Breaking News: The Championship Game took place last night for the World Baseball Classic. The Pittsburgh Pirates had two players in the stadium.
Entering the World Baseball Classic, the Dominican Republic were the heavy favorites to win the tournament. They had an all-star lineup which included a couple Pittsburgh Pirates in Starling Marte and Gregory Polanco. However, not far behind the Dominican All-Star team was Team USA and Team Puerto Rico. After Puerto Rico beat the Dominican Republic in the second round, many thought that they were the team to beat. They had not lost a game this tournament, and they seemed to have hot bats and arms all heading into the finals. Every time they needed a big pitch, a big play, or a big hit, Team Puerto Rico seemed to come up with it.
Meanwhile, Team USA was winning, but it seemed much more tasking for them to advance each round. In the first round, they lost to the Dominican Republic when they blew a 5-1 lead behind ace reliever Andrew Miller. They were no hit into the sixth inning against Jose Quintana and Team Colombia. Still, they took care of business against the teams they needed to, beating Colombia and Canada.
In the second round, the US started off with a tight win over Team Venezuela. They then lost to Puerto Rico in an early preview of the what would be the Championship game. However, they got revenge on the Dominican Republic in a deciding game against them. This allowed them to move on against the number one team from the Eastern Bracket, team Japan. After playing in the rain for nearly nine innings, Team USA advanced to the finals by a score of 2-1.
In the rematch between two countries that have ties to one another, Team USA sent Marcus Stroman to the mound to face off against Seth Lugo. Stroman, who was born in America to a Puerto Rican mother, put on one of the best performances of the tournament. He held Team Puerto Rico to no hits into the seventh inning. A performance that could not have come at a better time. Meanwhile, Team USA slowly built a lead. They posted two runs in the third and the fifth innings, and added three more in the seventh to back Stroman’s effort with a seven run lead.
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However, Stroman gave up a leadoff hit in the seventh inning, which ended up chasing him from the game. If there was going to be a rally for Puerto Rico, this was the time. Instead, Sam Dyson surrendered nothing more in the inning, and the Americans added another run in the top of the eighth. David Robertson pitched the final innings of the game, earning Team USA their first title in the World Baseball Classic. Due to his dominant performance in two of the three games he started, Stroman was named the WBC MVP.
The only Pittsburgh Pirates player to get in the game was Andrew McCutchen. The Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder got the start in right field for the Americans. Cutch had his first multi-hit game of the tournament, collecting two hits in four plate appearances. Both hits were big too, as he knocked in two of Team USA’s runs.
Cutch’s most impressive at-bat might have been the one where he walked. Puerto Rico had a young, power arm in Jose Berrios on the mound. With two runners on, Cutch worked the count to 3-2. Instead of swinging and missing or rolling over on a pitch like he did so many times in 2016, the former MVP fouled three tough pitches off. He earned himself a walk on the fourth offering. Although it was merely a walk, it kept the inning going and allowed Brandon Crawford to knock in two more runs on his only hit of the night. All in all, it was a good final game for Andrew McCutchen as he heads back to the Pittsburgh Pirates.
In the end, Andrew McCutchen’s performance looks below average statistically. He only hit .238 for the tournament, collecting five hits in 21 at-bats. However, each of those hits came at opportune times, as he also had five RBIs. The Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder struggled in the early going, but he looked better and better each game at the plate. He also handled his new home in right field well, as he played multiples games out there. Furthermore, Josh Harrison did not see the field in the Championship Game. Harrison only received five at-bats this tournament, one being a pinch hit, and the other a start. It will be good to get Harrison back to the Pittsburgh Pirates Spring Training and get him ready for Opening Day.