America's pastime is back in the hands of the United States.
Ian Kinsler hit a two-run homer and Marcus Stroman threw six shutout innings as the United States dominated Puerto Rico, 8-0, to win their first ever World Baseball Classic Title.
It was a patriotic night at Dodger Stadium as the Americans outplayed the undefeated Puerto Ricans in every facet of the game, avenging a 6-5 loss in the quarterfinals last Friday in San Diego.
U.S. & World
"We were prepared since we've already played them once," said Pittsburgh Pirates' outfielder Andrew McCutchen. "They got us the last time, we made mistakes in that game, but today, no mistakes were made. That's something we keyed on and we were able to do it. We made history today."
Kinsler got the scoring started for the United States when the Detroit Tigers second baseman teed off on a four-seam fastball from Seth Lugo in the third inning to give the Stars and Stripes and early 2-0 lead.
Earlier in the day, Kinsler sounded off on how Puerto Rico and other Latin American countries play the game, telling The New York Times, "I hope kids watching the World Baseball Classic can watch the way we play the game and appreciate the way we play the game as opposed to the way Puerto Rico or the Dominican plays. That's not taking anything away from them. That just wasn't the way we were raised."
The United States didn't give Puerto Rico a chance to celebrate on Wednesday night as Toronto Blue Jays starting pitcher Marcus Stroman had a no-hitter through six innings.
"I love pitching in these moments," said Stroman. "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. This was probably one of the biggest if not the biggest game I've ever pitched in."
Stroman is of Puerto Rican descent, but ironically, opted to play for the United States over Puerto Rico in the WBC tournament. His mother, who is Puerto Rican, was harassed on social media earlier in the week for her son's decision to pitch for Team USA.
"It definitely added a little fuel to the fire," said Stroman, who was named MVP of the tournament. "This is our first win. We've had a few early exits in the past. So each and every guy came into this with one goal, and that was to win it. I love these guys. It was an unbelievable experience, and I'll be back in four years to defend the title."
Angel Pagan broke up the no-hitter with a double down the left field line to leadoff the top of the seventh. It was one of only three hits Puerto Rico would have on the night.
Andrew McCutcheon was 2-for-4 with two RBI and Brandon Crawford had a pair of RBI of his own as the U.S. hoisted the WBC trophy for the first time in it's fourth installment.
"It was a fun and great experience," said Crawford after the game. "Just to be on this team and around all these guys. They're All-Stars, Gold Glovers, Silver Sluggers, all that on this team. It was a lot of fun for me just to be a part of it, but the winning makes it even better."
The Americans relished their victory underneath a downpour of confetti on the field. Kansas City Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer carried a bald eagle statue on the stage for the trophy celebration and acknowledged the team had their sights set on winning it all before the tournament began.
"We wanted to get the U.S. back on top of the baseball world," he said. "We did that."
Lugo, a New York Mets minor league pitcher, took the loss for Puerto Rico, allowing four runs on five hits with four walks and seven strikeouts in four innings. Entering the game, Lugo was 2-0 in the tournament, but Puerto Rico lost for the first time in eight games.
Before the game, Puerto Rico had printed up t-shirts that read "WBC Champions," and reportedly had plans for a return flight to San Juan and a parade pre-scheduled.
That preemptive arrogance irked Baltimore Orioles outfielder Adam Jones.
"Do you want the truth? Before the game, we got a note that there were championship shirts made, a flight, and a parade, and it wasn't for us," said Jones. "That didn't sit well with us."
Most of the 51,565 fans in attendance chanted "USA! USA! USA!" as they draped themselves in American Flags. After the game, United States' manager Jim Leyland said this would be the last time he would put on a baseball uniform and dedicated the game to our country's military
"This is for the men and women who serve our country."