Trea Turner hits two home runs as Team USA defeats Cuba to reach World Baseball Classic final
Updated: Mar 21
Cuba finishes with fourth place in the tournament with a 3-3 record, while Team USA improves to 5-1 in this World Classic and waits for an opponent to be decided this Monday
One win separates Team USA from winning its second consecutive World Baseball Classic. Team USA cruised to a 14-2 victory over Cuba in Miami on Sunday evening to qualify for Tuesday's championship game. The USA will face the winner of Monday night's match between Japan and Mexico. Cuba has been eliminated from the competition.
After Japan (2006 and 2009) and Puerto Rico (2013 and 2017), the USA is the third team to appear in back-to-back WBC championship games. In WBC history, only Japan won back-to-back titles in 2006 and 2009. In 2006, 2009, and 2013, the USA did not advance beyond the second round of the World Baseball Classic.
For the first semifinal matchup of the World Baseball Classic 2023, held on Sunday in Miami at loanDepot Park in front of a crowd of 35,779 spectators, Team USA scored in seven of its eight offensive innings, beating the Cuban national team 14-2, in a historic match.
As a result of their victory, Team USA is still hopeful they will be the second team in this tournament to win consecutive championships. They await the second semifinal of the tournament on Monday when they will be matched with an opponent yet to be decided between Mexico and Japan, the other semifinalists.
This was, for Cuba and the United States, the first time they had met in a World Baseball Classic, and the first time a Cuban national team had played in Miami.
In a game in which three arrests occurred due to protests on the field - and in the stands - against the island's communist system, Cuba aggressively began the game where they hoped to return to their first World Classic final since 2006, loading the bases in the first inning off right-handed starter Adam Wainwright with three infield singles but they scored only one run. Alfredo Despaigne walked to give Cuba a 1-0 lead but Wainwright recovered. As a result of a ground ball to third base (force out at home), a pop-up to second base, and a ground ball to short, the rally was put an end and the damage was limited.
With his walk, Despaigne now holds the record for the longest on-base streak in WBC history. From 2009 to the present, he has been on base in 18 consecutive games. Previously, Robinson Canó held the record with 17 games.
But Team USA responded quickly when Paul Goldschmidt hit a home run in the bottom of the first inning off starter Roenis Elias with Mookie Betts on base, taking the lead and never letting it go.
In spite of Cuban pitching, the USA didn't stop scoring during the night. Two runs in the first, one run in the second, two runs in the third, two runs in the fourth, two runs in the fifth, four runs in the sixth, and one more in the eighth gave Team USA a significant lead early on and during the game.
Trea Turner's hot bat contributed to the attack with two home runs.
In the bottom of the second inning, with two outs Team USA would extend their lead when Turner followed up with a home run to left off Elias. As a result, Turner became the sixth player from the United States to hit a home run in consecutive games. He was preceded by Derrek Lee (2006), Kevin Youkilis and Adam Dunn (2009), and Adam Jones and Buster Posey (2017).
In the bottom of the sixth Turner homered again. This time against reliever Elian Leyva with two on base, becoming the second Team USA player with two homers in a WBC game, joining Hall of Famer Ken Griffey Jr. who did it in 2006. At the same time, Turner set a WBC record with two straight games of four RBIs.
The Cubans used seven pitchers in the game, six relievers, and all of them gave up at least one run. Overall the Cuban pitchers were a total disaster in the game. Until the seventh inning, they weren't able to hold the USA scoreless.
Meanwhile, after a shaky first inning, Wainwright would demonstrate why he has been one of the best pitchers in crucial games in the majors. Wainwright retired 12 of the last 15 batters he faced and didn't even need to reach 90 mph. In four innings, he isolated five hits, three in the first inning, with 64 pitches, and 42 strikes, giving his team a quality start.
After four innings of one-run ball, Wainwright was replaced by St. Louis teammate Miles Mikolas, who pitched four innings of one-run ball for the USA. In the ninth inning, Aaron Loup got the final three outs to seal the win and a place in the championship game.