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USA 9, VEN 7; Team USA advances to semifinals on Trea Turner’s grand slam

A back-and-forth offensive masterpiece ends in a USA win.

World Baseball Classic Quarterfinals: United States v Venezuela Photo by Gene Wang/Getty Images

You couldn’t have asked for a more exciting World Baseball Classic matchup on Saturday night as the United States arrived at LoanDepot Park for the first time in the tournament to battle undefeated Venezuela. Both teams went with their best starter pitcher: Lance Lynn for Team USA and Martin Pérez for Venezuela.

In an unexpected fashion, Venezuela struggled to get outs in the first inning. Pérez was taken out of the game after allowing three early runs. Mike Trout, Paul Goldschmidt, and Kyle Tucker all had RBIs against him.

Pérez through only 16 pitches, giving up five hits and three runs (all earned), didn’t walk anyone but didn’t strike out anyone either. José Ruiz entered the game to replace Pérez.

Ruiz was able to get two quick outs thanks to a Tim Anderson strikeout and one pop out.

Venezuela had offensive plans of their own. Lance Lynn immediately began on the wrong note as José Altuve smacked a 103.4 MPH single to left field to set the stage for Anthony Santander, who had been arguably Venezuela’s best player in the tournament. This time, though, he popped out to Nolan Arenado.

With one out in the bottom of the first, new Marlin Luis Arráez entered the plate. Arráez isn’t known for his power, but he had a career-high eight homers in 2022. With a 1-0 count, Lance Lynn throws a 90.6 MPH cutter that was just in the right spot for Luis Arráez to smack a 102.3 MPH homer that went 377 feet into right field. Venezuela got on the board, trailing USA 3-2.

After the wild first inning, the second and third inning didn’t bring much action. Astros right-hander Luis Garcia kept the game close for Venezuela during his four-inning relief appearance. A Mookie Betts sacrifice fly was the first run that Garcia gave up. Then, in a 1-1 count, Houston teammate Kyle Tucker hit a 365-foot homer that went at 105.2 MPH to right field. This extended the lead to 5-2.

Colorado Rockies closer Daniel Bard replaced Lance Lynn, who had a solid outing. Lynn struck out two and only allowed four hits on two runs against the undefeated Venezuelans, really settling in after his first-inning mistake.

Bard entered this game in the bottom of the fifth with no control. He walked Gleyber Torres, allowed a hit to Andres Gimenez, and threw a wild pitch to advance both runners. Then the worst-case scenario happened: Bard hit José Altuve right on the hand. Altuve left the game without any hesitation and was replaced by Luis Rengifo.

The control issues would continue for Bard. Throwing a wild pitch over the head of Anthony Santander allowed runners to advance once again. Bard ended up walking Santander and loading up the bases for Luis Arráez. Bard did not have the opportunity to face Arráez as he was taken out in place of Tampa Bay Rays reliever Jason Adams.

Remember that in the World Baseball Classic, the new MLB rules do not apply. So we have the shift, smaller bases, and no pitch clock. Arráez has been shifted on throughout this whole tournament and USA’s defensive alignment robbed him of a hit here. Tim Anderson was able to reach his grounder and turn it into a force out, allowing a run to score for Venezuela, but getting a precious out.

Adams would then face Pool D MVP Salvador Pérez of the Kansas City Royals. On a 1-1 count and one out in the inning, Salvy hit a 104.5 MPH double to left field. Luis Rengifo scored and tied the game for the Venezuelans, 5-5.

Venezuela was hungry for more after the Perez RBI double. Miami fan favorite Ronald Acuña Jr. hit a sacrifice fly to give Venezuela their first lead of the game. All of these runs counted onto Daniel Bard’s final line.

Both sides would be quiet in terms of run-scoring until the seventh inning. That is when Luis Arráez stepped up to the plate and hit his second homer of the day. This marked his first career multi-homer game. This homer was 351 feet and 101.4 MPH off the bat and extended the lead to 7-5.

Just when you thought that there was little to no hope, the United States rallied against former Marlin José Quijada. He walked Tim Anderson, Pete Alonso singled, and J.T. Realmuto was hit by a pitch, loading the bases for Trea Turner. Quijada was removed from the game following the Realmuto hit by pitch.

Silvino Bracho got into a comfortable 0-2 count, but threw an 85.5 MPH changeup which was basically right down the middle. Turner hit a grand slam and turned this whole game around. His homer left the bat at 103.3 MPH and went 407 feet in the air to left field to give USA a 9-7 lead.

To be fair, there is no easy answer when facing Turner, who has been slashing .286/.375/.714/1.089 in the WBC. However, maybe Venezuela should have gone with Phillies flamethrower José Alvarado in that situation.

According to Venezuela manager Omar López, Alvarado was not ready to enter the game for the Trea Turner at-bat and was limited to only four outs.

Alvarado pitched a scoreless top of the ninth after it was already too late.

Venezuela’s loss eliminates them and leaves the Marlins without any WBC players left. Jesús Luzardo, Luis Arráez, and Enmanuel De Jesús will now report back to Jupiter.

The United States moved on to the semifinals.

Game notes:

  • Arráez finishes the tournament slashing .235/.316/.647/.963 with two home runs and four RBIs. Arráez is the only Venezuelan player who had a two-hit game tonight.
  • De Jesús finished his WBC stint with a 2.45 ERA and five strikeouts. He only played one game (against Israel).
  • Former Marlin J.T. Realmuto had a two-hit day.
  • Luis Garcia was the pitcher with the most strikeouts in the game (3).
  • There were 16 combined runs scored on 23 hits.
  • The WBC semifinals are now set: Cuba v. USA and Japan v. Mexico.

What’s Next

The USA is back at it on Sunday. They will face Cuba in the semifinals. The starter for Cuba will be Roenis Elias and for Team USA it’ll be Adam Wainwright. In the other semifinal matchup on Monday, Mexico will go with Los Angeles Angels lefty Patrick Sandoval, and Japan will go with Roki Sasaki.