Turner and Goldschmidt propel Team USA past Cuba in WBC final
MIAMI — At the bottom of the billion-dollar roster that sent Team USA to the finals of the World Baseball Classic with a 14-2 win over Cuba on Sunday night sits the No. 9 most dangerous hitter everyone in baseball remembers. Trea Turner, to be clear, is no one’s idea of a ninth-place hitter, but the American roster is no ordinary batting team either.
The US bombardment of Cuba in front of a packed, sold-out crowd of 35,779 at LoanDepot Park concluded a wild 24 hours in which Turner hit a tournament-saving grand slam to beat Venezuela in the quarterfinals and followed with two more homers in the semifinals on Sunday. The United States will face the winner of Japan and Mexico, who play here at 7 p.m. ET on Monday.
A night when the chants of “Libertad!” rang in the stadium intermittently and three protesters ran onto the field to the cheers of the crowd, the United States dismantled a Cuban team whose appearance in the semi-finals exceeded pre-tournament expectations. While Japan remain the favourites, the American team that showed up on Sunday looked even more like a juggernaut than in 2017, when they won the title. This team didn’t have Turner, let alone Mookie Betts or Mike Trout, who occupy the top two spots on this roster. Add Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado, Kyle Schwarber and Will Smith, Pete Alonso and Tim Anderson and the potential for pitchers to find themselves as confused as Cuba’s is acute.
“I have to pinch myself all the time realizing that this formation is fair – I’ve never seen anything like it,” USA starter Adam Wainwright told ESPN after allowing one run over four innings in the win. “Has there ever been a better one? Probably not.
Turner is not one to comment on such things. He is renowned for his stability and simplicity, and amid celebrations of his exploits in the United States, Turner did his best to remain entirely stoic. On his first swing after the eighth-inning Grand Slam that pushed the United States past previously undefeated Venezuela, Turner hammered a second-inning solo home run that gave the United States a 3- 1 against Cuba. Turner’s three-point outburst in the sixth turned a game on the precipice of a blowout into an indisputable one, giving Team USA a 12-2 lead.
From top to bottom of the lineup, American stars shone. Betts went 3 for 6 and scored twice. Arenado was 2 for 3 with two runs before leaving the game after being hit by a pitch. (He told ESPN he would play in the final.) Cedric Mullins homered to report on the final run. Goldschmidt, whose two-run homer in the first gave the United States a lead they never relinquished, had two hits and drove in four runs.
“It was one of my favorite home runs of my entire life,” said Goldschmidt, who along with the rest of the American players marveled at the atmosphere at LoanDepot Park, where Cuba played for the first time. time. .
Turner’s line was the best of them all: 3 for 5 with four RBIs to give him the tournament best 10. Turner also set an American record for home runs in a WBC (four) and tied the mark for home runs in a WBC game. with Ken Griffey Jr., who is the batting coach for Team USA.
“I just can’t wait to tell him,” Turner said.
After signing an 11-year, $300 million deal with the Philadelphia Phillies over the winter, the 29-year-old Turner has spent the WBC’s last four games — all American wins — ranking ninth. Mark DeRosa said he was considering moving Turner from the No. 9 hole to the sixth for the match against Cuba, but the manager explained: “There’s a flow in the lineup right now that I didn’t want to play with. seems fine with it.”
Turner, truth be told, agrees with just about anything. He tore his batting glove and threw it straight in the trash, neither overly sentimental nor particularly superstitious. When Phillies teammate Schwarber came out of the clubhouse, rolled his eyes, and said to Turner, “We get it. You hit two homers and a grand slam,” Turner chuckled in good humor. Pragmatism is perhaps Turner’s most obvious quality – aside from perhaps the sneaky power and elite speed that make him one of baseball’s best players.
“I don’t do a lot of emotions,” Turner told ESPN. “Just because you hit a homer doesn’t mean you’re going to do anything next time. So compartmentalize, and when the day is over, you take a step back, see what happened , then move on. From there.”
What Turner sees when he steps back is a lineup currently on contracts worth over $1.5 billion. “I know I have some really good guys behind me,” he said. “Mookie, Mike, Paul, Nolan…”
Cuba, fielding a team in an international tournament for the first time with Major League Baseball players, quickly grew weary of this American roster after its own hot start annoyed a crowd full of football fans. team if not of his government. Three field singles against Wainwright charged the no-outs and a walk by Alfredo Despaigne gave Cuba a 1-0 lead. Wainwright pulled himself out of the jam and didn’t look back before giving way to St. Louis Cardinals teammate Miles Mikolas, who followed with four more innings, skirting issues to allow only a single from Andy Ibanez in the fifth.
Team USA will take time off Monday and watch the game between their potential opponents. Japan will launch its flamethrower Roki Sasaki, a 21-year-old phenom, and also plan to launch Yoshinobu Yamamoto, who has won the Sawamura award – Japan’s equivalent of the Cy Young – each of the past two seasons. If Japan takes a comfortable lead, Yamamoto could be saved for Team USA. Mexico, which handed the United States its only WBC loss and defeated Puerto Rico in the quarter-finals, will be started by Los Angeles Angels left-hander Patrick Sandoval.
After winning the first two WBCs, in 2006 and 2009, Japan lost in the semi-finals in 2013 and 2017, the latter to team USA who won the tournament. This is the first time that Mexico has made it to the bottom four of the tournament.