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Team USA outlasts Venezuela in World Baseball Classic quarterfinal thriller

Team USA outlasts Venezuela in WBC quarterfinal thriller originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

Team USA is two wins away from a second straight World Baseball Classic title.

The defending WBC champions outlasted a previously unbeaten Venezuela club 9-7 in a quarterfinal thriller on Saturday night in front of a sold-out crowd at loanDepot park in Miami.

Team USA will meet Cuba in the semifinals at loanDepot park on Sunday. Japan and Mexico are playing in the other semifinal on Monday.

The United States’ repeat bid looked in serious danger as the Stars and Stripes faced a 7-5 deficit entering the eighth inning. But Team USA loaded the bases to start the frame following a Tim Anderson walk, a Pete Alonso pinch-hit single and a JT Realmuto hit-by-pitch.

Then, after Jose Quijada was replaced by Silvino Bracho, Trea Turner hit a go-ahead grand slam to right field.

In the bottom of the eighth, Devin Williams worked around a leadoff double from Ronald Acuna Jr., and Ryan Pressly closed out the win with a perfect ninth inning.

Before Turner’s grand slam, it was Venezuela who engineered a comeback. Team USA stretched its lead to 5-2 in the fifth when Kyle Tucker hit a solo homer off Houston Astros teammate Luis Garcia.

But the Americans unraveled in the subsequent half-inning. Daniel Bard took over for starter Lance Lynn and allowed the first three batters to reach base, capped by a hit-by-pitch on Jose Altuve that knocked the Astros star out of the game.

Bard’s outing got even worse from there, as Venezuela scored a run on a wild pitch and Anthony Santander was walked to reload the bases with no outs.

After Team USA manager Mark DeRosa pulled Bard in favor of Jason Adam, Venezuela scored one run on a groundout, tied the game on a Salvador Perez RBI double and took a 6-5 lead on a sacrifice fly from Acuna Jr.

Luis Arraez, who hit a two-run homer in the first, padded Venezuela’s lead two innings later with his second long ball of the night.

Team USA held a three-run lead earlier in the quarterfinal as well. The game’s first five batters — Mike Trout, Mookie Betts, Paul Goldschmidt, Nolan Arenado and Tucker — all hit singles to put the Americans ahead 3-0 and chase starter Martin Perez.

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