Team USA Stomps Cuba Returning to WBC Championship

Team USA Cuba Final

Miami, Florida – In a powerful display of their vaunted offense, Team USA was red hot at the plate overwhelming Cuba 14-2 and advancing to the final. Trea Turner put up an encore performance homering twice to double his tournament total. His fourth dinger marks the most by a Team USA player in the World Baseball Classic. This was also the second multi-homer game in Team USA WBC history, joining Ken Griffey Jr., who did it in 2006.

Furthermore, Turner became the first player in tournament history with at least four RBIs in consecutive games. Paul Goldschmidt and Cedric Mullins also homered in an effort that saw the Stars and Stripes take the lead in the first never looking back accumulating 14 hits by the end of the night.

Despite some early hiccups, starting pitcher Adam Wainwright weaved four innings of one-run ball getting out of a bases-loaded jam in the opening inning with minimal damage. The bullpen sent out Miles Mikolas in relief who pitched four frames of his own curtailing the opposing offense. Aaron Loup closed out the ninth to clinch it. Although the Cubans rattled off 12 hits, they stranded 11 runners unable to produce more runs. Their untapped successes at the plate likely wouldn’t have been enough against the onslaught.

Nolan Arenado exited the game during the fifth after getting hit in the hand by a pitch. It was later announced that the x-rays came back negative. The defending champions now await the winner between Mexico and Japan.

Pouring it on

In the early going Cuba loaded ’em on three consecutive soft grounders that never left the infield. Alfredo Despaigne drew the bases-loaded walk for the first run of the evening. Wainwright regained control, retiring the next three batters to escape.

The Stars and Stripes immediately answered. Mookie Betts led things off with a double to left. With one out Goldschmidt hammered the ball deep to left field for the go-ahead two-run blast. Turner followed up with a bomb over the left field fence adding to the US’ advantage.

Things got interesting in the third when Wainwright flubbed a routine grounder throwing it way over Goldy’s head. Despaigne reached second on the error. The miscue proved irrelevant for the Americans as Wainwright dispatched the next two hitters turning away the Cubans.

Team USA scratched two more in the third. Pete Alonso lined a bases-loaded single to the left side driving in Arenado. Tim Anderson hit a sac fly far enough in center-field plating Kyle Schwarber. Coming back for more, the US scored another pair in the fourth. Nado went opposite field for the clutch RBI triple scoring Goldschmidt. He then scored on a wild pitch for the 7-1 lead.

The Cubans got one back in the fifth thanks to an RBI single from Andy Ibanez driving home Yoan Moncada who led off with a double. The USA responded with two in the same inning, followed by four in the sixth, and one more in the eighth for good measure.

The game was briefly interrupted on multiple occasions starting at the top of the sixth when a fan raced onto the field carrying a sign in support of Cuban liberty and freedom. They were immediately detained by security personnel and escorted out.

Impressions

It was a great win for the defending champions. Especially since Team USA bulldozed Cuba to reach the final. In a high-stakes game filled with political undercurrents, the red, white, and blue handily defeated a Cuban team that managed to make it to the semi-finals after starting pool play 0-2. Fans chanted “libertad” throughout the night with folks unrolling a sign over at the Budweiser section declaring a free Cuba. A few individuals rushed onto the field to great fanfare making their voices heard.

The semi-final matchup ceased to be competitive by the end of the fourth inning. The most impressive thing I saw about tonight’s contest was not the hitting. It was the pitching. Regarded as a weakness, the staff bent but never broke giving up only two runs in spite of surrendering 12 hits. Outside of the first and maybe the third inning, things were fairly under control. Mikolas tossing four frames was huge for the bullpen allowing coach Mark DeRosa several options for the final on Tuesday. They’re going to need it, especially if the Japanese juggernaut defeats Mexico.

Photo | Philadelphia Phillies

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