Team USA score: U.S. cruises past Cuba to reach World Baseball Classic final as Trea Turner homers twice

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Team USA is one win away from a second consecutive World Baseball Classic championship. Sunday night in Miami, Team USA cruised to a 14-2 blowout win over Cuba (box score) to clinch a spot in Tuesday's championship game. USA will face the winner of Monday night's Japan vs. Mexico game. Cuba has been eliminated.

USA is the third team to appear in back-to-back WBC championship games, joining Japan (2006 and 2009) and Puerto Rico (2013 and 2017). They will look to join those 2006 and 2009 Japan teams as the only back-to-back champions in WBC history. Before winning the 2017 WBC, USA advanced no further than the second round in the 2006, 2009, and 2013 WBCs.

Sunday's game is believed to be the first time the Cuban national team played in Miami since the Cuban revolution in 1959. Miami is home to the largest Cuban population in the U.S. and there were protests condemning the island's dictatorship outside the ballpark. Three separate fans also ran onto the field during play with signs and flags.

Here are three takeaways from Sunday's game and a look ahead to what's next.

1. Cuba missed a golden opportunity early

Is the first inning too early for a turning point? I don't think so. Cuba loaded the bases in the top of the first inning on three infield singles, and when cleanup hitter Alfredo Despaigne spit on Adam Wainwright's 3-2 curveball to draw the bases loaded walk and give Cuba a 1-0 lead, it appeared Cuba was primed to put a crooked number on the board. It was a Big Moment early.

Rather than let Cuba blow the game open, Wainwright & Co. limited Cuba to just that one run. A ground ball to third base (force out at home), a pop up to second, and a ground ball to short snuffed out the rally and limited the damage. And three batters into the bottom of the first, it was 2-1 USA. Mookie Betts doubled, Mike Trout lined out, and Paul Goldschmidt went deep.

Cuba's win expectancy sat at 74% following Despaigne's RBI walk. That's a big number for the first inning. Another big number: 2.37. That is the number of runs MLB teams averaged following a bases loaded, no outs situation last season. Rather than put a (needed) dent in the scoreboard Cuba, settled for just the one run. That inning was a huge missed opportunity.

Despaigne, it should be noted, now owns that longest on-base streak in WBC history. The first inning bases loaded walk extended his on-base streak to 18 games dating back to 2009. Robinson Canó held the previous record at 17 games.

2. USA kept piling on

Two runs in the first, one run in the second, two runs in the third, two runs in the fourth, two runs in the fifth, four runs in the sixth. USA scored in each of the first six innings, thanks in part to Trea Turner's second inning solo home run. He of course hit the clutch game-winning grand slam against Venezuela on Saturday. Here is Turner's second homer in as many WBC at-bats:

Turner, the $300 million No. 9 hitter, added another home run later in the game and is 7 for 19 (.368) with four home runs in the WBC. The four home runs lead this year's WBC and are the most by a USA player in a single WBC. Here is the single-WBC home run leaderboard:

  1. Seung-Yuop Lee, Korea: 5 HR in 2006
  2. Adrián Beltré, Dominican Republic: 4 HR in 2006
  3. Wladimir Balentien, Netherlands: 4 HR in 2017
  4. Trea Turner, USA: 4 HR in 2023 (and counting)

Turner is the second Team USA player with two homers in a WBC game, joining Hall of Famer Ken Griffey Jr. in 2006. Griffey is serving as USA's hitting coach this year. Turner has dominated in the No. 9 spot and Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado have been a two-man wrecking crew in the Nos. 3-4 spots. They went a combined 4 for 7 with 5 RBI on Sunday.

All told, Goldschmidt is 7 for 21 (.333) with 9 RBI and more walks (seven) than strikeouts (five) in the WBC. That works out to a .517 on-base percentage. Arenado is 9 for 23 (.391) with three doubles and a triple in the WBC. Like I said, Goldschmidt and Arenado have been a two-man wrecking crew in the middle of the lineup.

It wasn't until the seventh inning that USA was held scoreless (that was the game's first 1-2-3 inning). Things got so out of hand that bench players Jeff McNeil (replaced Tim Anderson at second), Bobby Witt Jr. (replaced Arenado at third), Cedric Mullins (replaced Trout in center), and Kyle Higashioka (replaced Will Smith at catcher) got into the game. USA emptied the bench.

Arenado, by the way, exited the game after taking a pitch to the hand in the fifth inning. It appeared to be precautionary -- Arenado was seen high-fiving his teammates in the dugout -- and X-rays came back negative. Still, that was briefly worrisome after the Jose Altuve injury Saturday.

3. Wainwright settled down

To be fair, Cuba's first inning rally was hardly Wainwright's fault. I mean, three straight infield singles? That's some tough luck. Despaigne put a good at-bat together to work the bases-loaded walk, but after that, Wainwright retired 12 of the final 15 batters he faced, and he got USA through four innings. There was a point it looked like he'd only go four batters.

Now 41, Wainwright did not throw a pitch over 88.6 mph against Cuba, and that's about the best you'll see out of him these days. Velocity is not his game. He cuts and sinks his fastball, and still has that Hall of Fame curveball. Cuba was close to breaking the game open in the first inning, but Wainwright escaped, and he continued on to have a strong outing. Solid work by the veteran.

Adam Wainwright
STL • SP • #50
2023 WBC semifinal vs. Cuba
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The WBC pitch limit is 80 in the semifinal, though Wainwright was pulled after 64 pitches, possibly because of a mandate set by the Cardinals. Wainwright gave way to St. Louis teammate Miles Mikolas, who gave USA four innings of one-run ball. Aaron Loup got the final three outs in the ninth inning to seal the win and championship game berth.

Team USA's offense scored early and often and that made life easy on manager Mark DeRosa, who hasn't exactly stood out for his bullpen management in the WBC. USA's go-to high leverage relievers (Jason Adam, David Bedner, Devin Williams, and Ryan Pressly) all got the night off and will be well-rested for Tuesday's championship game.

4. Up next

For Cuba, a trip home. They have been eliminated. For USA, it's the championship game Tuesday night in Miami. They will take on the winner of Monday night's Japan vs. Mexico semifinal game. Team USA has not yet announced a starting pitcher and they may not announce one until they know their opponent. It will likely be one of Kyle Freeland, Merrill Kelly, or Brady Singer.

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United States 14, Cuba 2 - Final

It's a blowout for the Americans, who scored in each of the first six innings. Trea Turner homered twice and Paul Goldschmidt had four RBI of his own. Team USA is on its way to the championship game to face either Mexico or Japan.

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USA wins 14-2

Quick ninth inning and they're on to the championship round. Either we get USA-Mexico rematch or a USA-Japan heavyweight fight. Japan vs. Mexico is Monday night, and the championship game is Tuesday night.

March 20, 2023, 2:40 AM
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14-2 on a Cedric Mullins homer. To the ninth they go.

March 20, 2023, 2:33 AM
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Three outs to go

USA is through eight innings with a 13-2 lead. Looks like Brady Singer will come in to get those last three outs with Mikolas at 77 pitches (the limit is 80 pitches this round). Turner will lead off the eighth with a chance at a three-homer game.

March 20, 2023, 2:24 AM
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The first 1-2-3 inning of the game! It came in the bottom of the seventh.

March 20, 2023, 2:13 AM
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USA up 13-2 in the seventh

There's no mercy rule in this round, so USA is just counting the outs. Six more to clinch a spot in the championship round. They've scored in every round. This has been a thorough beatdown.

March 20, 2023, 2:07 AM
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Trout had been the only USA player without a hit. He doubles to right to give USA a 13-2 lead.

March 20, 2023, 1:55 AM
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Turner homers again!

Make it three homers in 24 hours for the Phillies shortstop.

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Turner again

Another homer. A three-run blast gives USA a 12-2 lead in the sixth. His fourth homer of the tournament, which leads the WBC.

March 20, 2023, 1:48 AM
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X-rays on Arenado's hand were negative, per the FS1 broadcast.

March 20, 2023, 1:46 AM
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USA has scored in every inning and they're threatening again following Will Smith's leadoff double. Not a single 1-2-3 inning in this one.

March 20, 2023, 1:42 AM
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Arenado exits after HBP

He took a pitch to the hand and was in some pain, though it appears he was removed as a precaution. Arenado was high fiving his teammates in the dugout and seemed to be OK. With a 9-2 lead, there's no need to push through it. Bobby Witt Jr. is in at third base and Jeff McNeil is at second as USA begins to empty their bench in the sixth.

March 20, 2023, 1:32 AM
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USA up 9-1 in the fifth

Goldschmidt again. He punches a single to right to score another two runs. USA has scored in every inning thus far and Goldy has 4 RBI. There is no mercy rule. This will be a complete nine-inning game.

March 20, 2023, 1:22 AM
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Another hit for Trea Turner loads the bases with no outs for USA. Another big inning possibility.

March 20, 2023, 1:14 AM
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The big swing did not come. Mikolas got the strikeout to escape the inning. It's 7-2 USA after five. They're 12 outs away from the championship game.

March 20, 2023, 1:06 AM
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Cuba scratches across a run

Cuba gets a run back here in the fifth inning on a double and two singles. They have runners at second and third with two outs and could get right back in this game with a big swing against Mikolas.

March 20, 2023, 1:04 AM
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USA up 7-1 in the fourth

Arenado scores on a wild pitch. USA has scored in every inning thus far. There is no mercy rule this round, so this one might really get out of hand. USA has a chance to save their high leverage relievers and go into Tuesday's championship game with those guys well rested.

March 20, 2023, 12:47 AM
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Arenado with an excuse me triple into the right field corner gives USA a 6-1 lead in the fourth. The boat race is on.

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Miles Mikolas is getting hot in the USA bullpen. 

March 20, 2023, 12:35 AM
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USA up 5-1 in the fourth

Quick fourth inning for Wainwright. He's retired 12 of the last 14 batters he's faced, and one of the two baserunners was a little tapper back to the mound that he threw over Goldschmidt at first base. Wainwright's pitch count sits at 64. That might be it for him. The pitch limit in this round is 80. USA has scored in every inning thus far.

March 20, 2023, 12:31 AM
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5-1 USA on a Tim Anderson sac fly. Trea Turner up, but no bases loaded.

March 20, 2023, 12:24 AM
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Alonso singles in a run

It's 4-1 USA and they still have the bases loaded with no outs. Cuba is going to their third pitcher of the game. As a reminder, there is no mercy rule in the semifinals. The mercy rule is the first round only.

March 20, 2023, 12:20 AM
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Now the bases are loaded with one out. USA has a chance to put this one out of reach here in the third.

March 20, 2023, 12:16 AM
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USA threatening to pile on

Arenado singled and Schwarber took a pitch to the leg. Cuba has some pretty good arms in their bullpen. Not sure why they went to the guy with an 88 mph fastball when they need to stop USA from adding on.

March 20, 2023, 12:13 AM
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Yes. Long live the dinger machine. Removing it is the worst thing Derek Jeter has ever done.

March 20, 2023, 12:04 AM
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USA up 3-1 in the third

Not sure how much longer Wainwright will go in this one with his pitch count up over 50. Could be a situation where someone like Brady Singer or Kyle Freeland piggybacks.

March 20, 2023, 12:03 AM
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Trea Turner goes yard


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Here is Turner's second homer in as many at-bats:

March 19, 2023, 11:55 PM
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USA now up 3-1

Trea Turner again. His third homer of the WBC. Little less dramatic than last night, but effective nonetheless. It's 3-1 USA. Pretty good No. 9 hitter, that guy.

March 19, 2023, 11:53 PM
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Here is Goldy's dinger:

March 19, 2023, 11:51 PM
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USA up 2-1 in the second

Wainwright pitched around a leadoff single. He hasn't been dominant by any means, but he navigated that first inning jam and the offense picked him up.

March 19, 2023, 11:46 PM
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