World Baseball Classic Notes: Turner’s Pep Talk Effective; Bard’s Wildness and Altuve’s Thumb

Jose Altuve of Venezuela is hit by a pitch during the fifth inning during a 2023 World Baseball Classic Quarterfinal game against the United States at loanDepot park on March 18, 2023 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Eric Espada/Getty Images)

By Leif Skodnick
World Baseball Network

MIAMI- Whatever self-reinforcement talk Trea Turner gave himself on the walk from the on-deck circle to the plate in the top of the eighth at loanDepot Park last night, it worked.

“[You] just kind of tell yourself that, you know, this is — I don’t know what the word is — but you’re good enough for this,” Turner said following the game, asked what was on his mind during the crucial at-bat. “The self talk’s there. I know everybody does their own thing, but just try to compete.”

Turner stood in against Venezuela pitcher Silvio Braucho with the bases, worked the count to 2-2, and then smacked a 407-foot grand slam to left field, giving Team USA a lead that held up in the 9-7 win against Venezuela that sent them into a semifinal matchup against Cuba Sunday night.

“I think individually I think this is probably the biggest hit that I’ve had,” Turner said of his late-innings tater. “And individually probably right up there with any hit I’ve ever had. But as a team I think you set a goal. And we want to win the whole thing.”

Turner’s blast was only the third grand slam for Team USA at the World Baseball Classic, a fact Turner brushed aside.

“All I care about is winning. I don’t care about all those stats,” Turner said. “I think we all came here for the same reason. I think he might have said it before I came in here, but it doesn’t matter who is pitching, who is closing the game, who is hitting third, it doesn’t matter. It’s about winning the game. So I’m just glad we came out on top.”

Venezuela’s second baseman and Houston Astros star Jose Altuve was struck on the hand by a pitch from Team USA’s Daniel Bard in the fifth inning, reportedly suffering a broken thumb, which could put him on the injured list for two months.

Altuve is the second star player to be injured during the World Baseball Classic, joining Mets closer Edwin Diaz, who suffered a torn patellar tendon in his right knee, in the ignominious club. 

Bard, who pitches for the Colorado Rockies, struggled with his control, throwing two wild pitches before hitting Altuve. Of the 17 pitches Bard threw, just seven found the strike zone. He faced four batters and retired none.

“We were down in that inning and then where we see Daniel Bard historically — we know he had struggle with command and the first thing we said is just be patient at the plate,” said Venezuela manager Omar Lopez. “But I never thought that he’s going to come up with a pitch inside up opening to Jose in that situation.”

Bard allowed four earned runs, along with two walks, in his brief appearance. The pitch that hit Altuve was a 95.9 mph sinker that was up and in – and didn’t sink.

“Jose wasn’t able to kind of recognize right away, and then when he went down, obviously the whole dugout didn’t look good. It took 10 seconds for Tomas Vera, my trainer to get him out of the game,” Lopez said. “I started to pray right away for Jose, for the entire team. That was our momentum right there when we took the lead and then at some point the whole dugout kind of died, like quiet, and we kind of pushed everybody to get up and move on.”

Luis Rengifo came on to run for Altuve, and Venezuela got four runs across in the fifth to take a 6-5 lead.

But the injury to Altuve obviously affected their psyche, as they mustered only two baserunners and one run the rest of the game.

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