Puerto Rico falls short in amazing Classic run

Gracious in championship game defeat, team put together great tournament

March 23rd, 2017

For the second consecutive World Baseball Classic, Team Puerto Rico fell one victory shy of winning its first Classic title, as an undefeated run through the first seven games of the tournament ended in an 8-0 loss to the United States on Wednesday night at Dodger Stadium.

Puerto Rico was also shut out in the Classic final for the second straight time, having been blanked by the Dominican Republic in 2013, 3-0, at AT&T Park. But despite the disappointment in defeat, the team remained on the field to embrace players from the victorious U.S. squad, congratulating them on their country's first Classic championship.

:: 2017 World Baseball Classic ::

"Well, the feeling is a mixed feeling, obviously. We went out today to win the championship, but we were unable to do so," said Puerto Rico manager Edwin Rodriguez. "We lost against a great team, the United States. But we are very satisfied that we were able to go 7-1. ... And I see that there is much hope with this group, with these young players. I believe that the foundations are set, and in the three or four Classics ahead, we will win it."

Puerto Rico's star-studded lineup included a core of young MLB stars who could well be anchors in the team's lineup for future Classics, including Astros shortstop , Indians shortstop and Cubs second baseman .

That trio went a combined 0-for-11 in the championship game against dominant U.S. pitching -- particularly starter , who didn't surrender a hit until the seventh inning. But overall, each had a strong Classic.

Correa, the 2015 American League Rookie of the Year Award winner, hit .333 (8-for-24) with a double and three home runs in the tournament. The 22-year-old also dazzled at third base, a position he had never played professionally entering the Classic.

"It's the most fun I've ever had playing baseball," Correa said. "These two weeks were amazing with this team. It's like a brotherhood, like a family. ... We ran into a great pitching performance by Stroman and a very good team tonight. But we have a great team with great players and we will be back."

Lindor, 23, followed up a World Series appearance with the Indians by hitting .370 (10-for-27) while playing a stellar shortstop in the Classic.

Baez, fresh off the Cubs' first World Series title in 108 years, made spectacular plays in the field and on the basepaths during WBC 2017. He also hit .296 (8-for-27) with a double and a homer.

The youngsters weren't the only ones to shine for Puerto Rico in WBC 2017. The Astros' , who has played in all four Classics for his native country, hit .435 (10-for-23). And the Cardinals' , also participating in his fourth Classic, hit .333 (8-for-24) with a pair of homers en route to a unanimous selection to the all-WBC Team.

Molina also dazzled behind the plate, accounting for two outs in the first inning of Puerto Rico's semifinal against the Netherlands by throwing behind and . Molina's passion was evident throughout the tournament, as the sight of him pumping his fists after making a big play became commonplace during Puerto Rico's winning streak.

"Up until tonight, they played better baseball than anybody in the tournament," U.S. manager Jim Leyland said of Team Puerto Rico. "Tonight, in a must-win situation for both teams, we played better."

Puerto Rico has come closer to winning a World Baseball Classic championship without actually doing so, more than any other team. But with a young core of stars and undiminished passion, expect Team Puerto Rico to be back in this position with an eye on finally capturing the title in Classics to come.