It took four tries, but the United States finally won one of these things. Behind a dominant pitching performance by Marcus Stroman, and following a home run by Ian Kinsler, the USA shut out Puerto Rico 8-0 in the championship game Wednesday in Los Angeles.
It marked the USA’s first appearance in the tournament finals, and they’re the third country to win in the tournament’s four editions. They beat both former champions along the way — Japan in the semifinals and the Dominican Republic in the quarterfinals.
The story of the day was USA starting pitcher Marcus Stroman, who brilliantly rendered the Puerto Rican bats toothless for much of the evening while taking a no-hitter into the seventh inning. After a lengthy time watching while his team scored three runs in the top half of the frame, he allowed a leadoff double to Angel Pagan in the bottom half. Stroman left with a 7-0 advantage, having struck out three with just one walk allowed.
The USA got on the board in the third inning when Kinsler returned a 91 mph fastball thrown by Puerto Rico starting pitcher Seth Lugo over the left-center field wall. Team USA added more runs in the fifth inning when Christian Yelich drove in Kinsler on a single. That was enough for Puerto Rico manager Edwin Rodriguez, who pulled Lugo in favor of Joe Jimenez. Lugo was tagged with the loss after giving up four runs on five hits and four walks while striking out seven.
Five USA batters recorded two hits for the day (of the USA’s 13 total) while another pair reached base via walk at least twice. Pagan had two hits for Puerto Rico while Yadier Molina added one of his own.