MIAMI — It was raucous. It was exhilarating. It was breathtaking.
It was sheer bedlam.
When the smoke cleared Saturday evening, the USA was dancing off the field, 9-7 winners over Venezuela, with a sellout crowd of 35,792 still trying to wrap their minds around what they just witnessed.
USA will now play Cuba on Sunday night (7ET, FOX) in the WBC semifinals, sending Team Venezuela home.
“We were the road team,’’ USA manager Mark DeRosa said. “We knew it would be crazy.’’
It lived up to the hype, and, oh, so, so much more.
“I think that’s what the WBC is all about, man, like, the passion,’’ DeRosa said. “I spent 1999 in Caracas playing for the Leones, and I loved every second of it. Not only did it make me a better player and prepare me for the big leagues, but it gave me a better understanding of the passion of the Latin American ball player.’’
There was so much drama in this game, from start to finish, with every player on each team reaching base at least once, but it will forever be remembered for the biggest hit in USA’s WBC history: Trea Turner’s eighth-inning grand slam.
USA looked finished.
They were down 7-5, with Venezuela scoring five unanswered runs.
They were down to their last six outs when it started harmlessly enough with a Tim Anderson walk. Then a Pete Alonso bloop single. And then J.T. Realmuto was hit by a pitch.
Venezuela manager Omar Lopez then made the move that will be second-guessed in Venezuela for years, bringing in right-hander Silvino Bracho.
He immediately got ahead of Turner with two strikes, and then threw a fastball down the heart of the palte.
Turner sent over the fence, over the upper deck, off a concrete pillar.
Turner danced around the bases and USA’s dugout erupted.
Just like that, the game turned upside down, in one of the most dramatic, exhilarating games ever played in this building, and perhaps in tournament history.
It began with a bang when it took six batters before USA made its first out, jumping out to a 3-0 lead in the first inning.
Venezuela punched right back with a two-run homer by Miami Marlins first baseman Luis Arraez, his first of two homers for the evening, the first multi-homer game of his professional career.
It was that kind of evening, with USA appearing to slowly pull away, until their nightmare fifth inning, which nearly sealed their fate, and perhaps a serious blow to the World Series champion Houston Astros.
It began when Colorado Rockies closer Daniel Bard replaced starter Lance Lynn in the fifth, and it was nothing short of a disaster.
Gleyber Torres walk.
Andres Gimenez infield single.
Jose Altuve, hit by pitch, leaving him withering in pain, and leaving the game, with the preliminary diagnosis being a broken right thumb.
Another wild pitch
Anthony Santander walk.
Bard was mercifully removed, replaced by Jason Adam, who barely warmed up, but the bases-loaded, no-out jam was too much to overcome.
Arraez drove in a run on a groundout, Salvador Perez drove in another on a run-scoring double to tie the game, and Ronald Acuna sent the ballpark into a frenzy with a sacrifice fly.
Just like that, USA’s commanding 5-2 lead melted down into a 6-5 deficit.
It became 7-5 in the 7th inning on another Arraez homer, who earlier in the day said he felt like he was on Cloud 9, and then hit a couple of homers into the night.
“I’m dreaming,’’ Arraez said. “Right now, I’m dreaming.
“Am I here? Am I here? Yes.’’
Well, by the end of game, it was Team USA asking the same question, pinching one another, asking themselves whether this was the greatest game they ever played in.
It was that kind of game, one of the most glorious, exhilarating evenings of their lives.
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