Trea Turner and the rest of Team USA’s hitters played to their offensive strengths as they beat Team Venezuela 9–7 in last night’s WBC Quarterfinal game. In a game where their pitching struggled, Team USA’s offense was needed and its hitters produced brilliantly.
USA Jumps Out In Front
Team USA couldn’t have asked for a better start to their game, scoring three runs in the first inning. Mookie Betts started the night with a single up the middle just past the outstretched arms of second baseman Jose Altuve. Then Mike Trout followed that up with a bloop single into short center field.
Betts hustled around second base on his way to third and centerfielder Ronald Acuña Jr. tried to throw him out. Fortunately for Team USA, the ball ricocheted off Betts and rolled into Team Venezuela’s dugout. This allowed Betts to advance home for the first run of the game and allowed Trout to advance to third base.
The hitting parade continued as Paul Goldschmidt lined a single into right field, scoring Trout. After a Nolan Arenado single advanced Goldschmidt to third, Kyle Tucker came up to the plate with runners at the corners.
Tucker proceeded to hit the fifth consecutive single of the inning, scoring Goldschmidt and moving Arenado to third. Tucker was tagged out by Altuve as he tried to advance to second base.
Team USA’s hitters chased Team Venezuela starting pitcher Martín Pérez from the game in the first inning after only 16 pitches. Venezuela’s relief pitcher would get the next two outs and end the inning.
Team USA’s lead would shrink in the bottom half of the inning when Team Venezuela’s first baseman Luis Arraez came up to the plate with one out and a man on first base. In the second pitch of the at-bat, Arraez took advantage of a Lance Lynn cutter that didn’t move inside enough, turning on the pitch, and driving it into the right field seats.
After Team USA scored a run in the fourth inning off a Betts sacrifice fly to center field and in the fifth inning off a Tucker home run to right field, they found themselves holding a 5–2 lead heading into the bottom of the fifth inning.
Venezuela Mounts A Comeback
After the fourth inning, Lynn’s night was done. So Daniel Bard came out of the bullpen to relieve him. Unfortunately for Team USA, Bard had problems with his command, allowing all four batters he faced to get on base.
After a wild pitch scored a run and he walked his second batter, Bard was relieved by Jason Adam with the bases loaded. Faced with an almost impossible task, Adam tried to get three outs and keep Venezuela’s hitters from doing major damage.
Adam got his first out via an Arraez ground out to second baseman Tim Anderson. However, a run came across and Venezuela still had men at the corners with one out. Venezuela catcher Salvador Perez then laced a double down the left field line to tie the game.
The next at-bat, Acuna Jr. hit a sacrifice fly to center field, scoring Arraez and giving Venezuela a 6–5 lead.
Team USA tried to tie the game up in the top of the seventh inning, but Tucker would strike out to end the inning.
Arraez would continue his dominant night at the plate in the bottom half of the inning. This time, he hit his second home run of the night, banging it off the foul pole in right field.
Now sporting a 7–5 lead, Team Venezuela found themselves six outs away from facing off against Cuba in the Semifinals.
Turner Flips the Lead in Grand Fashion
José Quijada, who ended the seventh inning threat, came out again to pitch the eighth inning for Venezuela. He immediately found himself in trouble, giving up a six pitch walk to Anderson, followed by a Pete Alonso pinch-hit single to right field.
USA catcher J.T. Realmuto was hit by a pitch in the next at-bat on a 2-0 count, loading the bases. Then, Venezuela decided to bring in Silvino Bracho to face Turner, ending Quijada’s night.
With the bases loaded and nobody out, Turner watched a fastball called for a strike and fouled off the second pitch of the at-bat. Down 0-2 in the count, Turner watched as Bracho threw a changeup that lingered over the heart of the plate.
Now Turner, eyes wide seeing the gift presented before him, seized his opportunity and launched a majestic grand slam deep into the Miami night.
That shot would flip the script for the United States, giving them a 9–7 eighth inning lead.
Finally, relievers Devin Williams and Ryan Pressly would go on to shutdown Venezuela’s hitters in the eighth and ninth innings, securing Team USA’s spot in tonight’s Semifinal game against Cuba.
Comments After the Game
“I feel like I blacked out… it was a big homer,” Turner said. “It was fun, this is why we’re playing, that’s why we’re here.”
Arenado, Turner’s infield neighbor at third base, was gushing over Turner’s home run and his team’s performance.
“Wow! What a swing. The guy’s a stud,” Arenado said. “We didn’t quit, we found a way. It was awesome.”
After the game, Team USA manager Mark DeRosa said that he was happy to be a part of last night’s win and to witness all the heroics his team produced to move on to the Semifinals.
“[That was] one of the greatest games I’ve ever been a part of.” DeRosa said.
By the Numbers
According to MLB reporter and researcher extraordinaire Sarah Langs, Turner’s grand slam was the 14th overall in the WBC and only the third ever for Team USA , joining Jason Varitek in 2006 and David Wright in 2013.
Turner and Trout are tied for the team lead in RBIs with six. Turner shares the lead while playing in one less game than Trout.
Unfortunately Bard continues to struggle in the WBC, giving up a total of eight earned runs in three appearances. Although he had a scoreless outing against Colombia to end pool play, his performances against Mexico and Venezuela are concerning.
Also, hitting coach Ken Griffey Jr. had to feel pretty good last night, as every Team USA starter recorded at least one hit.
Semifinal Matchup Against Cuba
After outlasting Venezuela in their Quarterfinal game, Team USA gets right back into the heat of competition tonight. Adam Wainwright takes the mount for Team USA as they face off against Roenis Elías and Cuba for a spot in the WBC championship game.
Cuba beat Australia 4–3 in their Quarterfinal matchup on Wednesday in Tokyo. Cuba is rested and ready after traveling to Miami and having the last few days off. They look to advance to the WBC championship game for the first time since they lost the inaugural WBC championship game in 2006 to Japan.
Tonight’s Semifinal game will take place at 7 PM ET on FS1. The winner will face the winner of Monday night’s Semifinal game between Mexico and Japan. Monday’s game also starts at 7 PM ET on FS1.