Venezuela and the United States engaged in a classic last night in Miami that saw the United States advance to play Cuba in the World Baseball Classic(WBC) semifinal round tonight. Martin Perez got the start for Venezuela. He was hoping to build off of his solid performance against the Dominican Republic back in pool play. Perez started on March 11th and went 3.1 innings, giving up just one run that was in the first inning, he struck out four batters, and walked two. His start gave Venezuela the confidence they needed and they ended up winning the game 5-1.
Martin Perez and his Start in the WBC Quarterfinal
Martin Perez came into the game with confidence. He has had a strong spring thus far and was hoping to pitch deep into this game. Unfortunately, that was not meant to be for Perez on the night. He allowed five consecutive singles to Mookie Betts, Mike Trout, Paul Goldschmidt,Nolan Arenado, and Kyle Tucker. The score was 3-0 and that was when the Venezuelan manager came out to get him.
Credit to the United States hitters as Perez was not missing his spots. Mike Trout took an inside pitch to the opposite field on a play where Ronald Acuna Jr got a bad read on the fly ball. Acuna then threw it into the dugout allowing Betts to score.
Paul Goldschmidt was the next hitter and he took a 2-2 pitch nearly off the ground and golfed it into left center and scored Mike Trout.
Nolan Arenado followed it up with a line drive single. Then Rangers nemesis Kyle Tucker came to the plate and on the first pitch he took a pitch that was high and on the inside corner and fisted it into left field to score Paul Goldschmidt. After a replay review Tucker was ruled out on the tag at second base. That was the end of the night for Martin Perez.
Muich like Mitch Bratt for Team Canada last week, Perez has nothing to hang his head about. He made great pitches and great hitters put the ball in the play. It was a masterclass of hitting by those first five hitters. None of the USA hitters tried to do too much, they went with the pitch instead of trying to pull the ball. The ball just happened to land just out of the reach of the Venezuelan fielders that were trying to make plays.
The Rangers I am sure will not be happy with the early pull by the Venezuelan manager. Pitchers at this point in camp normally are stretched out to 4-5 innings. In his last two starts, Perez will have pitched 3.2 innings. Perez will be reporting back to camp this week and should be back on the mound in spring training games later this week. There is enough time in camp to get Perez two more starts before the start of the season.
The Rest of the WBC Quarterfinal Matchup
The game did continue after Perez was removed in the first inning. Jose Ruiz finished off the first without any more runs added on. Luis Arraez came up and hit a 2-run home run off of starter Lance Lynn to cut into the US lead at 3-2. It stayed that way until the fourth inning when Mookie Betts hit a sacrifice fly that scored Kyle Schwarber to make it 4-2. Kyle Tucker then in the fifth inning hit a home run to make the score 5-2. Lance Lynn had got through four innings without allowing any more than those first-inning runs.
Mark Derosa then chose to go to his bullpen in the fifth inning to try and close this game out. The first pitcher called upon was Daniel Bard. Lets just say Daniel Bard did not have it last night. Bard gave up a walk, a single, then a wild pitch, and then he hit Jose Altuve. He hit Altuve on the hand and he was immediately removed from the game with what was later diagnosed as a broken thumb that could keep him out for 8-10 weeks. Bard then threw another wild pitch after that and then walked Anthony Santander. That was when Derosa removed Bard from the game. Bard left with the bases loaded, no outs, and the score was 5-3.
Jason Adams of the Tampa Bay Rays was then brought into a raucous pro-Venezuelan Miami environment. It was his job to help the US hold the lead. He forced Luis Arraez to hit a deep ground ball to second baseman Tim Anderson who made a great play to stop the ball and turn around and throw it to shortstop Trea Turner. One run scored on the play to make it 5-4. Pool D MVP Salvador Perez then followed that up with a double down the left-field line that tied the game. Ronald Acuna finished up the scoring in the fifth with a sacrifice fly to Mike Trout in center to give Venezuela their first lead of the night at 6-5.
The score would remain 6-5 until the bottom of the seventh. That is when Luis Arraez once again came up and destroyed a baseball setting off the crowd and building the lead to 7-5 for Venezuela. Venezuela at that point was six outs away from securing a spot in the semifinals.
In the top of the eighth the United States put together solid at-bats to start the inning. Jose Quijada of the Angels had finished off the seventh inning for Venezuela and was brought back in to pitch the 8th. He was facing the bottom of the order for the US. He began by walking Tim Anderson, Then Pete Alonso was brought in as a pinch-hitter and he hit an opposite-field single. Quijada then hit JT Realmuto to load the bases. That brought Trea Turner to the plate down 7-5 and with no outs in the 8th inning. That is when this happened.
Trea Turner hit the monster blast to give the US the lead. Bob Nightengale tweeted,
This was not just some regular game. The crowd was absolutely into every pitch. The players were locked in. When Turner hit that home run, the US spilled out of the dugout in a celebration not likely to be seen during the regular season. The US shut down Venezuela in the 8th and 9th behind a scoreless appearance from Devin Williams. Then Ryan Pressly came on and got the save. It was an electric night down in Miami.
Now the US plays again tonight in the semifinal round against Cuba. It will be another loud crowd tonight as Miami is home to thousands of Cuban Americans. Adam Wainwright will take the ball for the US tonight as they continue their quest to repeat as WBC champions.