The United States broke through to win their first World Baseball Classic title with an emphatic 8-0 victory over Puerto Rico in Los Angeles on Wednesday behind the stellar pitching of Marcus Stroman and a 13-hit attack.
Puerto Rico came in with a spotless 7-0 record in the 16-team tournament but the Americans (6-2) were not to be denied and the losers finished runners-up for the second straight WBC.
Stroman was sensational, throwing six no-hit innings after yielding six hits in a row in a four-run first inning to Puerto Rico in a 6-5 second-round loss.
After the gold medal ceremony on the field, the 25-year-old Stroman of the Toronto Blue Jays was named Most Valuable Player of the tournament.
“I want to thank every single guy on this team. It’s been a real special experience,” said Stroman. “That’s a great team over there (Puerto Rico). It’s an All-Star lineup, one through nine.”
Stroman faced the minimum 18 batters through six innings with Carlos Beltran the only man to reach, after a walk leading off the second inning. Beltran was erased when Yadier Molina bounced into a double play.
Stroman, who struck out three, had his no-hitter snapped in the seventh when Angel Pagan led off with an opposite field double, and the right-hander exited to a standing ovation from a crowd exceeding 51,000.
“I got a chance to manage for our country, coaches got a chance to coach for our country, the players got to play for our country,” said an emotional Jim Leyland, the U.S. manager.
The U.S. team jumped to a 2-0 lead off starter Seth Lugo in the third inning when Ian Kinsler crushed a two-run homer to left-center.
The Americans doubled their advantage in the fifth on run-scoring singles by Christian Yelich and Andrew McCutchen.
They tacked on three more runs in the seventh, on a two-run single by Brandon Crawford and an RBI-single by Giancarlo Stanton, and McCutchen drove home the last with an infield single in the eighth.
The United States had advanced to their first WBC title game with a 2-1 semi-finals victory over Japan, winners of the first two tournaments.
“I could not be prouder,” said outfielder Adam Jones. “We brought it home for the United States. Tip of our caps to Puerto Rico and everybody else in the tournament, but we did something special.”
(Reporting by Larry Fine in New York; Editing by Nick Mulvenney/Sudipto Ganguly)