MIAMI — Trea Turner didn’t jog his way to first base. He hopped. Pranced. Flexed. Roared. With his team trailing by two in the eighth inning of its World Baseball Classic quarterfinal game against Venezuela, the Philadelphia Phillies‘ shortstop and Team USA catalyst unleashed a prodigious grand slam, providing the two-run lead that proved to be the definitive blow in an emotional, back-and-forth 9-7 victory at loanDepot Park on Saturday night.
Team USA, champions the last time the WBC was staged in 2017, will advance to play Cuba in the semifinals on Sunday night.
The U.S. began the game by stringing together five consecutive hits against Texas Rangers left-hander Martin Perez, jumping out to an early three-run lead. After Venezuela cut their deficit to one with a two-run homer by Luis Arraez in the bottom of the first — his first of two — the U.S. tacked on a couple of insurance runs with a sacrifice fly by Mookie Betts in the fourth and a solo home run by Kyle Tucker in the fifth.
And shortly after Venezuela captured its first lead with a four-run bottom of the fifth – the product of a disastrous performance by Daniel Bard, who plunked Jose Altuve in the right hand, forcing his exit, and uncorked two wild pitches – they came back for good.
Team USA loaded the bases with none out in the top of the eighth against left-hander Jose Quijada, who surrendered a walk to Tim Anderson, a single to pinch-hitter Pete Alonso and a hit by pitch to J.T. Realmuto. Turner, the $300 million shortstop who bats ninth in this lineup, was up next, prompting Venezuela manager Omar Lopez to turn to right-hander Silvino Bracho. Bracho began the count 0-2 but left a changeup right out over the heart of the plate, and Turner deposited it 407 feet to left field.
Most of Turner’s Team USA teammates had spilled out of the dugout by the time the baseball landed. A sold-out crowd followed shortly thereafter. It marked the first time all night that the U.S. cheers had drowned out those for Venezuela.
In the ninth, as Ryan Pressly navigated through a save, the “USA” chants filled the air.