Rosenthal: Trea Turner’s grand slam powers exhilarating comeback as USA advances to WBC semifinals

MIAMI – Trea Turner had confronted Venezuelan right-hander Silvino Bracho precisely as soon as in his profession.

“Go look at the highlight of the at-bat,” he informed me simply earlier than I interviewed him on FS1.

“Bad?” I requested.

“So bad,” Turner replied.

The at-bat came about on Sept. 26, 2016, within the ninth inning of a sport through which Turner’s former crew, the Nationals, trailed the Diamondbacks, 14-4. Bracho threw an 82-mph slider. Turner checked his swing. His groundball to first was so feeble, he by no means even ran.

Pretty dangerous — and Turner’s whole body of reference when Bracho entered Saturday evening’s World Baseball Classic quarterfinal with the bases loaded, none out within the high of the eighth and Venezuela main the United States, 7-5.

Trea Turner’s second time dealing with Silvino Bracho was a lot better for the Phillies shortstop than the primary time. (Sam Navarro / USA Today)

Turner, Team USA’s $300 million No. 9 hitter, took a fastball for strike one. He fouled off one other fastball for strike two. At that time, he was 3-for-13 within the WBC, although one in all his hits was a homer. He was nonetheless in search of his swing, simply as he may in a standard spring coaching. Down 0-2, he knew he had Mookie Betts and Mike Trout hitting behind him.

Bracho has made solely 4 major-league appearances the previous 4 seasons. Venezuela supervisor Omar López wanted him to get outs after lefty Jose Quijada loaded the bases by strolling Tim Anderson, permitting a bloop single by pinch-hitter Pete Alonso and hitting J.T. Realmuto. Closer José Alvarado, López stated, was not obtainable for greater than 4 outs.

Bracho threw Turner a changeup, proper over the center of the plate. This time, Turner didn’t examine his swing. Instead, he turned on the pitch furiously, following by means of with an impressive one-handed end. On an evening of so many doubts, an evening when reliever Daniel Bard suffered a daunting lack of management, serving to flip a 5-2 lead right into a 6-5 deficit, Turner hit the last word no-doubter, an indelible grand slam.

“I feel like I blacked out,” Turner stated.

He wasn’t alone.

“I saw about 35 guys, including the coaches, kind of black out,” Team USA supervisor Mark DeRosa stated.

The recollections may be hazy for Turner, DeRosa and Co., however those that had been aware will always remember what they noticed. Turner skipping towards first base, shaking with pleasure, gesturing towards the dugout. Then, rounding third with nearly all of Team USA ready at house plate to rejoice with him, the identical manner the Venezuelan and plenty of different overseas groups do.

Major-league golf equipment are extra reserved, solely emptying the dugout for walk-offs. But DeRosa, who performed in Venezuela for Leones del Caracas in the course of the 2000-01 offseason, knew Saturday evening wanted to be completely different. The WBC was right down to single elimination. And the sellout crowd in Miami was sure to be pro-Venezuelan.

DeRosa informed his gamers earlier than the sport to carry their ardour, match Team Venezuela’s vitality, “let it go.” He stated if a U.S. participant hit a house run, meet him at house plate. Nolan Arenado additionally spoke, conveying an analogous message. Team USA successfully could be the highway crew, Arenado stated. It would want to create its personal vitality.

Adam Jones, the U.S. hero of the 2017 WBC, entered the room after Arenado completed. Pump yourselves up, he informed the gamers. Be louder on your teammates than the gang can be. Oh, and pump a single should you’d like, as a result of that’s what your opponent will do.

“We were a little more dead in the pool play games,” catcher Realmuto stated. “But out here, it was like, they’re going to have so many fans behind them, we’ve got to band together in our dugout and create as much energy as we can. Having that message before the game, and knowing what to expect going in, was important.”

Jones needed the U.S. gamers to be “dynamic,” and that’s precisely what they had been within the first inning, knocking out Venezuela starter Martín Pérez with 5 straight singles to open the sport, taking a 3-0 lead. Venezuela’s Luis Arraez responded within the backside half with the primary of his two homers, a two-run shot that supplied the primary indication the evening may be uncommon, even by WBC requirements.

Arraez, the AL batting champ final season, has by no means produced a two-homer sport within the majors. Heck, he has hit solely 20 homers in 850 skilled video games. But as Turner would later put it, speaking about Team USA’s personal comeback, “When you get punched in the mouth, you’ve got to respond.”

There could be extra punches. Many extra.

Luis Arraez has by no means had a two-homer sport within the majors. (Eric Espada / Getty Images)

In the fifth, Kyle Tucker hit a house run to revive Team USA’s result in three runs. Lance Lynn had pitched the primary 4 innings for the U.S., permitting his solely runs on Arraez’s homer. DeRosa, following a time without work, had a rested bullpen. And his first selection was Bard, who had allowed 4 runs in Team USA’s loss to Mexico in pool play, however rebounded with a scoreless inning towards Colombia.

Bard, 37, has a historical past of management issues. In 2012, he developed “the thing,” an lack of ability to command the strike zone, retaining him out of the majors from 2014 till 2020. His comeback with the Rockies led to a two-year, $19 million contract extension final July. But out of 152 certified relievers final season, he nonetheless had the Thirty sixth-highest stroll price.

Bard’s first signal of hassle Saturday evening was a five-pitch leadoff stroll to Gleyber Torres. Andrés Giménez adopted with an infield single. Bard threw a wild pitch to advance the runners. Then got here the plate look that would be the newest fodder for critics of the WBC, who appear to disregard that unlucky accidents happen in spring-training video games, too.

Jose Altuve was Bard’s third hitter, so DeRosa couldn’t pull him at that time with out violating the three-batter minimal. But based mostly on Bard’s historical past, together with his first outing within the event, it could actually fairly be argued that he by no means ought to have pitched. It can positively be argued that DeRosa ought to have eliminated him after he hit Altuve in the best hand with a 96-mph sinker. Bard proceeded to throw a second, run-scoring wild pitch and problem one other stroll. He in the end was charged with 4 runs.

Why didn’t DeRosa begin warming up one other reliever the second Bard issued his leadoff stroll? The supervisor stated that beneath the restrictions imposed by major-league golf equipment, as soon as a reliever will get up, he must pitch. Yet, even with restricted flexibility, DeRosa shouldn’t have risked an elimination sport slipping away.

The Astros will present extra info on Altuve’s situation Sunday, however he left the park together with his thumb wrapped, and the preliminary concern is that the finger is damaged. López, the Astros’ first base coach, stated he was “very concerned,” about Altuve, “deeply concerned.” Venezuela took the lead after Altuve was hit. But the damage to Altuve was so disturbing, López stated, “the whole dugout kind of died.”

Jose Altuve left the park together with his thumb wrapped (Eric Espada / Getty Images)

Just as Edwin Díaz’s freakish knee damage solid a pall on Puerto Rico’s beautiful upset of the Dominican Republic, the damage to Altuve took a number of the shine off what DeRosa known as “one of the greatest games I’ve been a part of.” The U.S. gamers, although, had been nonetheless buzzing as they left the park, incredulous over what they’d skilled. The crowd. The noise. The grand slam by Turner, and the scoreless innings by Devin Williams and Ryan Pressly to protect the victory.

“(The Royals’) Brady Singer was asking me what the playoffs are like,” stated U.S. reliever Adam Ottavino, who has pitched in eight completely different postseason collection for 4 completely different golf equipment. “I was like, I don’t even know if they’re like this. That was the best atmosphere I’ve been in. It was just so fun to be a part of, even if we would have lost it.”

Realmuto, echoing Ottavino’s ideas, even despatched a delicate message to those that selected to not take part. “I can’t believe anybody would rather stay in spring training than play in a game like that,” Realmuto stated. “So much pride on the line. So much fun. It was clear to both teams how much that game meant.”

Yet, for Team USA to efficiently defend its WBC title, it might want to win two extra video games that may be simply as intense. The first can be Sunday evening’s semifinal towards Cuba, with Adam Wainwright beginning towards Roenis Elías. The second could be towards the winner of the Mexico-Japan semifinal in Tuesday’s championship sport.

DeRosa used six relievers towards Venezuela, however Kendall Graveman and Aaron Loup didn’t pitch. Nick Martinez left the crew Saturday to rejoin the Padres, however Singer, Kyle Freeland and Merrill Kelly are among the many starters who needs to be obtainable in aid towards Cuba, assuming Miles Mikolas is held again to begin a possible last.

Crazy because it sounds, the common season looms as a letdown. The competitors within the WBC is pure. The environment in Miami is exclusive. The roof is closed at loanDepot Park, making the blaring music and roaring followers sound even louder. Kyle Schwarber stated he had by no means been a part of a sport in March with such electrical energy. Pressly added, “It almost makes me kind of want to go play in winter ball and see how rowdy these fans get.”

It’s exhausting. It’s exhilarating. And it isn’t over but.

(Top photograph: Eric Espada / Getty Images)

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