By ALANIS THAMES
MIAMI — Trea Turner hit a go-ahead grand slam in the eighth inning that lifted the United States over Venezuela 9-7 Saturday night and into the World Baseball Classic semifinals.
The defending champion U.S. will face Cuba on Sunday night for a spot in the WBC final against Japan or Mexico. St. Louis Cardinals right-hander Adam Wainwright will start for the U.S. against Cuba.
Venezuela second baseman and Houston Astros star Jose Altuve left in the fifth with a right hand injury after he was hit by a pitch from Daniel Bard. The Astros said there will be an update on his status Sunday.
Trailing 7-5, the United States loaded the bases in the eighth on a walk, single and hit by pitch against losing pitcher Jose Quijada. Silvino Bracho relieved and Turner, the No. 9 batter in the U.S. lineup, sent his 0-2 changeup 407 feet to deep left field for the third grand slam in American WBC history.
“Individually, I think this is probably the biggest hit that I’ve had … probably right up there with any hit I’ve ever had,” Turner said.
U.S. manager Mark DeRosa said Saturday’s win was one of the three greatest game’s he’s ever been a part of — including winning the World Series with the San Francisco Giants in 2010.
“I told the guys before the game, I wanted to match their passion,” said DeRosa, who once played for the Venezuelan professional team Leones del Caracas. “I had played over there. I had been a part of that, coming out of the dugout and jumping around … When Trea clipped that ball, honestly, I saw about 35 guys, including the coaches, kind of black out and lose their minds for a minute. So it was just an awesome moment.”
David Bednar, the fifth of seven U.S. pitchers, got the win and Ryan Pressly finished with three straight outs for the save.
Luis Arraez, playing the ballpark that he’ll soon call home with the Miami Marlins, had the first multihomer game of his professional career and drove in four runs for Venezuela.
The U.S. team boasts a roster of big names that many picked to repeat as WBC champions.
All nine batters in the U.S. starting batting order 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 six in the tournament in batting average (.296), RBIs (34) and hits (48), and every American starter had a hit against Venezuela, which had gone 4-0 in group play.
“Unfortunately, this is baseball,” Venezuela manager Omar López said. “We have to accept this and as men we have to keep our heads up. It is not easy, especially when they came back in the game.”
Venezuela took a 6-5 lead in a four-run fifth after Ronald Acuña Jr.’s sacrifice fly to deep center.
Salvador Perez drove in the tying run with a line-drive double that sneaked just inside the left-field foul line.
Arraez hit a two-run drive to right field in the first off Lance Lynn, his first home run in his new home park, and added another high off the right field foul pole in the seventh against Bednar to give Venezuela a two-run lead. Arraez, the reigning AL batting champion, was traded to the WBC host Miami Marlins this offseason after four seasons in Minnesota.
Bard replaced Lynn with a 5-2 lead in the fifth and loaded the bases with two walks, an infield hit and the 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 against Jason Adam.
The U.S. 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 U.S. in the fifth off Astros teammate Luis Garcia.