Trea Turner, Team USA crush Cuba to reach World Baseball Classic final

Trea Turner, Team USA crush Cuba to reach World Baseball Classic final

MIAMI — How strong is Team USA’s lineup of All-Stars? Well, its No. 9 hitter, Trea Turner, is turning the World Baseball Classic into a personal showcase, hitting two more homers to lead a rout of Cuba and send Team USA to the WBC Championship game the night after his grand slam saved it from a surprise early exit.

Cries of “U-S-A” rang out, and Team USA’s relentless attack responded with a performance worthy of its pedigree, pounding Cuba, 14-2, on Sunday night to qualify for the WBC finals.

Turner became the first Team USA player since Ken Griffey Jr., now a USA hitting coach, to hit two homers in a game.

In an electric atmosphere — featuring competing chants, which continued throughout a blowout game, plus three on-field protesters — USA’s batting order stole the show.

Turner and Paul Goldschmidt powered the USA squad with four RBIs apiece at loanDepot Park.

Tuesday night Team USA will defend its WBC crown, won in 2017, against either Japan or Mexico, who play Monday night in the other semifinal game.


USA
Trea Turner celebrates his three-run homer for Team USA on Sunday.
Getty Images

Team USA has ridden its explosive offensive, but could be tested in the finals, especially if it faces the vaunted Team Japan, which is the only undefeated squad in the tournament and features some of the world’s best pitchers, including Shohei Ohtani, who could be in line to close in the finals.

Some of the chanting in the crowd was political, which was anticipated, in a city where much of the population is comprised of people who escaped the oppression of the Cuban government.

One protestor who ran onto the field unfurled a banner that read “Libertad Para Los Cubanos,” or “Liberty for Cubans.”


Trea Turner hits a home run during the second inning of the World Baseball Classic semifinals against Cuba.
Trea Turner hits a home run during the second inning of the World Baseball Classic semifinals against Cuba.
AP

Most of the commentary, however, was limited to choruses from the crowd. Bigger noise came from Team USA’s bats and its relentless offensive attack, which scored in each of the first six innings.

From leadoff man Mookie Betts at the top to Turner, there is no rest for opposing pitchers, and Cuba’s variety of soft throwers and softer throwers was no match for probably the best batting order they are ever going to see.

Turner homered in his first at-bat of the evening, practically duplicating the drive he hit for a grand slam that beat Venezuela 9-7 in their quarterfinal game Saturday night and sent the ballpark and his team into delirium.

Turner, a $300 million winter signee of the Phillies, has to qualify as one of the greatest No. 9 hitters in baseball history. The first eight aren’t bad either.

Team USA starter Adam Wainwright used a selection of sub-90 mph pitches to keep a Cuban lineup that featured Luis Robert and Yoan Moncada but few other familiar names mostly off the board.

Wainwright got off to a rocky start, allowing the first four Cuban hitters to reach base — three on consecutive infield singles to start the game and a walk to cleanup man Alfredo Despaigne — before pitching his way out of the jams.


A trainer looks at Nolan Arenado's hand after it has hit by a pitch during the fifth inning.
A trainer looks at Nolan Arenado’s hand after it has hit by a pitch during the fifth inning.
AP

Wainwright used guts and guile, with an occasional patented curveball mixed in to keep Team USA in front.

It was a big day for the Cardinals, as Goldschmidt homered and singled, and Nolan Arenado had two hits, including an RBI triple, before leaving the game after being hit in the hand by a pitch (the X-ray was negative).

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