Late-game heroics lift U.S. to 9-7 quarterfinal win over Venezuela

MIAMI, Fla. – Trea Turner launched a go-ahead grand slam in the top of the eighth inning to lift Team USA to a 9-7 quarterfinal win over Venezuela on Saturday night at loanDepot Park. The U.S. secured its spot in the World Baseball Classic semifinal round with the win.

It will be Team USA’s second-consecutive trip to the World Baseball Classic semifinal round and its third overall.

Trailing by two runs in the top of the eighth, the United States (4-1) put together a furious rally capped by Turner’s grand slam to take the lead. Tim Anderson drew a leadoff walk, Pete Alonso hit a pinch-hit bloop single, and J.T. Realmuto was hit by a pitch to load the bases with nobody out for Turner. After a pitching change, Turner fell behind 0-2 before crushing a grand slam deep over the left-field wall to put Team USA in front for good, 9-7.

Turner’s grand slam was the third in Team USA’s history at the World Baseball Classic and the first since David Wright’s slam against Italy in 2013.

The U.S. kicked the game off with five consecutive hits in the top of the first to take an immediate 3-0 lead in the quarterfinal matchup. Mookie Betts led off the game with an infield single and came around to score when Mike Trout blooped a single to center field and Venezuela’s Ronald Acuña Jr. made a throwing error to advance the runners. Trout was then plated on an RBI-knock by Paul Goldschmidt, and–after a Nolan Arenado single put runners on the corners–Kyle Tucker singled up the middle to bring home Goldschmidt.

It was the first time the U.S. had five consecutive hits without recording an out in a World Baseball Classic game since 2006 against South Africa.

Venezuela (4-1) responded by scoring twice in the bottom of the first to trim its deficit to one. Then, the stars and stripes put a leadoff batter on for the third time in the first four innings in the top of the fourth to kick off another run-scoring frame. Kyle Schwarber pulled a base hit past the shift into right field and advanced to third on a throwing error before scoring on a Betts sacrifice fly, making it 4-2 in favor of Team USA.

With two outs and nobody on, Tucker added to the red, white, and blue’s lead in the top of the fifth. The lefty launched a 1-1 pitch over the wall in right to give the U.S. a 5-2 advantage, becoming the fifth different player to homer for Team USA in the tournament.

Venezuela capitalized on wild U.S. pitching and timely hitting to take a 6-5 lead, scoring four runs in the bottom of the fifth and taking the lead for the first time in the game. The lead grew to 7-5 on a solo shot in the bottom of the seventh before Turner’s heroics capped Team USA’s four-run eighth inning.

Lance Lynn started on the mound for the United States and pitched four solid frames in a no-decision, allowing just two runs in the bottom of the first. Lynn finished his night by striking out the potential game-tying run in the bottom of the fourth for one of his two punch-outs on the night. David Bednar (1-0) earned the win after allowing a run in an otherwise uneventful seventh. Adam Ottavino and Devin Williams each recorded two strikeouts in scoreless innings, and Ryan Pressly (2) turned in a perfect ninth to earn his second consecutive save.

Team USA’s offense showed up on Saturday night and pieced together 15 hits, a tournament high for the stars and stripes. All nine players in the starting lineup collected a hit in the win, including Tucker (3-for-5, HR, 2 RBI). Arenado (2-for-5), Goldschmidt (2-for-5, RBI), and Realmuto (2-for-3) also had multi-hit games for the United States. Turner (1-for-3, 4 RBI) and Tucker both had multiple-RBI games for the red, white, and blue, who had four extra-base hits.

Team USA is back in action Sunday night (March 19) against Cuba (3-2) in the World Baseball Classic semifinal round. The first pitch is set for 7:00 p.m. ET at loanDepot Park in Miami, Florida, and the game will be televised nationally on Fox Sports 1.

JP Raineri
JP Raineri

JP is an award-winning multimedia journalist, and head of the Sports Department for the Valley News. Over his time in the Temecula Valley, JP, a former Southwestern League head baseball coach, was also an on-air radio personality at Q103.3, KATY 101.3, Hot 103.9, and was a television host for the Outdoor Channel. When not covering local, or national sports, JP also serves as an Associate Baseball Scout with NSR.