 with a 1.25 ERA. They gave up just one run in their final 23 innings.
Team USA, for the first time in the tournament’s history are now the champions. They will be the defending WBC champions until the next tournament, in 2021, says Commissioner Rob Manfred, despite baseball returning to the Olympics in 2020.
Stroman nullified the Puerto Rico’s offense, never giving them a chance to get into the game.
He struck out in his first two at-bats, looking worse with each at-bat, and then botched a sacrifice bunt. He finally broke his zero-for-11 skein with a seventh-inning single, breaking a streak of six consecutive strikeouts. Puerto Rico decided before the game that win, or lose, they were going to fly together to their native island to celebrate their WBC performance.
“This means so much to our country,’’ veteran reliever J.C. Romero said. “We want to be an inspiration. Something people on the Island can be proud of.’’
These games have taken Puerto Rico by storm, the whole country gathered for viewing parties in homes at restaurants and bars to watch games. Stores have even run out of blonde hair dye, with entire classrooms dying their hair to emulate their idols.
“I believe with the performance that we had in Mexico and San Diego,’’ Puerto Rico manager Edwin Rodriguez said, “that the excitement for baseball in Puerto Rico has been increasing. It grows and grows, and it becomes stronger. Obviously to win always attracts people that are in positions of helping to further to develop the programs and consciousness so youngsters can see the possibilities when they see a Francisco Lindor , Carlos Correa or others like that so they can imagine a future”.