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Team USA Wins World Baseball Classic For First Time, Blanking Puerto Rico

SEE ALSO: Complete WBC Coverage
LOS ANGELESMarcus Stroman was a man on a mission. There was no past to think about. No future to worry about. No considerations other than the challenge in front of him. The 25-year-old righthander from Medford, N.Y. had a game to win for his country, and nothing was going to stop him. Stroman took a no-hitter into the seventh inning and combined with three relievers on an three-hit shutout, and the United States defeated Puerto Rico 8-0 on Wednesday night at Dodger Stadium to win its first World Baseball Classic championship. Stroman finished with six scoreless innings, one hit allowed, one walk and three strikeouts. He faced one batter over the minimum and allowed only four balls to leave the infield. In light of his performance, the Blue Jays standout was named Tournament MVP. "I love pitching in these moments," Stroman said. "I love the atmosphere. I feel like the bigger the game, the more I'm able to get up, the more effective I am. I truly try to pride myself on being a big-game pitcher." Puerto Rico, making its second straight championship game appearance, entered unbeaten and was the highest-scoring team in the tournament with 55 runs in seven games. It had a .326 team batting average and .537 slugging percentage, and only last week roughed up Stroman for eight hits and four runs in 4.2 innings. None of it mattered. Stroman faced the minimum through six innings and needed only 68 pitches to do it as he carved through Puerto Rico’s lineup with stunning ease. The only baserunner he allowed in that stretch was a walk to Carlos Beltran to lead off the second inning. Stroman promptly induced a double-play ball to erase him. He did what no pitcher had before him and silenced Puerto Rico’s famously wild crowd. By the fifth inning, it was largely quiet tension and scattered cheers from the fan base that had been the biggest off-field story of the tournament with its electrifying energy. When Angel Pagan led off the top of the seventh with a double to break up Stroman’s no-hitter, Team USA led 7-0. The game was, for all intents and purposes, already over. "He went out and threw one hell of a game,"outfielder Christian Yelich said. "I think we all had all the confidence in the world in him that he was going to be able to do that. We all know he likes the moment, and that's exactly what he did." Stroman was pulled after Pagan’s double and left to a thunderous standing ovation from the announced crowd of 51,565, with fans taking off their caps and saluting him. Stroman nodded his head vigorously as he walked off the mound. "This was probably one of the biggest, if not the biggest, game I've ever pitched in," Stroman said. "That was just a nod to coming off with a lead and giving us an opportunity to win that game."
Team USA’s offense did more than enough to back their ace. Ian Kinsler got it started with a two-run homer in the third and was a catalyst for a two-run fifth, leading off with a single and coming around on an RBI single by Yelich. Andrew McCutchen added an RBI infield single to make it 4-0. Brandon Crawford blew it open in the seventh, ripping a two-run single off J.C. Romero that made it 6-0 and sent the crowd into a tizzy, with U.S. flags swirling by the hundreds in the night. "We knew that guys were going to go out there and do our job," Yelich said. "We were talking before the game that there's no way we lose this. We just couldn't see a scenario where we lost this tournament. All throughout it we were confident, and we just knew that if we went out and did what we had to do, we were going to come out on top." Giancarlo Stanton followed with an RBI single and McCutchen added his second RBI infield single in the eighth for the final margin. Sam Dyson, Pat Neshek and David Robertson
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each tossed a scoreless inning of relief to complete the shutout. For Puerto Rico, it was a disappointing end to a tournament in which it had dominated. It was its second straight WBC championship game loss after losing to the Dominican Republic in 2013. "We came here to win the championship," Puerto Rico manager Edwin Rodriguez said, "but with a record of 7-1, we feel satisfied, pleased with what we were able to achieve. And I believe that the foundations have been set." On the other end, the tournament finale capped a magnificent run for Team USA. In consecutive elimination games, the U.S. beat the defending champion Dominican Republic, undefeated Japan and undefeated Puerto Rico. With it, Team USA became WBC champions for the first time. "We really beat a good team, but we've beaten a lot of good teams—Venezuela, Japan, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Colombia," U.S. manager Jim Leyland said. "We were the best team."

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