USA Wins First World Baseball Classic

Posted on April 6, 2017 by


This year brought the fourth installment of the World Baseball Classic, an international tournament sanctioned by the World Baseball and Softball Confederation that pits the best players in the world against each other playing for their respective countries. The 2017 iteration set attendance and viewership records as it continues to grow in popularity.

The tournament consisted of sixteen teams divided into four pools. Pool A, played in Seoul, South Korea, was comprised of host South Korea, Chinese Taipei, Israel, and the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Upstart Israel started the tournament with a major upset of the Koreans, leading to a 3-0 record in the pool and a surprising advancement to the second round. The Dutch also advanced at 2-1. Pool B in the Tokyo Dome was dominated by host Japan at 3-0, with fellow international powerhouse Cuba also beating out Australia and China for a spot in round two.

Miami hosted Pool C, which was comprised of Colombia, Canada, the host United States, and defending champion Dominican Republic. Both the U.S. (2-1) and Dominicans (3-0) advanced to round 2. Pool D in Guadalajara, Mexico, was won by Puerto Rico at 3-0. Venezuela defeated Italy in a tiebreaker to move to round two as well. The host country Mexico finished last in the pool.

Second round Pool E in Tokyo pitted the Pool A and B winners. Israel’s surprise run ran out of energy, as they fell at the hands of eventual semifinalists Japan and the Netherlands. Pool F, comprised of Pool C and D winners, was played in San Diego. Puerto Rico continued its undefeated run through the second round. The final game of the pool came down to a win-or-go-home elimination game between the Dominicans and Americans, who were hoping to avenge an earlier tournament loss. The U.S. overcame an early deficit to take a 4-2 lead, led by a mammoth home run by Miami Marlin Giancarlo Stanton. The Dominicans threatened, but Baltimore Orioles outfielder Adam Jones thwarted a rally by robbing Oriole teammate Manny Machado of a potential home run. The U.S. held on to win 6-3 and advance to the semifinal round.

Los Angeles played host to the semifinals and finals. Game 1 featured undefeated Puerto Rico and the Netherlands. The score was already 2-2 after the first inning owing to long home runs by Dutch slugger Wladimir Balentein and Houston Astros phenom Carlos Correa for Puerto Rico. The game reached extra innings with the score tied at three, before a walkoff sacrifice fly by Minnesota’s Eddie Rosario won the game for Puerto Rico.

The Puerto Ricans would face the winner of U.S and the undefeated powerhouse, two-time champion Japan. Playing under a light rain, USA starter Tanner Roark of the Washington Nationals and Japanese ace Tomoyuki Sugano dueled through the early innings, before an RBI single by Pittsburgh Pirates star Andrew McCutchen broke the tie in the fourth. In the sixth, Japanese second baseman Ryosuke Kikuchi tied the game with a solo home run. The tie was broken in the eighth, when a bobbled ground ball by Japanese third baseman Nobuhiro Matsuda allowed San Francisco’s Brandon Crawford to score the go-ahead run. The Americans held on to win 2-1 and advance to their first championship game in tournament history.

Both Puerto Rico and the United States entered the final looking for their first tournament championship. Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Marcus Stroman started for the U.S. and turned in a clutch performance, no-hitting the powerful Puerto Rican lineup through six innings. In the meantime, the U.S. built up a substantial lead. A 2-run home run by Detroit Tiger Ian Kinsler started the scoring, and the Americans stretched the lead to 8-0 late in the game. Puerto Rico never threatened, and the United States of America won their first ever World Baseball Classic championship.

Stroman won tournament MVP after his dominant championship game performance and 2.35 ERA over the course of the tournament.

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