USA routs Puerto Rico to claim Classic crown

Greg Heakes
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Jim Leyland, manager of team United States, accepts the trophy after their 8-0 win over team Puerto Rico in the 2017 World Baseball Classic

The United States clobbered Puerto Rico 8-0 to capture their first World Baseball Classic title, avenging an earlier loss and ending Puerto Rico's perfect run to the championship game.

The Americans won the title in their first trip to the final, which was a rematch of a second-round game Friday in which the US rallied late but lost 6-5.

"If you think about what we did, we beat them all," said US manager Jim Leyland, who came out of retirement to guide the US team, which finished with a 6-2 record.

"Puerto Rico had a terrific team. Up until tonight they played better baseball than anybody in the tournament. We pitched better, we played better."

Puerto Rico finished with a 7-1 record as they were trying to become just the second team in tournament history to roll undefeated through the quadrennial global showcase of elite talent.

Asked if there was extra motivation on the part of the US to avenge Friday's loss, center fielder Adam Jones answered frankly: "You want to know the truth? There were some champion shirts made and we didn't make them."

"A flight booked and a parade planned and that didn't sit well with us."

This was also the second loss in a row in the final for the bleached-blond haired Puerto Ricans, who were beaten by the Dominican Republic in the 2013 final.

Marcus Stroman pitched a no-hitter through six innings and Ian Kinsler belted a home run as the United States carved up Puerto Rico before a crowd of 51,000 at Dodger Stadium.

Stroman, who has Puerto Rican roots, had his no-hit bid ended when leftfielder Angel Pagan opened the bottom of the seventh with a double.

But the damage had already been done as Stroman set the early tone with superb pitching and Kinsler opened the scoring with a 402-foot two-run homer to centerfield in the third inning.

"I love pitching in these moments," Stroman said. "I love the atmosphere. I pride myself on being a big game pitcher. This was probably one of the biggest, if not the biggest, games I ever pitched in."

"I was confident. I was locked in. I am glad we got the win."

The last out of the three-hour, 30-minute contest came when Puerto Rico's Carlos Correa grounded out to third base, touching off a wild celebration for the Americans on the field followed by a victory lap on the warning track.

Right-hander Stroman was named Most Valuable Player and, like his teammates, he played Wednesday as if he had a chip on his shoulder.

His added motivation came partly after his Puerto Rican mother was harassed on social media over his decision to compete for the Americans.

Puerto Ricans were angered because after the last tournament in 2013 he had indicated in a tweet that he might pitch for them.

- MVP booed -

Stroman, who was booed by Puerto Rican supporters as he spoke on the field during the MVP trophy presentation, allowed only one hit and struck out three batters in six innings for the USA.

"Added a little fuel to the fire. They pretty much counted us out before the game started," said Stroman of the T-shirts and Caribbean parade plans.

The victory ends years of frustration for the USA on their home soil in the tournament, which has been going since 2006.

The US is considered baseball's birthplace and the nation has a world-leading 626 players in Major League Baseball -- but until Wednesday its team had never played in a Classic final.

Puerto Rico, in contrast, has just 50 major leaguers.

The Americans' best previous performance was a semifinal run in 2009 in which they lost to Japan.

Puerto Rico had advanced to the final by showing swagger and passion, but their defense -- which had been so solid through the first seven games -- crumbled Wednesday.

The US scored a total of four runs in the seventh and eighth innings with two outs on the board.

"They outplayed us. They outscored us. They outhit us," said Puerto Rican manager Edwin Rodriguez. "They beat us in all phases of the game."