MIAMI — Trea Turner hit a go-ahead grand slam in the eighth inning that led the United States 9-7 over Venezuela and into the semifinals of the World Baseball Classic on Saturday night.
Defending champions USA take on Cuba on Sunday night for a spot in the WBC Finals against either Japan or Mexico. St. Louis Cardinals right-hander Adam Wainwright will start for the USA against Cuba.
Venezuela’s second baseman and Houston Astros star Jose Altuve left the fifth with a right hand injury after being hit by a Daniel Bard pitch. The Astros said there would be an update on his status on Sunday.
Trailing 7-5, the United States loaded bases in eighth on a walk, individually and hit by pitch against losing pitcher Jose Quijada. Silvino Bracho was relieved and Turner, the No. 9 batsman in the US lineup, sent his 0-2 substitution 407 feet into deep left field for the third grand slam in American WBC history.
“Individually, I think this is probably the biggest hit I’ve had … probably tied for any hit I’ve ever had,” Turner said.
US manager Mark DeRosa said Saturday’s win was one of the three biggest games he’s ever been in — including winning the World Series with the San Francisco Giants in 2010.
“I told the guys before the game that I wanted to keep up with their passion,” said DeRosa, who once played for Venezuela’s Leones del Caracas professional team. “I had played over there. I had been a part of it, coming out of the dugout and jumping around… When Trea cut that ball I honestly saw about 35 guys including the coaches kind of passed out and out of their minds for a minute. So it was just a great moment.”
David Bednar, the fifth of seven US pitchers, clinched the win and Ryan Pressly finished with three straight outs for the save.
Luis Arraez, who plays with the Miami Marlins at the stadium he will soon call home, had the first multihomer game of his pro career, driving in four runs for Venezuela.
The US team boasts a lineup of big names that many have chosen to repeat as WBC champions.
All nine batsmen in the US starting order were All-Stars, including Los Angeles Dodgers right fielder Mookie Betts, Los Angeles Angels midfielder Mike Trout, Cardinals first baseman Paul Goldschmidt, and third baseman Nolan Arenado.
The US is in the tournament’s top six in batting averages (.296), RBIs (34) and hits (48), and every American starter had a hit against Venezuela, who went 4-0 in group play.
“Unfortunately, that’s baseball,” said Venezuela coach Omar López. “We have to accept that and as men we have to keep our heads up. It’s not easy, especially when they came back into play.”
Venezuela took a 6-5 lead in a fifth heat after Ronald Acuña Jr. sacrificed a run deep in the center.
Salvador Perez drove in the tie-run with a line-drive double that sneaked just inside the left foul line.
Arraez hit a two-run drive to right field in the first off of Lance Lynn, his first home run at his new home park, and added another high from the right field foul pole in the seventh against Bednar to give Venezuela a two-run to gain a head start. Arraez, the reigning AL batting champion, was traded to WBC hosts Miami Marlins this offseason after four seasons in Minnesota.
Bard replaced Lynn with a 5-2 lead in the fifth, taxing the bases with two walks, an infield hit and the pitch that injured Altuve.
Bard was drawn after Gleyber hit Torres on a wild pitch to make it 5-3 and Arraez hit an RBI groundout on Jason Adam.
USA hit five straight singles to start the game. Betts led first with an infield single, then the speedster sped from first to third with Trout’s single to center and scored when he forced a throwing error from Acuña.
Kyle Tucker scored for the USA in fifth place ahead of Astros teammate Luis Garcia.
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