MIAMI — Trea Turner stood in front of the USA clubhouse door late Saturday night at loanDepot Park, and was in a hurry.
He needed to get back inside.
He had something extraordinary to watch.
No, not his game-winning grand slam, which lifted Team USA to an exhilarating 9-7 comeback victory over Venezuela, vaulting them into the World Baseball Classic semifinals Sunday night (7 p.m. ET, FOX) against Cuba.
He needed to see the reaction.
He knows that he jumped up and down the moment the ball left his bat, sailing over the left-field wall, screaming and bouncing while rounding the bases.
“I’m always excited, but I just don’t necessarily show it,’’ Turner said. “It’s the most I’ve ever yelled on a field.’’
When Turner reached home plate, Mike Trout had his hands on J.T. Realmuto’s shoulders ready to leap-frog him. Nolan Arenado was screaming. Kyle Schwarber looked like he was going to tackle him.
And Pete Alonso was searching for his bat.
“Pete bat-flipped my homer,’’ Turner said. “He was (standing) on-deck. He couldn’t find his bat after everyone was out there because, I don’t know, I got to watch the video.’’
That’s why he wanted to get back into that clubhouse and watch the tape over and over, just to see his teammates’ reactions.
“I want to watch those guys,’’ Turner said, “I think that’s funnier than me.’’
The entire evening was almost a blur to Turner, and really to everyone in attendance at loanDepot Park, who witnessed one of the most thrilling, exhilarating, breathtaking games in their lifetimes.
“Being honest with you,’’ USA manager Mark DeRosa said, “it’s one of the greatest games I’ve ever been a part of. The passion in this building was absolutely incredible.’’
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It lived up to all of the hype, and much more, with the sellout crowd of 35,792 standing on their feet virtually the entire game, screaming until their lungs burned.
“It was the loudest, for sure,’’ Turner said. “When they scored that sixth run (on Ronald Acuna’s sacrifice fly in the fifth inning), it might have been the loudest I’ve ever heard a baseball stadium.’’
This is a guy who has played 849 career regular-season games, another 43 games in the postseason, and seven World Series games, including four inside the dome at Minute Maid Park.
And still ….
“It was so crazy,’’ Turner said. “You see the other side kind of going crazy, and it’s like, ‘Damn, we kind of get into a zone ourselves.’
“I think we fed off it a little bit. We know we’re really good, we got to live up to that standard.”
Venezuela was up 7-5 in the eighth inning, needed just six outs, but couldn’t get the first one until it was too late.
Tim Anderson drew a leadoff walk. Alonso hit a pinch-hit flair into right field. Realmuto was hit by a pitch.
Venezuela manager Omar Lopez turned to right-hander Silvino Bracho to face Turner.
Turner watched his first pitch, at 92.8 mph, cross the plate for strike 1.
He fouled off the next pitch, another fastball (94.1) for strike 2.
Turner stepped out, collected himself, and then waited.
Bracho threw a changeup, 85.5 mph, right over the heart of the plate.
Turner sent it 407 feet into the night.
The USA players went wild, screaming, jumping over the dugout railing, rushing to home plate, ready to celebrate as if it was a walk-off, not bothering to care they still needed six more outs.
“When Trea clipped that ball,’’ DeRosa said, “honestly, I saw about 35 guys, including the coaches, kind of black out and lose their minds for a minute.’’
Says USA starter Lance Lynn: “Usually during the regular season you’re not jumping onto the field and doing stuff like that. When that happened, it was unbelievable.
“Everybody was jacked.’’
Turner, who signed a $300 million free-agent contract with the Philadelphia Phillies this winter, isn’t saying it topped the thrill of winning the 2019 World Series with the Washington Nationals. Maybe it doesn’t surpass the euphoria of knocking off the San Francisco Giants in the 2021 NL Division Series while playing for the Los Angeles Dodgers.
And yet, it was a moment that he’ll never forget, batting ninth in the starting lineup for the first time in his career, and feeling as if he was Kirk Gibson hitting the game-winner off Dennis Eckersley in the 1988 World Series.
“I think,’’ Turner said, “this is probably the biggest hit that I’ve had.’’
Certainly, no one on Team USA has ever experienced anything like it, certainly not in the middle of March when they’re normally playing spring-training games in the Grapefruit and Cactus Leagues.
“This is pretty much postseason atmosphere,’’ USA closer Ryan Pressly said, “and we’re getting it right in the middle of the spring training. It’s a great team over there and it almost makes me kind of want to go play in winter ball a little bit and see how rowdy these fans get.’’
Well, Team USA might have the privilege of feeling the pandemonium two more times.
They’ve got Cuba on Sunday, and if they win, will play the winner of the Mexico-Japan game on Tuesday for the WBC title.
Turner says he just hopes he can get his voice back in time by first pitch Sunday, while wondering if they’ll still be treated by fans as if they’re the visiting team, despite playing at home.
“We’re in America, but it doesn’t mean we’re the home team,’’ Turner said. “I think it’s kind of fun. I think it’s kind of nice. Refreshing. Different.
“I think that’s why a lot of guys want to play in this tournament because it’s not a normal 162 or a postseason. It’s just different. It’s hard to put in words, just different.’’
Yes, oh, so beautifully different.
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Story Credit: usatoday.com