U.S. routs Cuba 14-2 to reach World Baseball Classic final
Miami — Trea Turner homered twice to give him a tournament-leading four, and the defending champion United States romped over Cuba 14-2 on Sunday night to reach its second straight World Baseball Classic final.
Paul Goldschmidt and Cedric Mullins also homered for the Americans, who scored in seven of eight innings — putting up crooked numbers in five of them. Turner and Goldschmidt had four RBIs each.
The U.S. plays Japan or Mexico in Tuesday night's championship, trying to join the Samurai Warriors as the only nations to win the title twice.
Turner, hitting No. 9 in the batting order, has a tournament-leading 10 RBIs. He followed his go-ahead, eighth-inning grand slam a night earlier against Venezuela with a solo homer in the second inning off Roenis Elias (0-1) and a three-run drive in the sixth against Elian Leyva.
Cuba went ahead when its first four batters reached off Adam Wainwright (2-0) without getting a ball out of the infield. The 41-year-old right-hander recovered to strand the bases loaded, and the American offense pummeled Cuban pitchers for 14 hits, including eight for extra bases. The U.S. was gifted seven walks.
Goldschmidt hit a go-ahead, two-run homer in the first on a 112 mph rocket high over the left-field wall. He added a two-run single in the fifth.
St. Louis third baseman Nolan Arenado left after he was hit on a hand by a pitch in the fifth inning, briefly raising another injury concern before X-rays came back as negative. Mets closer Edwin Díaz sustained a season-ending knee injury during the celebration that followed Puerto Rico's win on Wednesday and Houston second baseman Jose Altuve broke a thumb when hit by a pitch while playing for Venezuela on Saturday.
Fans in the sellout crowd of 35,779 at LoanDepot Park sounded evenly split between the U.S. and Cuba. Several hundred people gathered before the game outside the ballpark in Miami's Little Havana section to protest the presence of the Cuban team, whose island nation has been under communist rule since 1959.
Play was briefly interrupted in the sixth, seventh and eighth innings when fans ran onto the field. The first held a banner that read "Libertad Para Los Presos Cubanos del 11 de Julio (Freedom for the Cuban Prisoners of July 11)" referring to the date of 2021 demonstrations.
Cuban fans roared in the early going when their team's first four batters strung together three infield hits and a bases-loaded walk off Wainwright, who contributed to his early troubles when he failed to field a pair of grounders. Wainwright allowed one run and five hits in four innings. Cardinals teammate Miles Mikolas pitched the final five innings.
An Olympic gold medalist in 1992, 1996 and 2004, Cuba's national team has struggled in recent years as many top players left for MLB. Cuba failed to qualify for the 2020 Tokyo Games.
Cuba for the first time this year is using some players under contract the MLB clubs, including Chicago White Gold Glove centerfielder Luis Robert and third baseman Yoán Moncada. Former All-Star outfielder Yoenis Céspedes also is on the roster.
"It's a dream for us to mix these players," manager Armando Johnson said. "We want these players to join us in any championship."
Cuba and the U.S. met for the first time in the WBC. In the 2008 Olympics, which did not include active big leaguers, Cuba beat manager Davey Johnson's Americans 5-4 in 11 innings en route to a silver medal. The U.S. took bronze.
SECOND GUESSED U.S. manager Mark DeRosa on what he did after Saturday night's come-from-behind quarterfinal win over Venezuela.
"I was reading how horrible a manager I was on social media first," he said.
OTHER SIDE OF THE BRACKET
In the other semifinal, Japan starts 21-year-old sensation Roki Sasaki against Mexico and the Los Angeles Angels' Patrick Sandoval on Monday night.
Merrill Kelly is the most likely American candidate to start the final.