With one mighty swing, Turner slams USA into semifinals

March 19th, 2023

MIAMI – Jason Varitek did it in 2006. David Wright did it in 2013. 

A decade had passed since the last Team USA player had hit a grand slam in the World Baseball Classic. And when Trea Turner did it in the eighth inning on Saturday night at loanDepot park, he clinched a 9-7 comeback victory, punched the USA’s ticket to the semifinals and handed Venezuela its first loss of the tournament.

USA will continue its pursuit of consecutive WBC titles when it faces Cuba on Sunday (7 p.m. ET, FS1). 

“Today was electric,” said Turner. “The energy is in the stadium, and we can feel it as players and I know the fans feel it as well.”

USA trailed 7-5 after Venezuela capitalized on the pitching miscues of Daniel Bard for a four-run fifth inning, and Luis Arraez hit his second homer of the game in the seventh.

Tim Anderson opened the eighth inning by drawing a walk against José Quijada, and Pete Alonso delivered a pinch-hit single. Quijada hit J.T. Realmuto to load the bases with none out for Turner, who had been 0-for-3 on the evening.

Venezuela called for a pitching change to have Silvino Bracho face the shortstop. As Turner took the steps toward home plate, he quietly reminded himself of an important mantra as the stadium blared around him.  

“‘You're good enough for this,’” he recounted. “The self talk's there. I know everybody does their own thing, but just try to compete. I didn't know much about the pitcher throwing, so for me just try not to do too much. I’ve got Mookie [Betts] and [Mike] Trout behind me, so the lineup's crazy. It's just keep the line moving and make good decisions and just react.”

Demonstrating focus, Turner didn’t get rattled by an 0-2 count. When he saw an 85.5 mph changeup from Bracho, he crushed it 407 feet deep into the left-field seats. Bases cleared, and USA jumped ahead on the scoreboard.

“Trea Turner stepped up just with a 0-2 absolute bomb,” said manager Mark DeRosa.

Turner, 29, has appeared in 43 playoff games in his big league career, including the 2019 World Series with the Nationals. He has connected for three home runs in 185 at-bats. For all those electric moments in October, his grand slam in mid-March had a special significance. 

“Individually, I think this is probably the biggest hit that I've had,” he said. “... As a team, I think you set a goal – and we want to win the whole thing. … We're not done yet. … I'm glad we won and we can kind of keep striving for that goal. But individually, it was kind of, it was pretty big for me personally.”

Turner, who signed an 11-year deal worth $300 million with the Phillies in December, is soaking up the playoff-level energy in the WBC two weeks before the regular season begins. 

“This is pretty much a postseason atmosphere, and we're getting it right in the middle of Spring Training,” said Turner. “It's a great team over there, and it almost makes me kind of want to go play in winter ball a little bit and see how rowdy these fans get. It looks really fun, and I was glad to be a part of it.”