March 18, 2023 | 11:19 p.m
MIAMI — Trea Turner hit a 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 the USA against Cuba.
Venezuela second baseman and Houston Astros star Jose Altuve left in the fifth with a right arm injury after being hit by Daniel Bard’s pitch. The Astros said they would have an update on his status on Sunday.
Trailing 7-5, the United States loaded the bases in the eighth on a walk, single and strikeout against losing pitcher Jose Quijada. Silvino Bracho was relieved and Turner, the No. 9 hitter in the U.S. lineup, sent his 0-2 changeup 407 feet deep into left field for the third grand slam in U.S. WBC history.
“Individually, I think that’s probably the biggest hit I’ve ever had … probably right next to all the hits I’ve ever had,” Turner said.
USA manager Mark DeRosa said Saturday’s win was one of the three greatest games he’s ever played in — including winning the World Series with the San Francisco Giants in 2010.
“I told the guys before the game that I wanted to respond to 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 hole and jumping around… When Trea cut that ball, I honestly saw about 35 guys, including the coaches, pass out and lose their minds for a minute. So it was just a great moment.”
David Bednar, the fifth of seven American pitchers, earned the win and Ryan Pressley finished with three straight shutouts for the save.
Luis Araes, playing the field he will soon call home with the Miami Marlins, hit the first multi-homer game of his professional career and drove in four runs for Venezuela.
Team USA boasts a roster of big names that many have chosen to repeat as WBC champions.
All nine batters in the US starting lineup were All-Stars, including Los Angeles Dodgers right fielder Mookie Betts, Los Angeles Angels center fielder Mike Trout, Cardinals first baseman Paul Goldschmidt and third baseman Nolan Arenado.
The U.S. is in the top 6 in the tournament in batting average (.296), RBI (34) and hits (48), and every U.S. starter had a hit against Venezuela, which went 4-0 in group play.
“Unfortunately, this is baseball,” Venezuela manager Omar Lopez said. “We have to accept that and as men we have to keep our heads up. It’s not easy, especially when they’re back in the game.”
Venezuela took a 6-5 lead in a four-run fifth on Ronald Acuña Jr.’s sacrifice fly to deep center.
Salvador Perez drove in the tying run with a double that sailed just down the foul line in left field.
Arraez hit a two-run double to right field in the first off Lance Lynn, his first home run in his new home park, and added another foul shot to right field in the seventh against Bednar to give Venezuela a two-run lead. Arraez, the reigning AL champion, was traded to the WBC host Miami Marlins this offseason after four seasons in Minnesota.
Bard replaced Lin with a 5-2 lead in the fifth and loaded the bases with two walks, an infield hit and a pitch that injured Altuve.
Bard was pulled after Gleyber Torres scored on a wild pitch to make it 5-3 and Arraez hit an RBI groundout to Jason Adam.
USA 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 homered for the USA in the fifth at-bat against Astros teammate Luis Garcia.