Team USA may not win the World Baseball Classic Tuesday in Miami, but the offense is guns-a-blazing ready to give it a try.
For the second straight knockout round game, Team USA’s hitters laid out a respected international opponent, this time by a 14-2 margin over Cuba.
The victory sends Team USA against the winner of Monday night’s game between Mexico and Japan for the trophy. The U.S. is trying to defend the championship it won when the WBC was last played in 2017.
World Baseball Classic: Team USA knocks out Cuba
To say that this outcome was never in doubt would not quite be true. The Cubans took advantage of some early shakiness from United States starter Adam Wainwright to grab a quick 1-0 lead … and it could have been a lot worse.
Cuba’s leadoff hitter, Roel Santos, rolled a grounder that second baseman Tim Anderson couldn’t handle for an infield hit. Yoan Moncada handcuffed Wainwright with another soft grounder for a second infield hit, Luis Robert rolled a third straight infield hit to second loading the bases, and Wainwright walked Alfredo Despaigne to force Santos home.
With a run in, the bases full, and none out, the Cubans were staring at a potential monumental inning. It didn’t happen. Wainwright got Erisbel Arruebarrena to ground to Nolan Arenado, forcing Moncada at home. Andy Ibanez popped out, Andy Martinez grounded out and the damage had been minimized.
And then the U.S. took off. In the bottom of the first, Paul Goldschmidt homered home Mookie Betts ahead of him for a 2-1 lead, and the Americans scored in each of the first six innings to inexorably build their margin to 13-2.
The roster of offensive heroes was as lengthy as you would expect from this lineup. Betts had three hits, Goldschmidt added a two-RBI single to his homer for a four-RBI night, and the Americans drew seven walks atop their 14 hits.
And then there was Trea Turner. The hero of Saturday night, when his grand slam carried the U.S. to a 9-7 win over Venezuela, Turner homered in the second and added a three-run blast in the sixth that made it 12-2. As an afterthought, he added a single.
Turner is now hitting.368 for the tournament, and that does not lead the team. Arenado is at .391.
Wainwright and Miles Mikolas each gave Team USA manager Mark DeRosa four solid innings, allowing one run apiece. Aaron Loup pitched the mop-up ninth. That left the pitching staff as rested and ready as it is possible to be under the Tournament rules.
But the story right now for the U.S. is the offense. That will be important no matter who Tuesday’s opponent turns out to be, but especially if it’s the undefeated Japanese. In racing to a 5-0 tournament record, Japan has outscored its opponents 47-11. Japan has Shohei Ohtani ready to start against the Americans Tuesday.
Looking at the last two games, though, nobody’s hitters are as hot as America’s. Team USA batted a combined .382 against Venezuela and Cuba with a .506 on base average and four home runs.