USA drubs Cuba, setting up chance to repeat as champs

Americans await winner of Mexico-Japan for Tuesday's title game

March 20th, 2023

MIAMI -- Team USA is one win away from becoming back-to-back World Baseball Classic champions.

With a 14-2 semifinal victory over Cuba on Sunday night at loanDepot park, USA advanced to face the winner of the Mexico-Japan semifinals game on Monday (7 p.m. ET on FS1).

The only team to win consecutive WBC championships was Japan in 2006 and ‘09.

“They're swinging the bats good, they're having fun being around each other, they're passing the baton, they're not having selfish ABs, constant pressure,” said manager Mark DeRosa. “... I'm blown away by the way these guys control the strike zone. 's in the zone right now, hitting everything he sees. [I was] able to get everybody in there, have some fun, relax, and let the pitchers do their thing.”

USA’s lopsided victory was a collaboration of offensive power and pitching efficiency. Turner picked up where he left off from Saturday’s grand slam heroics to pummel a pair of home runs in the second and sixth innings. The shortstop became the second player in Team USA history to connect for a multi-home run game, joining Hall of Famer (and USA hitting coach) Ken Griffey Jr.

“I don't know if he knows that,” said Turner. “I didn't know that, but [I] can't wait to have that conversation with him in the cage tomorrow. It's going to be fun for me.”

Turner has adopted a “keep the line moving” mentality that has served the offense well. Across the roster, four players produced multi-hit performances: (2-for-5), (3-for-6),  (2-for-3) and Turner (3-for-5).

“What a fun team where Trea Turner bats ninth, I tell you what,” said starting right-hander .

Goldschmidt jump-started the high-scoring momentum in the first inning with a two-run blast off starter Roenis Elías. He drove in four runs on the night.

“That was one of my favorite home runs I've ever hit in my entire life,” Goldschmidt said. “We've talked about trying to score early. For me, I was very happy to be able to do that. You want to contribute on this team.”

When it came to strategizing how to limit Cuba’s offense, DeRosa stayed up until almost four o’clock in the morning on Sunday “trying to piece the pitching puzzle together” after making six calls to the bullpen on Saturday against Venezuela.

DeRosa handed the ball to the three-time All-Star Wainwright, expressing confidence that he has “pitched on the biggest stages.” In veteran fashion, Wainwright worked out of early traffic in the first inning to deliver four frames of one-run baseball. After allowing the first four batters to reach and falling into a 1-0 deficit, a mound visit inspired Wainwright to retire the next three hitters.

"I put myself in that situation in the first place by making horrible PFP [pitcher's fielding practice] plays -- or not making PFP plays," Wainwright said. "... [Pitching coach] Andy Pettitte came out to the mound -- and he's got the pedigree of having the most wins in playoff history with a bunch of World Series rings in the most hostile environments -- and looking me right in the face and kind of revalidating everything that I was already saying to myself, which kind of was a big thing for me. It was a good meeting."

Wainwright’s Cardinals teammate Miles Mikolas matched Wainwright’s four innings, allowing only one run, while Aaron Loup recorded the final three outs. Team USA will wait to see who its next and final opponent will be in the 2023 tournament when left-hander Patrick Sandoval of Team Mexico takes the mound against right-hander Roki Sasaki of Team Japan.

"You obviously come for the experience and you come to play with this team. This group, it's an exciting group,” said slugger Kyle Schwarber. "But you don't come here just for that -- you come to win. We got one step closer to where we want to be."