The first World Baseball Classic semifinal happens tonight in Miami as Team USA take on Cuba. The game starts at 6pm Chicago time and will be broadcast on FS1.
Last night, we had a true classic in the World Baseball Classic to send Team USA to the semifinals.
Adam Wainwright gets the start for Team USA while Cubs’ left-hander Roenis Elías gets the call for Team Cuba.
Cuba advanced to the semifinals despite losing their first two games in Pool A to the Netherlands and Italy. But they bounced back with wins against Panama and Chinese Taipei and Pool A ended in a five-way tie. Cuba ended up winning the group on a tiebreaker, which was fewest runs allowed per out recorded.
Cuba then went to Japan for the quarterfinal where they beat Australia, 4-3 on Wednesday.
This is the first time that Cuba has advanced to the semifinals since the first tournament in 2006, when they were the runner-up to Japan. Not coincidentally, this is also the first WBC that Cuba has allowed MLB players on the roster. That decision, however, has been met with much controversy in the Cuban exile community, both among players and fans.
Unsurprisingly. White Sox third baseman Yoán Moncada has been the best hitter for Team Cuba in the WBC. He’s 8-19 with three doubles and a home run. He’s also walked four times for a .522 OBP.
DH Alfredo Despaigne, who has played in NPB since 2014, is 7-17 with three doubles. First baseman Yadir Drake is 1-17 with two doubles. Drake briefly played in the Dodgers minor league system in 2015 and 2016, but he’s been mainstay of the various Mexican leagues since 2017.
Elias has pitched twice for Cuba, one start and one relief appearance, In the start against Italy, he pitched five scoreless innings. He allowed two runs in two innings of relief against Australia in the quarterfinals. Basically, he gave up a two-run home run to Phillies farmhand Rixon Wingate.
Last night, we had one of the best WBC games ever as an eighth-inning Trea Turner grand slam lead Team USA over Venezuela, 9-7.
Team USA and their much-lauded offense got off to a great start against the Rangers Martín Peréz for Venezuela. The first five USA hitters singled, but a smart play by Jose Altuve against his Astros teammate Kyle Tucker was a big turning point in the rally.
The safe call was overturned on replay. The White Sox’ José Ruiz relieved Peréz and efficiently got out of the inning with a strikeout of his Chicago teammate Tim Anderson and a flyout by Kyle Schwarber.
Venezuela struck back with two runs in the bottom of the first inning on this home run by Luis Arraez.
Team USA stretched their lead to 4-2 on a sacrifice fly by Mookie Betts in the fourth and then Kyle Tucker made it 5-2 in the fifth with this home run.
But if Venezuela was disheartened by falling behind, it sure didn’t show on the field. Daniel Bard was summoned from the bullpen to pitch the bottom of the fifth inning and he had no control at all. Bard walked Gleyber Torres, gave up a single to Andrés Giménez and then uncorked a wild pitch to put runners on second and third. Next, Bard loaded the bases by hitting Jose Altuve in the hand.
Ugh. Altuve is out with a broken thumb. Which is not what anyone wants to see. The Astros will have a better sense of how long he’ll be out after he undergoes surgery.
Strangely enough, Team USA manager Mark DeRosa left Bard in the game after that and Bard let a run score with a wild pitch and then he walked Anthony Santander to load the bases again.
Finally, Jason Adam came in to pitch and he got the first out on an RBI groundout by Arraez, which cut Team USA’s lead to 5-4. Then Salvador Perez came to bat and he tied it up with this double.
The next batter, Ronald Acuña Jr. gave Venezuela the lead with a sac fly. The fifth inning ended with Venezuela leading 6-5.
Venezuela made it 7-5 when Luis Arraez, of all people, homered again in the seventh inning.
Arraez has 14 career major league home runs. He had never hit two home runs in one game as a professional.
Angels pitcher José Quijada got a key strikeout to end of the seventh inning when Team USA had runners on the corners and two out. So manager Omar López left Quijada in to pitch the eighth and he was plagued by control problems similar to Bard earlier in the game. Team USA opened the eighth with a walk to Tim Anderson, a single by pinch-hitter Pete Alonso and then J.T. Realmuto was hit by a pitch to load the bases with no outs. (Luckily, Realmuto was not hurt.)
That brought up Trea Turner. López had his closer, José Alvarado, ready to go in the pen, but Alvarado is a lefty and Turner kills left-handed pitching. So he called upon right-hander Silvino Bracho to face Turner instead. As it turns out, Trea Turner kills right-handed pitching too.
Devin Williams came on to pitch the eighth for Team USA and despite a lead-off double by Acuńa, he kept Venezuela from scoring. And then Ryan Pressly threw a 1-2-3 ninth for the save.
This was truly one of the greatest games in World Baseball Classic history, witnessed by a sellout crowd of 35,792 at loanDepot Park.
Let’s hope we have as good a game tonight. This is a game thread.