MIAMI — Trea Turner hit a walk-off grand slam in the eighth inning that lifted the United States over Venezuela 9-7 on Saturday night and into the semifinals of the World Baseball Classic.
Defending champion USA will face Cuba on Sunday night for a spot in the WBC final against either Japan or Mexico. St. Louis Cardinals right-hander Adam Wainwright will start for Team USA against Cuba.
Venezuelan second baseman and Houston Astros star Jose Altuve left the game in the fifth with a right hand injury after being hit by Daniel Bard. The Astros said there would be an update on his status on Sunday.
Trailing 7-5, the United States loaded the bases in the eighth on a walk, single and hit by pitch against losing pitcher Jose Quihada. Silvino Bracha replaced him, then Turner, the No. 9 hitter for the U.S., sent his 0-2 replacement 407 feet into deep left field for the third grand slam in U.S. WBC history.
“Individually, I think it’s probably the biggest hit I’ve had … probably right up there with any hit I’ve ever had,” Turner said.
TREA TERNER GRAND SLAM!!!
ARE YOU BLOWN?!?!
📺: WBC on FOX pic.twitter.com/G4l6nwsH9Y
— FOX Sports: MLB (@MLBONFOX) March 19, 2023
American manager Mark DeRosa said Saturday’s win was one of the three greatest games he’s ever been involved in — including the 2010 World Series victory over the San Francisco Giants.
“I told the guys before the game that I wanted to match their passion,” said DeRosa, who once played for Venezuelan professional team Leones del Caracas. “I played there. I was a part of that, coming out of the dugout and jumping… When Trea hit the ball, honestly, I saw about 35 guys, including the coaches, pass out and lose their minds for a minute. So it was just a wonderful moment.”
David Bednar, the fifth of seven American pitchers, got the win. Ryan Pressley got three straight strikeouts for the save.
Luis Araez, playing the field he will soon call home with the Miami Marlins, had the first multi-homer game of his professional career and drove in four runs for Venezuela.
Team USA boasts a roster of big names with many looking to repeat as WBC champions.
All nine batters in the US starting batting order were All-Stars, including Los Angeles Dodgers right fielder Mookie Betts, Los Angeles Angels center fielder Mike Trout, Cardinals first baseman Paul Goldschmidt and from third base by Nolan Arenado.
The U.S. is among the top six in the tournament in batting average (.296), RBIs (34) and hits (48), and every American starter had a hit against Venezuela, which went 4-0 in group play.
“Unfortunately, this is baseball,” Venezuela coach Omar Lopez said. “We have to accept it and as men we have to hold our heads high. It’s not easy, especially when they’re back in the game.”
Venezuela took a 6-5 lead in the four-run fifth on Ronald Acuña Jr.’s sacrifice fly to deep center field.
Salvador Perez drove in the tying run with a double that sailed down the left-field foul line.
Araez hit a two-run home run to right field in the first, his first home run in his new home park, and added another in the seventh to give Venezuela a two-run lead. Araez, the reigning AL batting champion, was traded to the WBC farm team the Miami Marlins this offseason after four seasons in Minnesota.
Bard replaced American starter Lance Lin with a 5-2 lead in the fifth and loaded the bases with two walks, an infield hit and a pitch that hurt Altuve.
Bard was stopped after Gleyber Torres scored on a wild pitch to make it 5-3. Venezuela added its final three runs against Jason Adam, who managed to get out of the inning in 10 innings.
The US hit five straight singles to start the game. Betts led off the first with an infield single, then the speedster raced from first to third on Trout’s single to center, scoring when he forced a throwing error by Acuña.
Kyle Tucker headed to the US with Astros teammate Luis Garcia.