The United States wasn’t an easy team to cheer for, heading into Wednesday night’s championship game of the World Baseball Classic. Let’s be honest, unless you’re an American, they’re not ever an easy team to cheer for, no matter what the sport. But in this tournament in particular there’s an aloofness about the whole American endeavor — not from the players on the field, but on the whole — that makes such an ugly contrast with the passion of the Latin American teams that you just can’t let yourself get behind them. You’d rather see a team win for whom it would genuinely mean something, not just for the players or fans in the ballpark or watching on TV, but for the country itself.
Add in Ian Kinsler’s moronic fun police routine on Wednesday afternoon — he criticized the way the Dominicans and Puerto Ricans display their passion, and said that he hoped “kids watching the WBC can watch the way we play the game and appreciate the way we play the game as opposed to the way Puerto Rico plays or the Dominican plays” — and I found myself hoping for a tidy Marcus Stroman start, and then whoever followed him for the States to get his head bashed in.
Turns out, it didn’t matter who followed Stroman. By the time he exited in the seventh inning, immediately after allowing his first hit of the ballgame, Puerto Rico seemed demoralized, and the Americans already led 6-0. It was over.
Stroman was spectacular. He managed just three strikeouts, but kept the ball down in the zone and used a varying windup to keep hitters off balance, walking just one, and inducing eleven groundball outs. His exit to a standing ovation at Dodger Stadium was fully deserved, and awesome:
Last year on Opening Day, Stroman had what felt like a similar coming out party, outduelling Chris Archer and brilliantly working the lower edge of the zone. It seemed to portend big things for a pitcher many then expected to be the Blue Jays’ ace, but, of course… it didn’t.
This too doesn’t automatically mean that Stroman suddenly has it all figured out, but holy shit, it’s a much better sign than it is a bad one. And it was a whole hell of a lot of fun to watch.
This is Marcus Stroman at his absolute best, and not just because of his six no-hit innings. Soft-contact ground balls are bread and butter.— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) March 23, 2017
That Stroman shimmy. pic.twitter.com/HhKka3Z28y— Ian Hunter (@BlueJayHunter) March 23, 2017
Marcus Stroman has put the baseball world on notice this #wbc2017 He's a Star! Hint Hint MLB, market your young stars! 🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸— Vernon Wells (@VernonWells10) March 23, 2017
Marcus Str0man— Minor Leaguer (@Minor_Leaguer) March 23, 2017
TFW when your team has a rotation with five aces pic.twitter.com/OzTuPLQw03— Blue Jays Nation (@thejaysnation) March 23, 2017
U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-A!